Roller coasters are a staple for amusement parks and theme parks around the world. It won’t be wrong to say that an amusement park is incomplete without a roller coaster. They are a popular source of entertainment.
But have you ever wondered, whether as a fan or only out of curiosity, why it’s called a ‘roller coaster’? Well, there is more than one possible reason for it. Many believe the name originated from the United States, where such structures were fitted with rollers on which a sled would coast or sail.
Another popular belief is that the name was taken from a roller skating rink situated in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1887. The rink featured a traditional sled (toboggan) along with a hundred rollers. The designers of this skating rink argued that they were the first to use the term “roller coaster.”
There are numerous famous coasters that attract a large number of tourists around the world. However, there is only one Kingda Ka. Out of all roller coaster rides in the world, nothing comes close to the thrill and excitement of the Six Flags Great Adventure’s main attraction.
Inaugurated On: May 21, 2005
Length: 950 m (3,118 ft)
Height: 139 m (456 ft)
Drop: 127 m (418 ft)
Maximum vertical angle: 90 degrees
It is The Tallest and the Second Fastest Roller Coaster in the World
Kingda Ka roller coaster | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Kingda Ka is located at Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in Jackson, New Jersey. It was designed by a renowned German engineer and businessmen, Werner Stengel.
After its official launch on May 21, 2005, Kingda Ka became the world’s tallest as well as the fastest roller coaster. Before Kingda Ka, both records were held by Top Thrill Dragster, located in Cedar Point, Ohio.
Five years later, however (in 2010), Kingda Ka was ousted as the world’s fastest roller coaster by Formula Rossa (top speed 240 km/h), located at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. It remains the world’s tallest roller coaster.
With a total height of 139 meters, Kingda Ka is also the second strata coaster (with a height exceeding 120 m) ever built. It also holds the record for the world’s tallest complete circuit coaster and the world’s tallest roller coaster drop.
The plans to construct Kingda Ka was put in place in September 2003. The goal was to erect the world’s fastest as well as the tallest roller coaster with height and speed, similar to what we experience today. The entire complex was completed in less than two years.
On August 19, 2013, it was announced that a new drop tower ride would be added to the existing Kingda Ka roller coaster. The drop tower, officially known as Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, was open for the public for the first time on July 4, 2014. The Drop of Doom features three separate gondola lifts and is integrated into the largest tower.
How It’s Like To Ride The World’s Tallest Roller Coaster?
After a train is loaded with riders, it slowly moves out of the station all the way to the launch area through the switch tracks. A catch car is then latched under the train, while the breaks that were in place retract. About five seconds before every launch, an announcement is made; “Arms down, head back, hold on!”
The ride begins with a powerful launch that takes you 0 to 128 miles per hour (206 km/h) in just 3.5 seconds. The train then climbs the first and tallest hill making a 90-degree vertical spiral.
After reaching the maximum height of 457 feet (139 m), it makes a descent of 418 feet (127 m). On its way down, the train undergoes a stomach-churning 270-degree turn.
Kingda Ka tower | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia/Dusso Janladde
The train climbs the second hill at 129 feet (39 m), before the magnetic brakes kicks-in and subsequently puts the journey to an end. After reaching the top of the second hill, riders experience weightlessness due to negative gravitational force. The entire ride takes about 28 seconds from the start of the finish.
Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, as we mentioned earlier, is an integral part of Kingda Ka, and with the coaster, it’s also the tallest drop tower in the world. The ride operates three gondolas, which are conveyed by catch-cars at the height of 415 feet (126 m) and are then released. In free-fall, the cars drop down at a speed of 90 mph (145 km). A single gondola takes about 30 seconds to ascend and only one-third of that time to descend (10 sec).
Coaster Trains and Station
Kingda Ka’s overall layout is similar to that of Top Thrill Dragster. It has four operational trains, all numbered and color-coded (green, teal, dark blue, and orange) for easy identification. Each train has five cars attached one after the other, and every car has four seats (or two rows) accept the rear one.
A single train can carry 18 riders at a time. However, it can be modified to install two additional seats, bringing the total tally to 20.
The station has two platforms served by two parallel tracks with turnout or switch tracks both at the start and exit. However, usually, only one platform or train bay is used. A single platform is designed to accommodate two trains at a time. While the one in front is being loaded/unloaded, the other (in the back) remains on standby.
After launch, the train may occasionally experience rollback. A rollback occurs when the train is launched without the necessary speed to climb the top of the tower and descends backward.
Kingda Ka utilizes retractable magnetic brakes to prevent the train from rolling back into the station or any potential mishap.
Since its opening in 2005, Kingda Ka has witnessed several minor as well as major incidents. The first significant breakdown occurred only a month after its inauguration when a malfunctioning bolt created friction on the car cable, preventing trains from operating at the correct speed. As a result, the ride was shut down for nearly two months.
Kingda Ka suffered severe damage after it was struck by lightning in May of 2009 and was closed for about three months. Hurricane Irene, which hit the Eastern Seaboard of the United States in late August of 2011, caused the ride to be closed for almost a year.
Some Short Facts
1. The total construction cost of Kingda Ka was about US$25 million.
2. It is a hydraulically launched roller coaster featuring magnetic brakes that allows trains to operate smoothly. It can accelerate from 0 to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds.
3. Kingda Ka is less than one meter taller than the current height of the Great Pyramid of Giza (138.8 meters).
4. At the top of the first hill, riders experience negative G force with varying intensity based on the speed of the launch.
5. The highest G force riders experience at Kingda Ka is 5g, about five times the normal G force on earth. The record for the highest G force on a roller coaster, however, goes to Tower of Terror (6.3 g), located at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg, South Africa.
6. Due to potential risks, the coaster ride never operates in the rain (even during drizzle).
7. The hydraulic launch mechanism of Kingda Ka is capable of generating 20,800 peak horsepower (close to 15.5 MW).
8. The minimum height for an individual allowed to ride the roller coaster is 137 cm (54 in), while the maximum is 196 cm (77 in). It can carry 1,400 riders per hour.