X-Flight Sign and CoasterFans 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’s Theming

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

X-Flight Roller Coaster Mid AirOn 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

X-Flight Flies By

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!

X-Flight Roller Coaster - Flight TowerNext, 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)?

X-Flight - Joel - Back Right Outer SeatThis 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)

Here’s an off-ride video of X-Flight with some awesome views of the near-misses and the Foo Fighters providing the soundtrack:

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.

About The Author

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

23 Responses

  1. Surya

    The only wing coaster I have ridden to date, is Raptor @ Gardaland, Italy. And I found it completely boring. Every element was taken at such a low speed that there were almost no Gs and the inversions didn't flip you over, they dragged you over, and the restraints actually hurt a little.
    I see no mention of any of this in your review, which leads me to think you found the pacing good?

    • CoasterCritic

      You bring up a good point about g-forces Surya. The inversions are taken rather slow, but I liked it. That in-line twist feels especially slow which is actually a good thing because it enhances that hanging upside-down feeling. But, if you like or are looking for intense or even strong g’s during the loops I don’t think you’ll find them here.

      I’ll find out next week when I ride Wild Eagle if it’s a wing coaster thing or it was just on X-Flight, but the Immelmann and zero-g rolls are more of the fun and not of the intense and forceful variety.

    • chuck

      this is an awesome ride i give it a 10 i went dureing fright fest 2012 its awesome rideing at night the speed alone and going though the tower side ways very scary in deed . i give it thubs up a big 10 Chuck LaMont Rockford IL.

  2. Nick

    I rode this last month. It was incredible. That ending is probably one of the best on any roller coaster

  3. RCTPro

    I hate X-Flight with a passion, the hanger cut out is trash and according to Roller Coaser Philosophy should be made 3D or scrapped all together , and I agree with that, and the drop couod have had a cool near miss like The Swarm does, and they'll clone it, making each Six Flags park less original and take away original rides to move elsewhere or even scrap them. If you take Raging Bull out of the list and any ride that is a clone or will be, there's only one standout big ticket ride, American Eagle, that's it, Viper doesn't count since its a copy of the Coney Island Cyclone, the rest are clones and Raging Bull which has been nutered wih trim brakes. There are only three, maybe four six flags parks with several standout rides that are original, and that is revealing to how bad Six Flags management is. And i do understand copy and pasting rides into parks, but not big roller coasters, the bommerangs and kiddie coasters are okay to copy and pase, but not rides like X-Flight, Batman, and Superman, those are the rides that make parks, not just some blueprint that you give out to parks to build.

    • CoasterCritic

      I've never heard someone hate on a ride for the clones that were going to made from it. I'm also a fan of original coasters, especially terrain coasters because I, like you, travel to different parks. But we're in the vast minority so 90% or more of the people riding these coasters will only ever ride the coasters at one park. It's not realistic for a large theme park chain to not use clones. So I may give original rides more credit, but I don't usually discount clones when I rate rides. You're free to have your own take, I'm just explaining mine.

      Oh, and I wondered about the hangar too. But I forgot to ask about it.

      • RCTPro

        I admit that I'm not well-traveled yet, but I want to be able to go to parks across the country and even in Europe, on the top of my lists are Cedar Point, Magic Mountain, Six Flags Fiesta Texas (you can thank Iron Rattler for that) and many other parks. But here's a point that I remembered after that, some people (myself included) have relatives who live in other states, in my case it's Illinois and Georgia, and if I ride Batman at SFGA (I missed my chance last year), what's the point in riding it at SFoG if it's the exact same ride aside from the credit? I thought that Six Flags changed after they built unique B&M hypers, but when I see X-Flight, I just see them going back to their old unoriginal roots, maybe if I'm proven wrong (so far no clones which is a good sign) and they fix the lame hanger cut-out and add something like the Swarm's wrecked plane under the first drop, then my opinion will change, but Hell would probably freeze over before that happens.

  4. Justin

    Honestly i went on the ride and waited 2hours for it! I didt think it that good…maybe a 6.5 at max! It seemed boring and the wait was definetly not worth it!

    • chuck

      well if you would have had a speed pass would been on 10 to 15 min. thats your fault not the parks speed passess are the way to go I got to ride every ride 4 or 5 times some in a roll at fright fest 2012 which is AWESOME

  5. Alex

    I don't understand people hating on the wingriders. I've been on X Flight and the Swarm, and while they don't deliver huge amounts of G's they both deliver some pretty cool sensations. I'd give the Swarm an 8.0 and X Flight an 8.5.

