The Swarm at Thorpe Park in Surrey was the first – and only – wing coaster to be built in the UK. It was the second wing coaster to be built by B&M (Bolliger & Mabillard), which thus far is the only company to manufacture wing riders; the first was Raptor at Gardaland in Italy. As of 2018 there are nine wing coasters in operation and six more under construction.
Layout and Theming
The Swarm features a sprawling layout with 2,543 feet of track. It’s themed to resemble the aftermath of a disaster – basically an apocalypse – and this is reflected by the paraphernalia surrounding the track, which includes a crashed airplane, partially submerged fire truck and downed helicopter among other accoutrements. The loading station is surrounded by a structure resembling a charred church. What gives the ride its name is that the ride vehicles are designed to resemble drones. Considering that a drone can be 1) a flying robot or 2) a male bee in a colony, in this case both definitions fit.
This coaster boasts five inversions: dive drop, zero-g roll, inclined loop, corkscrew and inline twist. The dive drop a/k/a wingover is the first ever to have been installed on a wing coaster. (This element was later incorporated into X-Flight at Six Flags Great America, Gatekeeper at Cedar Point and Flug der Damonen at Heide Park.) The Swarm also features keyhole elements similar to those on other wing coasters. It operates with two trains containing seven cars seating four across for a total capacity of 28 riders and reaches a maximum speed of 57 mph. At one point the last two rows were positioned in the opposite direction from the other five but this arrangement was altered so that all rows are facing forward. The restraint is an over the shoulder harness.
A ride on The Swarm begins with a passage under an overturned vehicle with the upside down lettering Police Major Incident Unit (this is the control booth) and ascent up a 127-foot chain lift hill. At the top the track rotates 180 degrees, inverting the riders and hurtling them down the dive drop. My reaction to being flipped over after reaching the top was whoa! Awesome. From there the train swoops under the wing of the wrecked airplane, very close to the ground, and ascends into the zero-g roll. It then passes through a damaged billboard advertising Paradise Airlines (much in keeping with the theme) before entering the inclined loop. A turnaround leads up to the corkscrew, after which the train travels alongside a body of water where the helicopter is sunk, its blades turning uselessly. The remainder of the course consists of a keyhole element, station flyover and inline twist.
Final Thoughts and Rating
From start to finish the ride was dynamic and delightful. I especially liked the fact that the train rides so close to the ground at several points. Maneuvers such as the dive under the wing of the plane gave the ride an extra edge, as did the fact that the various objects surrounding the track seem dangerously close. There were some good headchopper effects. It was also interesting that the corkscrew actually passes through the inclined loop. All of the inversions were pretty cool, especially the inline twist. I had ridden The Swarm several times on the left side and decided to try the other side. I found that the right side is somewhat more intense, possibly because of the change in elevation. In any case the theming is very good, as is everything else about the ride.
Final Rating – 8.5 out of 10 (Great)
[Tip for travellers to the UK: Thorpe Park is easily accessible from London. It’s about a 40-minute train ride from London Waterloo station to Staines, where you can catch a shuttle bus to the park.]
What’s your take? Have you ridden The Swarm and if so, what did you think?
(Video courtesy of Coaster Force, as there is no official video of The Swarm available on Thorpe Park’s website.)