Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, home to the fastest roller coaster in the world, is all set to offer another record-setting thrill soon. A year ago, the theme park announced an expansion that would include seven new attractions, one of them a record-breaking roller coaster.
tabloid! was provided exclusive access to see what this ride entails.
Called The Flying Aces, the ride is a 1.5 kilometre roller coaster which will have the world’s largest roller coaster loop, the current record for which is held by one at 6 Flags Magic Mountain in California.
“Our target date is January 2016, but we are hoping for a pleasant surprise here or there,” said Jesse Vargas, general manager, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
“[Flying Aces] is set to break not one but two Guinness World records — [it will be] the world’s tallest loop, about 17 storeys high, and the world’s steepest incline [the starting lift],” said Vargas.
The sight of the 63-metre ride’s hill, from where the roller coaster is intended to drop, is not for the faint-hearted.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and this ride in particular is one that I look forward to seeing get off the ground. I think it will be a very special roller coaster and certainly one of the top five worldwide from the day it opens,” said Vargas.
“The lift will transport you to a height of 63 metres and then you are dropping down at a speed of 120km /h. You will be pushed into your seat at approximately 5Gs. That means five times your own weight [of pressure will be exerted on you]. Then you enter the loop, the tallest loop on earth with the height of 52 metres. When you reach the top of the loop, you will be experiencing weightlessness,” said Tobias Jeck, project engineer, Intamin Amusement Rides, designers of Flying Aces and creators of Formula Rosso, the fastest roller coaster in the world. “We try to simulate an acrobatic aircraft flight.”
Other interesting features Jeck said would be overbanked turns, speed humps and different experiences of weightlessness.
INSPIRATION BEHIND THE FLYING ACES
The journey to the ride begins from an enclosed area of the park, a new extension called Italian Street, which leads into a new building called the Airplane Hangar. As the name suggests, it’s an Italian-themed street façade, and at the time of tabloid!’s visit, artists were busy putting final touches to the hangar.
The story behind the Flying Aces and Italian Street is best told by George Walker, creative director at Farah Leisure Park Management, the operators of Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Water Park.
According to him, the idea behind the Flying Aces was born when the team started to look into the history of Ferrari and its legendary Prancing Horse emblem. “A lot of people don’t know this but the Prancing Horse logo you see on every Ferrari was actually painted on a First World War aircraft by a pilot called Francesco Baracca, a national hero in Italy back at the turn of the century. His mother was, ironically, a big fan of Enzo Ferrari,” explained Walker.
“When Enzo was winning races early on in his career, she [Baracca’s mother] said to him, ‘I would like you to put my son’s logo on your car. It brought him luck and it will bring you luck too’. And that’s how the Ferrari logo was born. It’s this story we are telling through this roller coaster experience.”
When the Ferrari World design team learnt about Baracca, they started to investigate the flying manoeuvres of the First World War aircrafts and this inspired them to design a roller coaster that imitated the era’s flying experience of a fighter aircraft.
“The Flying Aces is an attraction that physically recreates the sensations of what it would be to be in an aircraft from that era. The banking and turning, these are sensations you can’t get in today’s modern jets,” Walker explained. “These aircrafts [First World War aircrafts] could do these really cool loops.
“The Italian street culminates at the Flying Aces aircraft hangar. We are going to have a replica of Baracca’s Spad Seven aircraft, full size. So you’ll see the aircraft and then you will enter the hangar. Once you’ve stepped through those doors, you are literally stepping back in time — to the turn of the century,” added Walker.
The hangar will enable visitors to experience a radio control tower, a briefing room with maps on the walls and chairs around a table. “And then the doors of the hangar open and there is the roller coaster. You get on it and have a chance to see what it was like to be one of these very brave and daring pilots back in time.”
The idea of building just another roller coaster was never an option for Ferrari World, said Walker. “One of the challenges with a park like Ferrari World is that everything that you do here has to be truly special,” he said.
“Aircrafts go in a loop, and upside down. Once we started figuring out how that would work, the minds at Intamin Amusement Rides started to engineer this. They realised that we could probably make this a little bit bigger, a little bit taller, and suddenly we said, ‘Why don’t we go for the biggest and the tallest?’” Walker said.
However, the roller coaster’s inverted loop was restricted to a height of 52 metres due to the presence of an airport nearby. “We are just underneath the flight path, so when you are on it [Flying Aces], you are likely to see aircrafts going by really close,” he added.
Ferrari World, however, is not stopping at this. Signs of tracks being constructed in other locations hinted at more forthcoming attractions, which sources said would be even more complex than the Flying Aces.
When asked about it, Vargas said, “It only gets better. Flying Aces is the first of five [attractions]. You have seen what it looks like. [As for the other attractions in store], we are saving the best for last.”
Building a roller coaster of this magnitude has its challenges. To ensure a successful outcome, Ferrari World hired top engineering companies to design and build the latest thrill.
Intamin Amusement Rides, creators of Formula Rosso, the fastest roller coaster in the world, were brought in to design and manufacture the Flying Aces. AECOM was signed up as their architect of record, a global American multidisciplinary company known for their design of the Yas Mall, Cleveland Clinic and Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi.
The roller coaster specialist and AECOM shared some of the obstacles they faced while engineering the Flying Aces.
According to Jeck, project engineer, Intamin Amusement Rides, although building a high-speed roller coaster is a challenging job, there were some important issues to tackle with Flying Aces — the steep initial climb of the ride in the context of the soaring temperatures in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a steep lift, unlike normal lifts in roller coasters where you have many columns supporting the lift. Here, we are only using two columns to support this 63-metre height lift,” said Jeck, due to an architectural requirement.
The sweltering heat in Abu Dhabi was also a challenge. “The complete roller coaster is manufactured in Europe during winter time. However, during its installation in Abu Dhabi, it was 40 to 50 degrees outside. So we have to consider that the steel is expanding in the hot temperatures and, accordingly, factor in your static and dynamic calculations,” he added.
The exact construction costs have not been confirmed. However, Vargas told Gulf News that the expansion cost is about the same as what other developers spend on a mid-sized theme park.
“A ride like this [Flying Aces] is not inexpensive. There are only a handful of companies that can design and build these rollercoasters and they come at a price,” said Vargas, general manager, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
“We are proud of the fact that we are able to make this investment not only in our future as Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, but also in the region,” he added.