Superman Ultimate Escape

Six Flags Ohio's Mutant "Impulse" Coaster Is A Stand-Out Among Stand-Outs.

In the space of a few short weeks, Ohio has become the state to visit this year, what with Cedar Point's Millennium Force, Paramount's Kings Islands' Son of Beast, and finally, the former Geauga Lake's transformation into Six Flags Ohio, a delectable, multi-layered cake iced with not one, not two, but three major new roller coasters. Pretty rootin' tootin,' rip roarin' all around.

Certainly, CP's giga-coaster and PKI's looping hyperwoodie, record-stomping scream machines both, have grabbed the lion's share of attention. But Six Flags Ohio is sneakin' up on its two more well-established neighbors at a determined pace. Just this year, upwards of $40 million was spent to turn a dowdy little theme park-wannabe into a proud member of the Six Flags platoon. The expenditure was worthy every last Lincoln-head penny.

Flamboyant park expansions are now an annual event for the Six Flags chain and Six Flags Ohio's own cost-be-damned augmentation is on par with those we've seen at Great Adventure, Fiesta Texas, Marine World, Darien Lake, Six Flags America, Six Flags New England, et cetera, et cetera. There's the new Looney Tunes Boomtown kiddieland, Hurricane Harbor waterpark, new shows and a grand total of 20 new rides.

Of course, it's the coasters that interest us most and SFO's fresh trio are choice-cut selections, each in their own special way. The Villain, a Custom Coasters-designed woodie (pictured above at right) is the third lumber-railed lovefest to grace this park and to little astonishment, it puts SFO's existing Raging Wolf Bobs and Big Dipper to shame. At 120 feet tall, over 4,000 feet in length and with a top speed of around 60 miles per, The Villain is all you'd expect from CCI: jaguar-fast and just as agile, with airtime over almost every hill. Perhaps not the most distinguished of CCI's creations, but still a tremendous piece of work.

Then there's Batman Knight Flight, Ohio's first and only floorless coaster, courtesy of Bolliger & Mabillard. Just yards away from Serial Thriller (SFO's Vekoma-designed Suspended Looping Coaster), this screaming yellow 161-foot-tall, 65 MPH, five-inversion wonder also meets, and exceeds, every expectation. Though not quite as grand in complexity as some of B&M's other leg-danglers (Medusa East and Medusa West, for example), BKF's vertical loop, Cobra Roll and interlocking corkscrews make for an awesome, head-spinning joyride, from lift hill to brake run. This coaster alone puts Six Flags Ohio firmly on the map.

Last, and most decisively not least, we come to Superman Ultimate Escape.

When Six Flags first announced the big Y2K SFO coaster cast list in December of 1999, both The Villain and Batman Knight Flight struck me as the two "above the title" stars, with SUE playing a minor supporting role, a relative unknown alongside Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise. Good for some comic relief, perhaps, but little more.

Call this one serious case of upstaging, folks. I dug The Villain and BKF, but Superman Ultimate Escape blew me away.

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SUE stands right up against Six Flags Ohio's roadside border, so it's the first coaster you see while driving up to the parking lot. And it's a traffic-stopper like few others.

There isn't much to eyeball, really, just two sections of red steel rails rising at either end. The rear spire is all straight and neat, looking perfectly normal. But that front spire... An amoebic tendril coiling up, up and far away from the bulky blue pipe sections that support its lower half, this wacky-track brought one adjective to mind: fragile.

Several tons of coaster train and cargo climbing and torquing around that flimsy spiral, nearly 180 feet off the ground? It takes a lot to really spook me these days, and the sight of this thing had me spooked from here till Tuesday. So easy to imagine the dreadful sounds of metal creaking, rending and shattering like porcelain...

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Dubbed an "Impulse" coaster, this Intamin-crafted device is distantly related to Paramount's Kings Dominion's Volcano: The Blast Coaster. Like the Big V, "Runaround SUE" is an inverted, linear induction motor-powered machine, with two-across vehicles. But the comparisons end there. (Over in Japan, you'll find another ride much closer in design, the Linear Gale. But from what I've heard, that shuttle coaster's two spires are both pure vertical climbs, making SUE a one-of-a-kind attraction).

