We’ve wanted to write a Flying Coaster Top 5 for years now, but a certain Dutch prototype project in Germany made us take pause. Now that we have F.L.Y. under our belts, we ask ourselves: how does Vekoma’s flying coaster reset stack up against the flying coasters of the preceding 20 years?
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5. Manta, SeaWorld Orlando
Starting off our list is the beautiful and sophisticated Manta at SeaWorld Orlando. Home to one of the best ride queues anywhere, Manta is a master class in “understanding the assignment”: take a thrilling coaster concept and make it as SeaWorld as possible. Rather than claim to mimic the flight of birds or aircraft, the shimmering Manta echoes the hydrodynamics of ocean rays – many of whom can be seen and enjoyed throughout the park, including Manta’s aquarium-filled queue. The ride layout offers an improvement over the Superman standard of B&M Flyers, with the postcard-ready “wing dip” stealing the show.
4. Starry Sky Ripper, Joyland
While not quite the knock-out coaster we were expecting, Changzhou, China’s Joyland still offers one of the best experiences to be had on a flying coaster. The ride boasts of many features once only found on Vekoma’s original Flying Dutchman coasters (vertical loop, double outside corkscrew, horseshoe lie-to-fly) while offering the first flying coaster example of a straight first drop. The biggest claim to fame for Starry Sky Ripper remains the 540 zero-g roll, but these and other elements seemed slightly hindered by the ride’s overall sluggishness – nevertheless, the double dose of positive Gs felt entering and exiting the vertical loop are some of the most powerful forces we’ve felt on any coaster.
3. Tatsu, Six Flags Magic Mountain
Still the tallest, fastest, and easily most eye-catching of the flyers is Magic Mountain’s tremendous Tatsu. With its 170ft pretzel dive and over 200ft of overall height variance, Tatsu offers those who are daring enough a Flying Coaster of Hyper Coaster proportions. Tatsu gracefully whisks riders through a series of rolls and flips well above ground level before pile-driving them up-side-down over the peak of Samurai Summit – a brutal move which many claim to be the single-most intense moment on a coaster anywhere.
2. Flying Dinosaur, Universal Studios Japan
Narrowly beating out Tatsu for our “Best B&M Flyer” designation is Flying Dinosaur, the star thriller at Osaka’s massive Universal Studios Japan. What Flying Dinosaur lacks in setting and natural terrain play it more than makes up for with lightning-fast pacing and the most dramatic succession of acrobatics found on any flying coaster by far, including a taller, faster version of Starry Sky Ripper’s 540 Roll, an enormous Immelmann, a mid-pretzel-dive underground tunnel, and an airtime hill.
1. F.L.Y., Phantasialand
To say F.L.Y. is in a league of its own is an understatement – it almost doesn’t seem fair to rank it with the B&Ms. Three major traits take F.L.Y. to the next level (spoilers ahead!): a brilliant, side-scrolling loading configuration that allows for breezy dispatches as well as a fabulous dark ride sequence; two great launches (the 2nd, uphill launch is especially memorable) in lieu of a traditional lift; and incredible layers of theming and storytelling that leave no corner of Rookburgh without something to see. F.L.Y. is arguably the industry’s superior themed coaster, and the fact that it’s not financed by the deep pockets of Disney or Universal illustrates even further accomplishment on behalf of Phantasialand – a little independent park that constantly defies the odds.
We hope your enjoyed our Flying Coaster Top 5! We invite you to weigh in on all of our social media channels and tell us what you think. Until next time!