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Superman Ultimate Flight

Because "Superman's Totally Berserk, Out Of Control, Completely Messed-Up Flight" Was Too Long For The Sign

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Twelve years ago, I visited Six Flags Marine World for the first time, to ride Medusa. I did not think then that a solid decade would pass before my next visit, but that's what happened. And to say that this park has changed in the interim is a gross understatement. There's the new name, of course; it's now Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. And as The Season Pass' Doug has been telling me for years, the park – with its new Land, Sea and Sky theming – has become one of the best looking Flaggers in the chain (he's right).

Two coasters (Zonga and Tony Hawk's Big Spin/Pandemonium) have come and gone, and a third (V2: Vertical Velocity) opened and then had some major reductive surgery before its second season of operation began. (Should I even mention Greased Lightnin'?)

In short, there have been plenty of good reasons to get back to Vallejo, California prior to June 29th, 2012. But to miss the media preview for SFDK's latest roller coaster? Not a chance in hell I was going to let that happen, because when the first renderings of Superman Ultimate Flight were revealed, I plotzed, fully. That 150-foot-high heartline roll? No way. With just a lap restraint? No. Freaking. Way.

The heartline roll is indeed wild. But is it what made me scream the most? That's a big negatory.

Dudes. Seriously. This ride is messed up.

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(Please click all photos to enlarge.)

Kittie! I could have filled this review with shots of awesome animals; this really isn't the time or place. Still – KITTIE! One of the cool things about this park its distinctive split-personality. The back section has rides, but is much more about flora and fauna. This may sound like sacrilege to some, but there were moments I could easily have been convinced I was in Disney World's Animal Kingdom park. It's that rich, colorful, and thoughtfully detailed (not everywhere, mind you, but here and there.)

I loved all the new stylized animal sculptures, vivid ride and attraction signage, etc. No question, the Discovery Kingdom makeover has done wonders for this place.

It's the front of the park that is jam-packed with big-kid rides and Discovery Kingdom's arsenal is strong. Medusa is still righteous; Roar's a little crankier than it was back in the day, but not sinfully so (Kong, the SLC, is the only stinker in the bunch). I'm sorry the park had to pony up for the costly adjustments to get V2 in compliance with zoning regulations, but I really enjoyed this unique variation on the Intamin Twisted Impulse coaster. It's neat and adds a "scenic overlook" element to an otherwise thrills-only type of fun machine.

Doug and I rode Sky Screamer, too, and neither of us were all that eager to do so. But it turned out to be okay (hooray for local height restrictions!!!). That belt across the midsection helped ease our acrophobic panic a lot. Plus, we're Windseeker vets. That said, those little chains holding us up... I've seen charm bracelets on ten-year-old girls that look more substantial. Again, fun and kind of, sort of, relaxing, eventually. Sort of.

But what we really came for was this:

Super Cupcakes!

And also this.

Here's Dale Kaetzel, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's President, and he appears to be pretty happy with this latest freak-magnet. He should be.

The featured guest was San Francisco 49ers Head Coach James Joseph "Jim" Harbaugh. I know very, very little about football, so I was unaware of this man's importance to the sport, but just about everyone else in the crowd was quite impressed. Seems like a nice guy. Anyway, he compared riding SUF to his experiences as a passenger on an F-16 jet, and if that sounds to you like media-day blowhardery, I am happy to tell you that it is not.

I'm so glad there are still new ideas and new innovations coming out of engineering companies like Premier Rides, because for all the coasters I've ridden, I was still anxious about getting on this one. Very anxious. And that is a very good thing.

Like Superman: Escape From Krypton, née Superman: The Escape, down south, this Supester has its heroic accelerations powered by those electromagnetic demons known as linear synchronous motors. Premier knows plenty about launched coasters, but this is the first time they've built one with Impulse-style forward and backward thrusts.

If you've ridden Kennywood's Sky Rocket, then you'll be familiar with this rolling stock. Different colors, the side guards, and the custom front panel are pretty much all that distinguish these vehicles.


