Fans of Six Flags Great America have been waiting nearly a decade for another large roller coaster to join the Chicago-area park’s lineup. Would the saying, Good things come to those who wait apply? Or, would the $15 million X-Flight be another over-hyped attraction that doesn’t live up to expectations? I had to fly out to the Midwest to find out. Especially, after I (contributing to the hype) named X-Flight my most anticipated new roller coaster of 2012.
X-Flight has a consistent military, faux-Air Force theme. The ride ops’ uniforms and the drill sergeant-like recording that gives riding instructions are nods to the ride’s back story. As you’re about to board one of America’s first wing roller coasters, where riders sit outside of the track as opposed to below or on top of it, the theme of an experimental fighter jet is a good fit. Of course the most obvious theming element is the flight tower with its keyhole cut-out. The tower is a signature feature of the ride. And, it should be pointed out that other parks might have forgone any additional structures and kept theming at a complete minimum. Thankfully, Six Flags Great America did not.
The Drop Loop Makes For A Memorable Start
On my first ride, I was sitting in the front outer seat on the left side of the train. So, I got to see all of the near-misses up-close. In case your adrenaline’s not pumping enough, the dramatic music booming from the speakers on the lift hill should help. At the crest of the hill, I experienced the drop loop. I’d seen the element on Thorpe Park’s The Swarm, but I didn’t look close enough and realize that it was actually an inversion. It gave quite an odd sensation of being slowly lifted up, way up (because I was on the left side), before the getting completely turned over and then plunging down the first drop.
Twisted Aerial Mayhem
After the drop, the train rose up and flipped us over as we traversed the always fun zero-g roll. We went right back to the ground only to return to the skies once more for X-Flight’s third inversion; a gracefully smooth Immelmann. Its followed by a quick headchopper as you pass under a steel structure. Suddenly, our wing coaster is under attack as water cannons fire at us from below as the train banks to the right. After this turn, the train navigates another, seemingly smaller, zero-g roll before diving down through an opening in a hangar-themed wall.
The middle three inversions on X-Flight are a bit of a blur. Even for a seasoned rider, they came in such succession, that there wasn’t much time to think about the next or previous maneuver. This is mostly an observation and not really a knock, but I will say that I prefer a larger more spaced-out looping layout like the one found on Alpengeist. X-Flight’s a bit of a compact ride, so the near back-to-back loops are to be expected. At least there’s no lull in the action.
A Top 10 Roller Coaster Moment!
Next, the train rises and makes a sharp turn to the left. By the time you complete this turn and the track flattens, you’re faced with a mental dilemma. It’s like there’s an illusion placed in front of you. With the rapid-fire nature of X-Flight’s elements you don’t really have to time to process the situation at hand. You’re seated on the edge of a wide vehicle and there’s that keyhole shaped vertical hole in the flight tower right in front of you. Even knowing about the element and seeing it numerous times my mind still said, for just a moment, “Something’s not right here.”
That’s the advantage of having structures that close to the ride. It’s a signature element causing ooh’s and ahh’s from passer-bys and it truly does deliver quite a thrill. The huge, wide train performed the in-line twist as we passed through the tower and I instinctively tucked my limbs in for a moment. Again, even though I knew I’d be fine. The ride finished with a nice helix that pulled some pretty good g-forces and then we reached the final brakes.
How’s It Outside (The Track)?
This was my first wing coaster, but in the station I had flashbacks of boarding X2. That’s a different type of ride (4th dimension), but the outside-the-track seating wasn’t entirely new to me. What was new was the fact that the fixed seats allowed me to experience the whole ride from that position. Meanwhile, on X2, you’re being turned every which way.
Just as I expected, you’re completely out there. Exposed as can be. Even with riders in front of you, they aren’t very close. The wing position itself is cool in that it encourages re-rides since you do experience slightly different rides on different sides and ends of the train. My two rides (in the front left and rear right) weren’t too incredibly different overall, but the drop loop was noticeably different. Depending on the side you sit on, you’re either lifted way up or turned way down as you do that super slow inversion high in the air.
I’ve been on enough roller coasters and covered them enough that I knew what to expect. So, while the ride was great. Nothing really completely blew me away or surprised me too much. The keyhole pass-through comes the closest and is easily a top 10 roller coaster moment. The ride’s second most memorable element would be the interesting drop loop.
My Take & Final Rating
Six Flags Great America could have simply taken the layout of the ride, plopped it down on that plot of land, and called it a day. But, they didn’t. Thankfully, they went the extra mile, just as they did with Demon’s re-theming (before some of you were born). X-Flight’s interactions and near-misses add considerably to an already fun riding position and twisted layout. So, at the end of the day, this ride has three strong things going for it: riding position, loops, and interactions or near-misses.
Lastly, X-Flight is just a really good-looking roller coaster. It’s a complete showstopper and I could watch guests’ reactions all day. There’s this large vehicle with this rare seating position twisting and turning like a low-flying fighter jet. And, it’s situated in an open area inviting gawkers to take it all in. There are plenty of great places to take pictures and video and the entire ride can be seen from one spot. Six Flags Great America has got a pretty thrilling roller coaster with a wide appeal that’ll likely please guests for many years to come. Final Rating – 9.0 (Excellent)
At 2:19 you can see an amazing ‘indoor’ view of a train going through the flight tower. Note – This video was filmed with permission from the park. For safety reasons, please DO NOT take a camera on a roller coaster without permission.
Have you ridden X-Flight? What’d you think? Leave a comment below.