As with nearly all forward-backward shuttle coasters, there are "benefits" to riding in both the very front and very rear seats. Swallowing hard, I went with the front first.

Hopping up into the molded blue booty-scoop and pulling down the yellow shoulder harness, we're facing one long straightaway, track and station canopy above, cement platform below. Sitting squarely beneath the first contorted minaret, there's a slope-roofed metal enclosure emblazoned with the Superman shield (his "Maintenance Shed of Solitude," I s'pose). And that's all we can see.

Waiting for the launch, ya gotta be wondering how close to the top of that spire we're going to get. "Hey, did you notice any brakes up there?" The load crew moves out of harm's way.

Thumbs up, boogie down.

WHAM! We hurtle forward madly, raging towards the first vertical curve. Over the park's go-kart course we fly and up we soar. The lead car gains enough altitude to get into a little twist 'n' shout, (see shot at right) but we don't ascend to anywhere near the pinnacle before gravity slows us and starts pullin' us back. "Well, now, that wasn't so bad..."

Oh, just you wait.

Screaming backwards through the station, we get another LIM boost and rocket up the rear tower. Sweet view from the front, lookin' right back down at the ground. There's a split-second pause before we're falling face-forward.

The train blasts back through the loading dock and we can feel those pernicious linear induction motors really pour it on, giving us one hell of a shove. And the moment we return to the base of the forward arm, now traveling at SUE's scorching 70 MPH maximum velocity, you're well aware that we're about to go higher than we did our first trip. A whole lot higher.

Up through the curve, we motor skyward and begin whippin' around to the left. The folks in the stern may not be all that concerned, but we, leading the charge, can see how rapidly we're approaching the end of the line... and we're still pinwheeling and climbing. "Stop, stop, stop, STOP already, fer chrissakes!"

Take a gander at the picture on the left. Not much of a margin for error, is there? From the ground, it looks bad. From the front seat of that rampaging train, it looks horrifying.

We do finally halt. Major sigh of relief. And plummeting away from what looks like certain derailment is a most wonderful sensation. But the terror ain't over yet.

Back through the station we scramble and up the rear tower we roll. Higher and higher, and soon, we hit that zero-G float, ready to drop. We don't. THUNK! A mightily powerful set of brakes holds us there.

Falling forward into the harness, we hang for a brutal instant, poised 90 degrees off horizontal. Staring straight down. Outrageous.

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It's that second rear climb that makes the back row nearly as perverse a pleasure as the front. When we get fully elevated, and those mean ol' brakes bite down like a pit bull and hold us at their mercy, we're so much higher up than we were in the forward car. G'head and take a look to the side while you're praying that those restraints don't fail... and thinking about where you're going to find a clean pair of pants.

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Maybe I should have known better. After all, SUE's stats make it the tallest and fastest roller coaster Six Flags Ohio now possesses. But height and speed alone aren't what make this ride such a shockingly intense experience. It may not prove to be your favorite SFO thrill ride, but no one can deny that it's the park's most unusual scream machine.

And between this oddball magnum opus, Batman Knight Flight and Serial Thriller (pictured at left), SFO is perhaps the only park in the world that offers such a diverse collection of calve-swingin' coasters, a nifty way to stake out unique territory in Ohio's frenzied thrill ride arms race.

As for Intamin, well, 2000 is their year, big time. Two hypercoasters, one giga-coaster and this radical Impulse coaster. Not too shabby.

Oh, and here's one last SUE detail to tickle yer innards: when the brakes on the rear tower release the train after the second climb, the tower sways...

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Superman Ultimate Escape

  • TOP SPEED: 70 Miles Per Hour
  • MAX. HEIGHT: 180 feet
  • CARS: One train composed of 14 cars. Each car accommodates two passengers across.
  • MANUFACTURER: Intamin AG, Wollerau, Switzerland

LOONEY TUNES, characters, names and all related indicia are trademarks of Warner Bros. © 1999. SUPERMAN and all related characters, names and indicia are trademarks of DC Comics © 1999. SIX FLAGS and all related indicia are trademarks of Six Flags Theme Parks Inc. ®, and © 1999.





© Robert Coker.
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