There’s a huge spectrum of roller coasters out there; some are fun, some are intense, some are down right scary, some are nauseating, and some are just kinda boring. Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ isn’t any of those…Kingda Ka is a pure rush…plain and simple.
Kingda Ka is currently (as of 2008) the tallest and fastest coaster in the world. It’s 456 feet high (less than 1 foot taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza) and it reaches speeds of around 128mph. The coaster was designed by Intamin AG of Switzerland, who has made similar coasters such as Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point and Xcelerator at Knotts Berry Farm. Like the two others mentioned, Kingda Ka is commonly referred to as a ‘rocket coaster’ due to it’s launch and height; Kingda Ka and Top Thrill Dragster also share a sub category of rocket coasters called ‘strata-coasters,’ which are coasters above 400 feet in height.
|Height:||456 ft (138.9 m)|
|Drop:||418 ft (127.4 m)|
|Top Speed:||128 mph (205.9 kph)|
|Length:||3118 ft (950.3 m)|
|Opening Date:||May 21st, 2005|
When approaching the highway entrance to SFGAdv, if you happen to look to your left, you will see the green colored track popping over the treeline. Once you actually drive over the bridge and to the parking gate, you get to see it head-on basically. It’s an imposing structure; it doesn’t look that high until you actually see one of the tiny trains sail up its side. The sound this coaster makes is equally as scary. From a distance you’ll just hear a deep escalating ‘roar’ along with a few punctuations of people screaming. Up close it’s more like a cacophony of screams, wheels traveling on a track, and the ‘whir’ of the flywheel mechanism that launches the trains.
Once you make it to the entrance of Kingda Ka, you get to see the trainloads of people coming back into the station with wind whipped hair and various states of shock written across their faces. If you decide to get into line, you’ll almost certainly have to wait since it’s a newer coaster. In line you get the chance to see the launch process of the ride. The trains roll into a section of track with two signs flanking either side telling people to keep their hands in the car and whatnot. After about 15 seconds of waiting the train rolls backwards a few inches, engages to the tow mechanism, and thrusts forward.
After passing the lockers, you start heading towards the station area. While walking up the ramp you get a face on view of the riders waiting for their train to launch. The trains on Kingda Ka have 5 cars with 4 riders in 4 of the cars and 2 in the back car. The coaster uses an odd overhead bar to secure riders. The bar has 2 shoulder harness looking bars that come up and over rider’s shoulders. This restraint is used because I believe that New Jersey has a ban on the Intamin ‘T-Bar’ restraints that are normally used on rocket-coasters.
Once everything is ready to go, the train dispatches from the station and rolls through a transfer track used for the ‘duel loading’ station that Kingda Ka utilizes. The train rolls to a pair of signs and stops. Ahead of the train is an extremely long straight piece of track that is slightly angled upwards. After a short wait, the train rolls backwards and latches onto a small ‘catch car’ inside the track. After the train rolls backwards, you know the launch is going to happen within the next 3 seconds, at which point any normal thought process is directed at what the next 28 seconds will be like.
Then the train launches. The launch isn’t sudden, like you aren’t just forced back into the seat suddenly; rather the train thursts forward and riders are continually pushed back into their seats until the launch is over. It’s hard to keep your eyes open during the launch because of the speed that the train is traveling. A camera ¾ of the way down the track snaps a photo of the windwhipped riders.
After the launch the train rockets up a large incline which point the train straight up. The train continues to travel up until it levels out at 458 feet. It’s worth noting here that sometimes the train doesn’t make it over the hill, in an event called a ‘rollback.’ The train will hit some brakes on the launch track and proceed to slowly roll backwards to the launch start and reset for another launch. Anyway, at the top of the 456 foot tower, you get a view of the parking lot in front and down, a view of the now dwarfed 250 foot Parachute Jump to the lower left, Philadelphia to the left horizon, New York City to the right horizon, and Atlantic City to the back left on the horizon. You have only a second or so to take this all in before the train rolls over the top and back down to Earth.
On the way down from the tower, the train traverses a 270 degree vertical spiral which makes everything spin around the rider for a moment. Finally the train levels out and hits 100+ mph again. Next the train flies over a 120+ foot camelback hill which throws riders from the seat up into their restraints. Finally the train slams into a set of magnetic brakes and another camera snaps a photo of you rolling into the turn just before entering the station.
To be honest, Kingda Ka is not the best coaster on Earth by any means, it doesn’t have the most inspired layout, nor does it have anything that makes a bona-fide world class coaster. The only things that Kingda Ka has are speed and height; but that’s all it needs to be one of the best rushes a person can experience at an amusement park.