Roller Coaster of the Day: Tatsu – Six Flags Magic Mountain

Name: Tatsu

Location: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA

Operating Year: 2006 – Present

Built By: Bolliger & Mabillard

Top Speed: 62 mph

Height: 170 feet

“Tatsu”, considered to be the world’s best “Flying Coaster”.

Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M for short) is one of the most prolific roller coaster manufacturers in the business, and has come up with several unique concepts that have always pushed the boundaries of roller coaster design, such as the “inverted coaster” (where riders sit in ski-lift style seats that are fixed below the track with their legs dangling) or the “stand-up coaster” (self-explanatory).

In 2002, they attempted to push the boundaries  even further when they debuted the concept of the “Flying Coaster”, where riders lie down on their backs facing the ground, essentially imitating Superman as they cruise through the layout.

B&M’s first successful flying coaster opened at Alton Towers, a theme park in the United Kingdom, in 2002.

The world’s first flying coaster, “Air”, opened at Alton Towers in 2002.

Unfortunately, “Air” was immediately criticized – and rightly so – for being a “weenie” ride; the general consensus was that while it was an amazing concept, it just wasn’t scary enough. It was too slow, stuck too much to the ground, the pacing was off, etc. etc.

So in 2006, Bolliger & Mabillard, after taking all the complaints into consideration, upped the ante.

A bird’s-eye view of Tatsu’s entire layout.

That wicked-looking thing off to the left? That’s affectionately referred to as a “pretzel loop” (it’s easy to see where it got its name) and it has the potential to cheerfully squeeze your brains out of your nostrils. It is quite possibly the most intense element ever incorporated into a roller coaster; you start off on your stomach, looking down at the ground 100 feet below you, then you’re yanked downwards and you find yourself looking up at the sky from the bottom, then the next second, you’re high up in the sky again.

It’s fast, it’s intense, and it’s deliciously evil.

The “pretzel loop” in all its glory.

Something else that’s interesting about Tatsu (and every other B&M Flying Coaster ever built) is just how much engineering prowess goes into building one of these steel beauties. Not only do the designers have to build the track, they also had to come up with a solution as to exactly how they were going to put riders on their backs, since the traditional method of loading riders into the trains wasn’t going to work.

This is what they came up with:

It doesn’t take much time at all for the seats to move between their upright and flying positions, and it works remarkably well.

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