  6. Linaskye

    I have not had the good fortune to get out to Six Flags to ride this yet, but I'm hoping something like it comes to my area (I'm smack dab in the middle of Dorney, Hershey, Knoebels, and Great Adventure, so it's not that much of a stretch). I'm sort of amazed (in a good way) that Six Flags did so much theming on this ride. They're typically known for plopping their coasters in the middle of parking lots and destroying whatever charm the parks have, but this sounds kind of opposite of what they normally do. I'm excited for this ride and the Six Flags parks for their efforts lately.

    • will

      I think six flags has been doing a much better job as theming and ride experiences goes. Recently visited Six Flags America (in Maryland) and Apocalypse looks Incredible. The new paint, the props and the continuation of the theme throughout was great! X flight and Apocalypse are two examples of what I hope we will be seeing more of from six flags

  7. Joey Till

    I seem to find decent G forces on the ride, and the zero g rolls are more fun on wingriders because unlike floorless coasters which whip you quickly, X Flight lets you hang there and move in a unique way through it. I don't get people who say they provide little excitement.

  8. Cpguy

    Excellent ride smooth and a lot of fun going through the tower exceptional ride but Gatekeeper will be better

  9. sirrahh

    Awesome ride. Very smooth, and easily worth a 45-60 minute wait. Try going on the American Eagle afterward to appreciate how much of an advance this is.

  10. Laura

    Went to Six Flags yesterday and rode this twice. LOVED IT! My new favorite coaster.

  11. Mike Brilhart

    After riding this twice last week, I can safely say my hometown park; Six Flags America; got ripped-off yet again! I don't normally do coasters without a place for me to brace my feet on, but I felt that being at Six Flags Great America, I had to ride the coaster that up-seated Iron Wolf, which in turn, up-seated my beloved Skull Mountain back home in Maryland.

    I always knew Six Flags America was on the low end of the totem pole in the Six Flags Park Chain, but only after riding this amazing attraction did it truly hit me how low it is! Apocalypse is a tad under-themed compared to Skull Mountain, and for the first B&M the park has ever received, it was an okay replacement. (At least we didn't get a Tony Hawk's Big spin or something like that) But after riding X-Flight… oh man!

    X-Flight is a must ride; and you've got to do it at least twice; once on each side! Amazing ride! The near miss with the key-hole in the tower is a moment I will never forget.

    I hear we're getting a Demon Drop for 2013 in Maryland from one of the Six Flags Parks. I won't be surprised when Great America gets another brand-new, top-notch coaster. My hometown park just got owned, big time.

  12. Kevin D

    The family and I went to Great America yesterday and after a 2 hour rain delay we were one of the first groups in line for X Flight when it reopened, so hence the short line made this ride even sweeter i still give it Mad reviews!!

    This Coaster the writer hit right on the head it was amazing! I was sitting near back seat outer and the first roll was incredible!! Some of the people that commented above must have riden so many coasters that their now numb to them and thats a shame.

    X Flight in my opinion was an awesome fun filled ride to say the least, the last few rolls really messed me up just did not expect that at all! That coaster made my wife look like a hot mess in a hurry almost died laughing when i looked at her!

    The themeing was very cool on this ride compared to others in the park, as a Haunted House set designer i liked the theme a lot compared to a few other coasters around the park that left me scratching my head as to why they were left unfinished,this coaster is not.

    As the OP also mentioned was the viewing area's, theres one spot where the train comes out of a roll and down a hill straight at you and it just makes you love it's well thought out design! Really wish i had my camera.

    Good Job Great America ya did good

    • CoasterCritic

      I hate to give a complicated answer, but it's really tough to say because their layouts are so different. After riding them both within a month of each other I didn't get off Wild Eagle with a strong sense of which I'd like better. I'll have to do an in-depth roller coaster showdown post and compare the two element by element. Check back for that in the next month or so.

  13. Dylan Steichen

    Great review you got it all right at least from my personal experiences the ride wasn’t batman the ride intensity where I get of with Shaking legs, it was just awesome going through the air and seeding people’s coins, wallets, and keys flie off it was hysterical! The keyhole is the only element to make me tuck my arms and legs instictibely and is the great showstopping moment to a great ride. Couple of things are to note though the rides restainst were very tight and at the end of the ride it felt a bit hard to take deep breaths, however they are comfortable and snug feeling similar to superman UFlight. The capacity was good the recurring in the station really started to annoy pretty quickly, and lastly the amount of Change and wallets that were littered all over and seriously almost pegging people in line especially at the end where there is an awning with coins bouncing off each cycle.

    • CoasterCritic

      Thanks Dylan. I don't remember that tight feeling on X-Flight as much as I do with Wild Eagle, but I know what you mean about the restraints.


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