In this series of articles, we will make you familiar with the unique, interesting and exclusive coasters in Europe. We start with the kind of coasters where guests are not on top of the track, not below the track… but on the sides: Wing coasters! But which one is our favorite? You’ll ‘wing’ it out here!
Before we start with those in Europe, let’s go back to the origin of Wing Coasters. It was not B&M, Intamin or S&S that had the idea, but Arrow Dynamics. With X at Six Flags Magic Mountain, they started the construction of a one of a kind coaster. Unfortunately, it was their last attempt to hold the company up and…they failed. As they were working together with Six Flags Magic Mountain and other 3rd party companies, they completed the job and in 2002, X opened. In 2007 S&S got involved with new trains, and the ride became X2 in 2008. Of course X2 is much more than a wing coaster, as the seats themselves can also spin upside down. We know it more as a 4th dimension coaster. X2 is not one of a kind, as four years later, Eejanaika opened at Fuji-Q Highland.
It was five years later that Intamin was the first to open a new kind of wing coaster: Furius Baco. It was the first wing coaster in the world to have a launch. On top of that, the only model in the world that exists by the hand of Intamin. An excellent addition to Port Aventura, the number 6 park in Europe. In 2012 however, they changed their wing coaster concept to only the outwards seats being not above the track, the winged seats concept. Only two exist at the moment with the first one being Skyrush at Hersheypark.
Also in 2007, Terra Mitica opened Inferno and Kirnu opened in Linnanmäki. These type of wing coasters will be excluded from our comparison, as we consider them more as Ball Coasters/Zacspins. (And not many people like these smaller, purely vertical, coasters).
B&M opened its first wing coaster at Gardaland in 2011: Raptor. Once again they reinvented the design, but more simple in comparison with the S&S and Intamin type. No launch, no inverting seats, just plain seats on the side of the track. On the other hand, the trains themselves were much better themed. A true monster was created and with success. Raptor is found in the center of Gardaland and serves as an important monument of the park. Merlin saw how popular the ride was and didn’t stop there. The new design of Wing Coaster by B&M allowed for simpler supporting and near-miss thematic elements, which a lot of B&M Wing Riders are now known for.
Two other properties of the European Merlin parks opened a Wing Coaster. In 2012, Thorpe Park opened the Swarm and in 2014, Heide Park opened Flug der Dämonen. Both with their own story, music and theming.
As you can see, the four coasters are well spread across Europe, but which one is our favorite? After careful evaluation and discussions with our whole team, here are the results!
4) Furius Baco – Port Aventura
+++The fastest in Europe: 135 km/h
++ World exclusive prototype
+ The longest in Europe: 850 m (2,799.75 feet)
+ Best theoritical capacity: 1500 guests/h
— Rough and painful. Vibrates uncomfortably much.
— Uncomfortable seats.
— A lot of technical difficulties.
– The lowest in Europe: 14 m (46 feet); which is the lowest Intamin in the world!
– Only one inversion
Furius Baco is on the bottom of the list. This prototype by Intamin is the first coaster you encounter when entering the park. It’s a world exclusive and the reason is probably because no one else wanted to build a coaster like this. Although it has many positive elements, the experience in itself does not deliver compared to the others. Especially since in the park you have two other coasters that are much better: Dragon Khan and Shambhala. One of the best elements is the theming.
Designed by Thinkwell Group, it is themed to a typical Catalan country house, where a crazy inventor lives with its monkey pet Manàs. L’Hereu de Cal Ventura, the inventor, designed a system to transport the wine from the vineyard to the house at high speed, but he needs people as counterweight. He made some tests with dummies, but all of them failed, and that’s why we can see dummies crashed within the area.
So although we want to like the ride and the launch is quite impressive, it simply can’t compete with the other three Wing coasters in Europe. This makes Furius Baco our number 4.
