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Kingda Ka is a roller coaster located at Six Flags Great Adventuremarker in New Jerseymarker, USAmarker. It is the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world, claiming the titles from Top Thrill Dragstermarker at Cedar Pointmarker when it opened on May 20, 2005. The train is launched by a hydraulic launch mechanism to 128 miles per hour (206 km/h) in 3.5 seconds. At the end of the launch track, the train climbs the main top hat tower reaching a height of 456 feet (139 meters).

History

Kingda Ka was officially announced on September 29, 2004, at an event held for the media and enthusiasts. It was revealed that the ride would become "the tallest and fastest roller coaster on earth", reaching 456 ft high and accelerating up to in 3.5 seconds..

On January 13, 2005, Kingda Ka was topped off at its height, finishing construction. Over four months later, Kingda Ka opened to the public, media day being two days before, on May 19.

During a test run with no passengers on June 6, 2005, a bolt failure caused damage to the launch cable resulting in closure of the ride until August 2005, and the reconfiguration of the line area. The ride was also struck by lightning in early May 2009; the strike caused the ride to be unreliable and necessitated complicated repairs. The ride was operational from May 31, 2009 to June 24, 2009, but remained closed for maintenance until August 21, 2009.

Season 2, episode 28 of the documentary series MegaStructures follows the construction of the rollercoaster in detail.

Major malfunctions

2005: Problems with launch cable, engine, and brake fins

On June 6, 2005, less than a month after its grand opening, a bolt failure caused the liner inside the trough through which the launch cable travels to come loose and create friction against the cable. The friction caused the train not to accelerate to the correct speed. The rubbing of the cable against the inside of the metal trough caused sparks and shards of metal to fly out from the bottom of the train. The engine, as it is designed, attempted to compensate by applying more force to the cable to attain the 128 mph (206 km/h) launch speed.

The brake fins—metal fins attached to the underside of some roller coaster cars that slide between brakes mounted to the track—rise up into the braking position on a timing pattern, independent of the launching mechanism. The fins are mounted in steel supports that are connected to actuators that raise and lower the fins into the desired position.
Kingda Ka's tower
The fins actually caught up to the launching train as the timing pattern of the rising fins was faster than the accelerating train. The magnetic brakes began to slow the train in the launch area, and the engine tried to compensate even more, and dragged the train through the brake zones. The catch car released, but the train was still in the brake zone and came to a complete stop at the bottom of the hill.

This malfunction occurred when no passengers were aboard during a test run. Damage occurred to the launch cable (frayed and needed to be replaced), engine (minor routine damage to seals), and brake fins (many needed to be replaced). The brake fins in the launch section are mounted in such a way to keep fast moving trains from moving backwards into the station, but a fast moving train being pulled forwards caused an unexpected stress on a number of fins that bent them forward. Not all of the fins needed to be replaced, but there were more damaged brake fins than Six Flags had replacements, and extra brake fins had to be specially ordered from Intamin. In addition, Kingda Ka had to be re-inspected. Kingda Ka started testing on July 21, 2005. It reopened on August 4, 2005, with the line modified so that it no longer ran under the launch track. The dark blue train was being launched when the malfunction occurred. It was used for the rest of the season, but major problems requiring replacement parts were discovered when the train was inspected during the off-season. Consequently, this train remained disassembled throughout the 2006 season.

Before 2005's major malfunction, Kingda Ka's queue area was much larger. It started at the main entrance arch, went under the launch track, traveled through two large switchback areas, and split into separate lines for each side of the station. Most of the entire line used to be set in the ride's infield. The current main entrance to the station was previously the "Flash pass" entrance.

2009: Late spring lightning strike

On the overnight of May 6-7, Kingda Ka was struck by lightning, and suffered serious damage and downtime following the strike. The ride operated on May 9 and May 10 off and on with downtime more often than operating time. The park attempted to open the ride on May 16 but was unable to get it running properly. The park then announced that Kingda Ka was temporarily closed for maintenance. By May 20, it was announced that the ride would be down for an extended period of time. Six Flags Great Adventure ordered new parts for the ride from Intamin, but the damage required complicated repairs to Kingda Ka. A Screamscape post mentioned that, due to the nature of the needed repairs, Kingda Ka's launch will require a full test and adjust period, causing the ride to be closed to riders until late spring/early summer. It was up and running as of May 31, 2009, but with more frequent breakdowns than usual.

As of Late June, 2009 the ride has been shut down for an extended period, stemming from complications from this year's issues, along with claims of a blown fuse and serious engine troubles as they wait for replacement parts once again.

It is up and running as of August 21, 2009 , which occurred on the same day as Six Flags, Inc.'s announcement of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring plan.

Ride experience

Main Ride

After the train has been locked and checked, it slowly advances out of the station to the launch area. The train goes through a switch track which allows 4 trains on two tracks to load simultaneously. Once the train is in position, the hydraulic launch mechanism accelerates the train from 0 to 128 miles per hour (0 to 206 km/h) in 3.5 seconds, pulling about 1.67 G. At the end of the launch track, the train climbs the main tower, or top hat, twisting 90 degrees to the right before reaching a height of . The train then descends straight down through a 270-degree spiral. Finally, the train climbs the second hill of , producing a moment of weightlessness before being smoothly brought to a stop by the magnetic brakes. The train then makes a U-turn and enters the station. The ride lasts 28 seconds from the start of the launch to the end of the brake run, but has an official ride time of 50.6 seconds.

