It doesn’t matter if you are just a thrill ride fan or the General Manager of a major theme park, the name S&S Power is now solidly imbedded into the industry lingo along with the likes of Arrow Dynamics, B&M, Vekoma and Intamin. With over 110 S&S Tower rides across the planet, they have become the standard to which all others are now compared. The S&S brand name sticks out as an innovative force to be reckoned with... a force that seems to know no limits.
Over the last couple of years S&S have expanded their catalog of adrenaline machines to include new rides like the Thrust Air coaster, Fun-G and Snow Shot. Rumors had been circulating that S&S was preparing a whole new batch of attractions to be introduced at this year’s IAAPA show in November, but nothing prepared me for the e-mail I received the other day.
S&S had invited me to come out to Logan, Utah for a couple of days to experience for myself all of Stan Checketts’ new inventions. I was flabbergasted... I was honored... and there was no way in hell that I was going to turn down an opportunity like that. Having the chance to chat with Stan face to face is something I’ve wanted to do for years. Meeting Stan is kind of like a flashback to the first time you sat on the lap of Santa Claus as a child. Stan and Santa have got that same sparkle in their eyes, but lets face it... Stan has much better toys.
What new toys might we see in 2003?
Wooden Coasters - S&S is moving ahead with their new Wooden Coaster Division and expects to have their first medium sized wooden coaster complete for the 2003 season.
Sky Swatter - This is the first true Flat Ride from S&S, and after riding the prototype in Utah I can say first hand that it delivers. Like many of the best flat rides in the biz, it looks slower while watching it from the ground than it does when you’ve been strapped into the middle of this chaos blender. The Sky Swatter can hold up to 48 riders at a time on its two 24 seat arms. Loading both sides at once, S&S uses their air technology to lift the entire ride platform up into the air before the whole thing starts to spin you head over heals. The Sky Swatter will spin you around twice in each direction before coming to a halt and lowering itself back to the ground. Unlike other inverting flat rides, this one never stops to hold you upside down, and features an all new restraint system that is extremely comfortable and open while still holding you firmly in your seat at all times. While this is being pushed as an S&S Family Flat Ride, it stills packs incredible unique thrills. Given the current state of the industry where many parks are looking to add more cheap family flat rides, I think the world will quickly become familiar with the Sky Swatter.
Screaming Squirrel - This is not your grandfather’s Wild Mouse coaster. The twisted minds at S&S have taken the typical Wild Mouse switch back track and turned it on its ear... literally.
The Screaming Squirrel will pull riders up a steep (65º) lift hill to the top of the 88 foot structure. Looking ahead you notice that you are running straight for the edge of a cliff where the four person car topples over the edge until you are hanging upside-down and zigzagging back and forth until you reach the safety of the ground. Like virtually all S&S rides, the Squirrel has been designed to use up a minimal amount of land.
What they had onsite at S&S was a working prototype of the very top “S” shaped piece of track. We were allowed to take a quick test ride on the Squirrel after they lifted the car into place with a crane and by the end I was all smiles. There really is nothing out there quite like this experience. Nothing that can compare to flying towards the edge of a cliff, over it and then UNDER IT. Hanging upside down you move along so quickly that you don’t quite realize what you are doing until you hit the next curve and are upright again.
Sky Sling - Many of you may see the Sky Sling as just a new name for the old Insane ride, but it has been redesigned in all the right areas. The prototype Sky Sling stood 210 feet tall and now uses the same new restraint system that you will find on the Screaming Squirrel and Sky Swatter instead of the minimalist harness system used on previous versions. Thinking that the old saddle style seats were still a bit much for the average thrill seeker, the new seats were used to give the rider’s a more secure feeling. Sky Sling has been improved in other areas such as increasing the air power to give riders a double launch of nearly 50 mph at 2.5 Gs. The seats also feature four different ride modes to control how and when the seats will tip completely forward. After trying out all four modes, my favorite was when the seats tilted forward on the first launch, locked into the upright position at the top, dropped down upright and back up again only to tilt forward once again at the peak of the second launch and to drop you while looking straight at the ground.
The Sky Sling has all the makings of a major hit attraction and I’ll guarantee that this is the next big thing park’s have been looking for since the Skycoaster. With a capacity of 6 riders per launch and a rapid reload cycle time it allows for a cheaper ticket cost while still being able to pull in more profits than your typical Skycoaster. Plus once you’ve done a Skycoaster, you’ve done them all, meanwhile there are four very different ways to ride the Sky Sling.
Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm need to get over whatever issues they are having right now and reopen their towers as Sky Sling rides as soon as possible. If you rode the old version and want to see them reopen, then contact these parks to let them know you have money burning a hole in your pocket and you want to experience the high speed thrill of the Sky Sling as soon as possible.
The Sky Sling is perhaps the most awe inspiring ride I’ve ever seen, and after the first ride I was hooked. I went back to ride it 5 or 6 more times before I was done and I still wanted more.
Yours Truly... in mid 2.5 G Launch Bliss on the left...
The Future - What other rides may we see in the future from S&S? How about exciting new upgrades to their tower rides? How about a new more powerful program for their Combo towers? How would you like to experience Tilt Seats on your next Space Shot or Turbo Drop ride? They had a set of prototype seats in place that would make your mouth water. The 10-15º tilt angle performed by the Intamin tower rides to date are nothing compared to the sudden 40º tilt of the new S&S design. The cool news is that they want to push it even further, reaching something between 50-60º before they are done. If that wasn’t enough, how would you like to be shot Over The Top the next time you ride a Space Shot? Stan and the S&S Gurus are hard at work coming up with a new kind of Space Shot experience that will shoot the riders up and over the top of one of their towers, curving backwards until you peak out hanging upside-down on your backs looking up a the ground before yanking them back down again.
Beyond these plans, Stan says that he still has lots of ideas... more ideas than they have the time to build. Where does he get these ideas? For someone normal you might say that he just thinks outside the box... but in Stan case, many are quick to point out that not only does Stan not know where the box is, but has probably never even seen the box.
Pictured Above: S&S Tilt Seats (Upper Right), and Stan gives Paul Ruben and Lance Hart a test ride on their new Combo Tower program (Lower Left & Right).