3) The Swarm – Thorpe Park
++ The second tallest in Europe: 38,7 m (128 feet)
++ Custom coaster
++ Comfortable coaster
++ Nice theming
+ The second longest in Europe: 775,1 m (2,543 feet)
+ Second best theoretical capacity: 1300 guests/h
+ Four inversions
– Removal of unique feature: final seats have been backwards for a few years
– The second slowest in Europe: 95 km/h (59 mph)
The Swarm is one of the top coasters at Thorpe Park. Launched with a huge marketing campaign in the UK (as usual), it immediately got a lot of fans. Once it opened, it disappointed quite a few fans. The experience is thrilling, but expectations are higher when you are standing in front of the ride. Still, the Swarm is a smooth experience with some nice twists and a cool station fly by. To boost the ride after the opening in 2012, they added extra theming the years after, for example a giant billboard as near-miss effect.
The Swarm is actually an alien race that attacks the park. Guests meet the monsters in an abandoned church after which they fly past a crashed plane, through a ripped billboard and next to a helicopter. In the queue, News 16 is broadcasting about the attack, to get you pumped to ride.
It used to have a special feature: the two last rows were turned backwards for a limited time. This is for fans a discussion point. Many are happy that it is gone, especially due queue difficulties. Also, by experiencing it backwards, you don’t have the near miss effects at all. On the other hand, it was unique, especially in Europe. The lift hill for example is a totally different experience and for some it was more thrilling as well.
All in all, The Swarm is roller-coaster that fits in Thorpe Park. An exclusive coaster in the United Kingdom, the typical Merlin horror theming and a smooth ride. But the two other European ones simply have something more.
2) Raptor – Gardaland
+++ World’s first B&M Wing coaster
+++ Integrated theming
++ Custom coaster
++ Comfortable coaster
+ Three inversions
– The shortest in Europe: 770 m (2,526.3 feet)
– The second lowest in Europe: 33 m (108.3 feet)
– The slowest in Europe: 90 km/h (56 mph)
– The lowest capacity: 1000 guests/h
Higher and faster isn’t always better, this is the case for Raptor. It’s advantages are the theming which is very immersive with the area and also the title ‘World’s First’. The coaster is at the heart of the park and of the best ones at Gardaland.
During the construction of the new coaster, an unknown winged predator was awakened from its sleep and has been kidnapping guests ever since. It takes them on a flight through devastated land and forests. This theme is clearly visible around the coaster and of the three B&M Wing Coasters, it’s best integrated into the green area. This makes it very immersive, when you are in the queue. Criticism however can be that during the ride itself, you don’t really interact a lot with the theming besides a few elements. But compared to the other European Wing coasters, it has the most near-miss effects which enhance the experience of a Wing coaster.
We have to admit that it was a close call between The Swarm and Raptor. Stats wise, The Swarm performs better as it is slightly longer, five meters taller and the experience as a whole is more thrilling. However, Raptor will always be the world’s first. Next to that, it has the many near-miss effects, immersive theming and a fitting story. After experiencing both, Raptor’s other advantage is the way it is implemented in the park. Fitting to the story, it has immersed from the center of the park and it’s rare to see the hidden monster within the park. So counting in the story, the experience and the theming, Raptor gets second place.
1) Flug der Dämonen – Heide Park
++ ECK team favorite
++ The tallest in Europe: 40 m (130 feet)
++ Custom coaster
++ Comfortable coaster
+ Effective theming
+ The second fastest in Europe: 100 km/h (62 miles/h)
+ Most inversions in Europe: 5
– The second shortest in Europe: 772 m (2,533 feet)
– The second lowest capacity: 1060 guests/h
Our number one is Flug der Dämonen. This Wing Coaster was the most recent one built in Europe. It was an excellent addition for Heide Park to distinguish themselves even more from the nearby parks. Some see it as the best coaster at the Resort!
The story behind this coaster is about demons who are conjured by villagers. This grave mistake leaves them haunted by these creatures who need to feed on souls. That’s why the villagers need the guests so that they are taken instead… The theme is only slightly visible around the ride, but the music by IMAscore can immediately bring you in the atmosphere. In the queue, you can find a part of the former log flume ride as part of the decoration. During the ride itself there are many inversions, a thrilling track and a tunnel with screaming demons.
Although it is clear that all four coasters are worth having in your park, we chose by objective elements and by our personal experiences. Flug der Dämonen came to be on top of the list. It has the most inversions, it’s the fastest Wing Coaster in Europe manufactured by B&M, has a decent layout and a fitting theme. What is your personal top four? Let us know in the comments!
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