Locked in place, the lap restraint snug and firm – yeah, staple me in, thank you very much – we wait. The shield-shaped tunnel is cool. And the blue lights, nice touch. La dee da, la dee da, keep it together, try to breath normally...

The launch section looks like it's about 100 feet shorter than it needs to be, far, far shorter than any launched coaster runway I've ever seen.

"Clear." The rows of blue lights pop on in sequence as we sprint forward. It's a good rush, but nothing too crazy.

The initial push is hearty enough to get us a bit of a ways up the first leg and get a good look at the vertical spin that awaits. But then we stop and drop, falling backwards.

You've seen what happens next, waiting in the station. Well, now it's happening to you. And if you think you're prepared for it, you're wrong.

We blast back through the tunnel and the station with plenty of momentum, but the LSMs kick it up even further. And in the blink of an eye, we're out the other end and twisting, up, up, and away to the left, climbing nearly to the top of that non-inverting loop.

The disorientation of all that speed, moving backwards, the frantic changes in direction, it freaked me out every ride. So, yeah, I screamed. Like a bitch.

And we're just warming up.

Back through the station, full-throttle, achieving what feels to be bullet-like velocity... here we go.

Into the vertical, warping around 180 degrees so fast we have no time to process a damned thing, except the fact that we're just a couple of irregular heartbeats away from that heartline roll. That utterly depraved heartline roll. Fifteen stories above the ground.

But before we get to that, there's airtime. And I don't mean floaty, gentle, superhappyfun airtime; I mean ejector airtime, Magnum XL-200 airtime, the kind of airtime that turns good people bad. Airtime like that at 50 feet is awesome; at 150 feet, it's absurd.

Going horizontal scrubs off a lot of speed, prepping us to go all corkscrewy – the only part of this ride that isn't assaulted at breakneck velocity. Genius. Completely sick, but genius.

No matter where you sit, this is a moment for your "Precious Memories" diary. But in the front row, on the right, where you can see it coming, and can lean over in the direction of the rotation, good god almighty, that is nuts.

Stretch your arms high, and look up (down), feeling your weight falling into that lap restraint, the blood pooling in your skull.

Even moving slowly, it is over, blessedly, in a couple of seconds. Still, the heartine roll rocks. HARD.

If you enjoyed the airtime on the way up, good news: there's more coming.

We get yanked over this precipice into a vertical DNA-spiral plunge, and again, this isn't romantic foreplay airtime, this is "Wham, bam, thank you, Ma'am!" stuff, people. Again, at nearly 150 feet up. Ku-RAZY.

Whipping around to the right, we're on our way down to the bottom of an element that is in vogue right now, the non-inverting loop.

Prior to experiencing a non-inverting loop, my opinion of the concept was not favorable; if you're going to build a loop, man, build a proper loop and turn me upside-down. But now that I've gotten a few under my belt, I dig them.

And especially on this ride, how are you going to top the heartline roll, anyway? Better that this is what we scorch through, because with all the lateral spinning up at the loop's summit, it's another eye-watering hit of airtime-laced, brain-scrambling, F-16-with-a-busted-rudder bedlam.

Up and over, we scream around for the final dive back home. And after a decelerative run through the station, we glide to a stop.

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In the morning, we grabbed three rides in rapid succession. Each time, we walked off panting, weak-kneed. After the third "flight," I could take no more. Pwnd. (Doug went back for one more before he gave up.)

Later in the day, our staminas revived, we managed another pair of rides. And they were no less intense.

Without question, this Manny Pacquiao of roller coasters is now among my all-time favorites. Word of mouth and capacity issues are going to mean interminable waits for Superman Ultimate Flight, I'm sorry to say. But I can almost guarantee you've waited hours for rides not nearly as good as this one. Gut it out; you won't be sorry.

"For the last time, I don't have any cookies."

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  • TRACK LENGTH: 863 feet
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 150 feet
  • RIDE TIME: 60 seconds
  • VEHICLES: Two six-person coaches; 12 passengers per train
  • HOURLY CAPACITY: You don't want to know.
  • MANUFACTURER: Premier Rides





© Robert Coker.
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