Are you itching to ride the world's tallest, fastest coaster? Sorry, you're going to have to keep scratching a while longer. New Jersey's Six Flags Great Adventure, which debuted its Kingda Ka rocket coaster to much fanfare on May 19, 2005, says that the ride will be closed "for several weeks" as the park repairs a malfunction that put it out of commission on June 8.
During a test run, one of the ride's four trains launched and appeared to shear metal rods along its track that caused a rapid-fire series of loud percussions. Instead of climbing the coaster's record-setting 456-foot top-hat tower, the train came to rest near the end of the launch track. At the time of the malfunction, there were no passengers on board and no injuries reported.
Since June 8, Six Flags has been posting information on its Web site to inform guests about the ride's closed status on a day-to-day basis. It has also placed signs at its front entrance indicating that the coaster is closed. As of June 14 however, a brief message on the park's Web site from Rick McCurley, Great Adventure's general manager, says that Six Flags now expects the ride to be closed for several weeks. Neither the Web site message nor a Six Flags news release geared to investors cites the cause of the malfunction.
Kingda Ka's loose liner coverBut Kristin Siebeneicher, PR manager for the New Jersey park, says that Six Flags technicians and engineers, along with representatives from Intamin, the coaster's manufacturer, have determined that a piece of the liner that covers the trough of the launch track came loose. That caused the train to malfunction and damage other pieces along the track, including the ride's brake fins. Siebeneicher says that the team investigating the malfunction has not established what caused the liner to come loose, but that Intamin and Six Flags will "take steps to make certain it will not happen again. Safety is our top priority."
Kingda Ka, like Knott's Berry Farm's Xcelerator and other Intamin rocket coasters, uses a hydraulic launch system. Unlike a traditional coaster, which uses a chain to pull its trains up a lift hill, the train quickly accelerates out of the station along a horizontal section of launch track. A hydraulic motor, capable of delivering 20,800 horsepower, drives giant winches around which the ride's launch cable is wound. A small "catch car" attached to the cable latches onto the middle of each train. When it launches, the catch car accelerates the train to a world-record 128 mph in 3.5 seconds. About two-thirds of the way down the launch track, brakes slow the catch car immediately after it disengages from the train. Momentum and gravity take the train up and over the top-hat tower, through a 129-foot hill designed to deliver out-of-your-seat airtime, and back to the station. The entire ride takes 50.6 seconds.
Siebeneicher says that while Kingda Ka's brakes were damaged and will need to be replaced, they were operating properly at the time of the malfunction; the catch car's brakes were engaged to slow it down, while the train's brakes were in the down position to allow it to continue up the top-hat tower. She adds that the brakes and other damaged parts that need to be replaced were all custom-made and need to be fabricated to order by Intamin. The Swiss-based manufacturer has begun producing the replacement parts, but Siebeneicher is not sure how long it will take. Once the parts have been assembled, they will need to be installed and tested. Then Kingda Ka will need to be inspected again before it can reopen.
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