Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Faster Than a Bullet - or at Least a Porsche Superman the Escape' Ride Leaves Thrill-Seekers Hanging for Seconds and Waiting for Hours

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Faster Than a Bullet - or at Least a Porsche Superman the Escape' Ride Leaves Thrill-Seekers Hanging for Seconds and Waiting for Hours

Article excerpt

Summertime beckons in the American capital of theme parks. That's the season when legions of southern Californians put aside perennial preoccupations - immigration, affirmative action, school funding - and shell out large sums of discretionary cash on pressing leisure matters.

Like: What's going on at the cutting edge of thrill rides?

Debuting with an appropriate dose of hyperbole, the first theme-park ride in the world to break the 100 m.p.h. mark (previous record: 82 m.p.h.) has opened here at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Clearly, we're not talking Chuck Yeager's shattering of the fabled sound barrier, but among aficionados of acceleration, "Superman The Escape" represents a quantum leap in joy-ride propulsion technology. "This is far different than any ride in the history of the outdoor amusement industry," says Paul Ruben, North American editor of Park World, a trade publication for the industry. "Its appearance opens a whole new era for amusement parks." Unlike traditional coasters propelled by gravity and creaking chains, the new ride uses electromagnetic Linear Synchronous Motors (LSM). Such motors can accelerate riders from 0 to 100 m.p.h. in seven seconds. As the promotional literature notes, that's 2.4 seconds faster than a 911 Turbo Porsche. While the ride has now been turned over to the masses, its first runs were the province of a select few. Bruce Hinds, a former Air Force test pilot and the first to fly the B-2 stealth bomber, stepped from the hurtling piece of machinery with nothing but praise for the Superman experience. "Until now, I have never duplicated anywhere else the kind of awesome acceleration I feel from inside a jet fighter cockpit," he says. It was something besides speed, however, that attracted me to Superman The Escape. After being shot down horizontal tracks and whooshing up the side of the 415-foot tower (twice the height of Niagara Falls for factoid buffs), riders experience 6.5 seconds of weightlessness on the way back down. …

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