- Location: Busch Gardens Tampa in Florida
- Type of ride: Vertical drop tower ride, also known as a freefall tower
- Tower height: 335 feet
- Ride height: About 300 feet
- Top speed: 60 mph
- Angle of descent: 90 degrees
- Planned opening date: Spring 2014
- See the new ride: Falcon's Fury preview video
Towering over Busch GardensAt 335 feet, the tower will be considerably higher than any of the other coasters or rides at the Florida park. The ring of seats, with riders sitting upright and facing outwards, will slowly rise up to the top. (The actual length of the drop will be slightly less than 300 feet.) Unlike a coaster car, which typically includes a floor, sides, and some semblance of security, riders will be essentially tethered to a chair -- and nothing else -- and will be totally exposed.
Here's where it gets nuts. As they sit perched in nosebleed territory at the apex of the tower, passengers' seats will tilt so that they will stare straight down at the 300-foot chasm between them and the ground (assuming that they will be able to peel their eyes open). The few agonizing moments before they drop will likely feel like an eternity. Then...look out below! Riders will freefall and accelerate to 60 mph for a few seconds of adrenaline overload. Talk about being in the moment. Magnetic brakes will engage to slow the bug-eyed riders as they approach the bottom. An extra pair of underwear may be in order.
Misleading?Busch Gardens is billing Falcon's Fury as "the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America." That's true, but a tad misleading if not disingenuous. The key word is "freestanding." Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California features a 415-foot tower and is the tallest freefall tower ride in the world. Reaching a speed of 85 mph, it leaves the Busch Gardens ride in the dust (and may require more passenger preparation than an extra set of undies). But, it is attached to the tower of the Superman: Escape from Krypton shuttle coaster, hence it is not "freestanding." That seems like a dubious distinction to me. Still, a near 300-foot drop will be plenty intense in its own right. (I always get a kick out of parks that sling hype, even when it's questionable. See my article, A Lotta Water: Who Has the Biggest Indoor Water Park?)
At 335 feet, the new ride's tower will indeed be noteworthy, but there are other tower rides that come close. For example you can read my review of Sky Screamer at Marineland in Niagara Falls which features a 320-foot tower. That ride does not have the knee-buckling pivoting seat element, however.