The hydraulic launch motor is capable of producing 20,800 horsepower (15.5 MW) peak. Due to the high speed and open nature of the trains, the ride will not operate in light rain, as rider contact with rain drops can cause discomfort.

Layout

Kingda Ka is almost identical to Top Thrill Dragstermarker at Cedar Pointmarker, but while Top Thrill Dragster hits the brakes immediately after coming down the main hill, Kingda Ka goes over a 129 foot tall hill into the brake run.

Rollbacks, Stalls, and launch

Sometimes, it is possible for a train to roll back—to fail to reach the top of the tower and descend. The train instead reaches as high on the tower as it can go (in most cases to the very top), and rolls back. Kingda Ka includes retractable brakes on its launch track that will bring a train rolling backwards down the tower to a stop. Rollbacks are more common in breezy weather, or just after wet weather. Many riders look forward to a rollback as the cars launch one by one, and no injuries have occurred. Rollbacks are frequent during safety tests to ensure all brakes on the runway are in working condition. One other issue that is even more rare then a rollback is for the train to "Stall" or stop at the top of the lift. This is so rare because the train must be perfectly balanced for this to happen. In the event this happens, there is a special vehicle so workers can get up the Support tower and push the train (usually down the right side).

It is hard to know exactly when Kingda Ka's launch will occur. When the signal to launch is given, the train rolls back slightly to engage the catch car, then the brakes on the launch track retract. Most times there will be a voice that says "arms down, head back and hold on." The launch will occur five seconds after the hissing sound of the brake fins retracting or the warning voice. Previously, Kingda Ka's horn sounded before every launch, but it has been turned off because of noise complaints from nearby residents. The horn now sounds only when Kingda Ka first launches after being idle for a certain period of time. Kingda Ka's launch mechanism is capable of launching a train every 45 seconds resulting in a capacity of 1000 guests per hour.

Station

Kingda Ka's station has two parallel tracks with switch tracks at the entrance and exit. Each of the station's tracks accommodates two trains, so that each of the four trains has its own station. Each train only loads and unloads at its own station; it does not go to any others. During operation, the trains on one side are loaded while the trains on the other side are launched. This system works extremely efficiently as long as all four trains are running and there are no significant delays in loading and checking the trains. This system was not used at all in 2006 because only two trains were working that year. It also results in a very fast-moving line before the station, but a long wait inside the station, especially if waiting for the front row. An employee directs riders in line to go to a particular side of the station, but riders will then be able to choose the front or rear of the train. Two operators load, check and dispatch each train, and one launches the trains. Kingda Ka's music is by Safri Duo; their entire Episode II album is played in the queue and station.
Kingda Ka's switch track at the station's exit


Trains

Kingda Ka's four trains are color coded for easy identification: green, dark blue, teal, and orange. These four colors are also used on the seats and restraints. Kingda Ka's trains seat 18 people, with two per row. The rear car has one row, while the rest have two. The rear row of each car is positioned higher than its front row for better visibility. The trains do not have official names, only numbers.

The dark blue train was being launched when 2005's major malfunction (see above) occurred, and problems stemming from this malfunction were discovered in the train's off-season rehab, putting this train out of service throughout the 2006 season. As a result, Kingda Ka only ran two trains for the whole year. The teal and green trains ran from the start of the season until late July, and the teal and orange trains ran for the rest of the season, with the teal train being the only train used for the whole season. Kingda Ka opened for the 2007 season with all four trains running.

Each of Kingda Ka's trains has a panel behind the last row of seats that covers an extra row of seat mounts. These panels could be removed for the installation of additional seats at some future time. This modification would increase the capacity of each train from 18 to 20 guests and the hourly capacity of the coaster from 1400 to 1600 guests per hour. Kingda Ka's station is already set up for this modification; it has the entrance gates for the currently nonexistent row of seats.

While this modification has not yet been done, the trains were slightly modified for the 2006 season - the nose of each train got a new coat of paint, after which the large "Kingda Ka" logo and the train number decals were not put back on the trains. The non-padded portions of the restraints are now bare metal rather than painted orange.

Seat restraints

Kingda Ka's seats with the restraints down
Kingda Ka's over-the-shoulder restraint system consists of a thick, rigid lap bar and two thin, flexible over-the-shoulder restraints. Because the over-the-shoulder portions of the restraint are not rigid, the hand grips are mounted to the lap bar.

These restraints use a locking system (rather than a ratchet) which allows them to be pulled down to any position; when locked, they can move down to any position but not up. In contrast, a ratchet-based restraint only locks at each notch, and will often be too loose or uncomfortably tight. Kingda Ka's restraints are also held down by a belt in case the main locking system fails. In order to speed up loading, riders are asked to secure their own restraints if they are able to.

References

External links






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