Which of These Roller Coasters Will be King of the Wing?
I had a pretty busy year. Not as busy as some, but for me I got to travel a good bit. A highlight of my year was that I was able to ride both of the new B&M wing roller coasters that opened in America this year; Wild Eagle at Dollywood and X-Flight at Six Flags Great America. As I do for ever roller coaster showdown, I’ll pick a few key elements and then pick a winner for each battle. At the end, I’ll pick an overall showdown winner. I really enjoyed both of these rides and they received the same rating; 9.0 (Excellent). Even I’m not sure how this is going to turn out. Okay, I’ll stop stalling and get to the showdown. Here we go.
Theme – Test Flight Facility vs Inspirational Rustic Lodge
Both Dollywood and Six Flags Great America put a good bit of effort into the themes for these rides. Wild Eagle’s trains are awesome. Like I said in my review, I definitely caught myself looking to my left at one point to make eye contact with one of the eagles. They photograph great and fit the concept of a wing roller coaster perfectly.
Beyond the trains, the station looks like a large, rustic lodge with great stone work, flat screens that show stats about the ride, and uplifting ‘fly-related’ music. It was pretty cool to come across a big thrill ride that took a different approach with their theme. When most go the extreme route, instead, Dollywood chose to give Wild Eagle an inspirational feel. With Wild Eagle, it’s more of an adventurous challenge than a death-defying hope-you-make-it-back-alive theme. I can appreciation the difference and I found it refreshing.
X-Flight’s theme was very strong too. It would have been easy to just mail it in, but the military theme was very apparent. The trains don’t quite measure up to Wild Eagle’s but the ride’s signature flight tower structure is part of an insane roller coaster moment like no other. The top of the tower has the spinning radar device and there’s at least one mannequin in the tower monitoring test flights. I’m going to give this one to Wild Eagle mainly for originality. Slight Edge: Wild Eagle
Lift Hill – The Battle Begins vs A Breath-Taking Mountain View
Even the lift hills offer an interesting comparison. On Wild Eagle, you make a steep climb the side of a mountain and get an excellent view of a part of Dollywood and eventually the surrounding area. I was treated to a pretty amazing view of the Smoky Mountains at dusk that rivals any lift hill view that I’ve come across. X-Flight’s lift hill doesn’t have the view and atmosphere of Wild Eagle’s but it does get your blood pumping with some dramatic music you’d expect from an action movie. The music is definitely a nice touch, but Wild Eagle wins this one. Edge: Wild Eagle
First Drop – A Dive Drop vs A Traditional Plunge
Wild Eagle starts with a 135-foot first drop. It’s the typical plummet towards the Earth that you’d expect and there’s nothing particularly different about experiencing it on a wing coaster. Although I will say that if you use a tip that a ride-op gave me (see the bottom of my review) it can give you a noticeably different feel. Still, most won’t know this, so I’ll consider this hill fun, but pretty standard.
X-Flight, on the other hand, integrates an inversion into the first drop. The ride’s dive drop is a very different experience. The left side of the train is slowly lifted up to the sky, while the right side of the train is slowly turned downward. It’s a unique way to get the ride started. Another tough one, but I’ll go with X-Flight here because the dive drop is so unusual. Slight Edge: X-Flight
Loops – 5 Low-Flying Loops vs 4 Soaring Loops
Wild Eagle’s four loops feel bigger and are taken in a more open space. X-Flight’s five loops might feel just the slightest bit slower, but it’s not very noticeable. You’re also closer to the ground and they are connected by tight turns while Wild Eagle’s transitions are more straight. I thought I’d like Wild Eagle’s loop succession better think that X-Flight. I feared that X-Flight might give me the ‘drying machine feel’ that Batman – The Ride does. But, maybe due to the rider positioning, I didn’t feel dizzy or lost during the ride. I’d call the loops on both of these rides even. By the way, I prefer the back right-side for both of them. Edge: Neither
Layout & Ride Experience – Aerial Near Misses vs. Soaring Like an Eagle
When these two rides were announced, I thought Wild Eagle’s terrain layout would make it the better ride. I’m a huge fan of terrain coasters. And on Wild Eagle, like on a number of Dollywood’s rides, you get the unique experience of interacting with the park’s topography. Having said that, aside from the lift hill and the final section heading down to the station, you don’t really notice an elevation change. So, the terrain adds to the atmosphere, but not to the actually layout as much.
Then there’s X-Flight with its insane onslaught of tight turns, structures, fog, and even water cannons. The aforementioned flight tower with its keyhole cut-out are a complete showstopper! Both from an onlooker and a rider perspective, this element helps X-Flight pull out the victory on this one. Edge: X-Flight
[toggle_box title=”Click to Reveal the Showdown Winner” width=”600″]
Overall Showdown Winner
This one looks like a tie. I’ve probably never had to rack my brain as much comparing two roller coasters. They really are very even, hence the same rating for both. The wing roller coaster design gives you an open and exposed feeling that X-Flight does a better job capitalizing on. The loops on both of these coasters do feel noticeably less forceful than they do on a sit-down or inverted coaster. But nothing really distinguishes one from the other in terms of loops.
I love Wild Eagle’s theme and atmosphere, but I can definitely appreciate what Six Flags did with X-Flight. The military theme was very apparent in the music, ride op uniforms, hangar-like station, and of course the flight tower.
Both X-Flight and Wild Eagle are roller coasters that you should experience as they each have their strengths and both offer world-class rides. Winner: Tie[/toggle_box]
Bonus Round: The Mascot Showdown – An Overused Letter vs The World’s Greatest Bird
Six Flags probably just wanted to re-use a trademark that they already owned from Geauga Lake’s X-Flight, but it’s 2012 people. Can we get beyond the “X” equals “extreme” theme already? The eagle is not only a patriotic choice, but it’s also a timeless symbol of freedom. Wild Eagle wins this point-less round easily.
Mascot Winner: Wild Eagle