Flying Coaster

Flying Coasters (the flat ride, not the more recent roller coasters to which the term has been applied) illustrate the typical ride popularity cycle very nicely. After its introduction, the ride became very popular, being the must-have ride for a few seasons. Presumably, when the device appeared at a carnival, everybody wanted to ride the new sensation, and consequently, every carnival operator had to have one. The ease of transport and set-up contributed to the ride's popularity with its operators. Later, the appeal of the Flying Coaster apparently faded. There is now a single classical Flying Coaster still operating in North America, the Kangaroo at Kennywood Park, which was intalled in 1962. About 20 Flying Coasters currently operate in the UK, mostly under the name "Ski Jump."

The Flying Coaster was invented by the prolific ride designer Norman Bartlett. His patent US 2895735 was filed in 1957 and granted in 1959. A prototype built by Lowell Stapf was operated at several locations in the fall of 1958, including the CNE. According to reports from the 1958 NAAPPB convention (predecessor to IAAPA), the first production unit was sold to Peck Amusements and was to operate at the Florida State Fair in early 1959. Eight units were operating by the end of the year, all on the fair circuit. These were powered by gasoline engines, and were manufactured and sold by the Lowell Stapf Amusement Company of Amarillo, Texas.

In 1960, another 30 units were sold. Most of these were manufactured by Aeroaffiliates of Fort Worth, Texas. The 1960 models incorporated several safety improvements, and the optional electric motor drive made park use feasible. 1960 park installations included Ocean View Park, Revere Beach, Steeplechase Park, and Palisades (with the last being a Mac Duberges concession).

Bartlett appears to have terminated his arrangement with Stapf because the company had inadequate production capacity, being primarily a ride operating outfit. By the end of 1960, Aeroaffiliates was able to turn out about one unit a week. Total production was more than 70 units, with 60 being in operation by 1962. The Aeroaffiliates ride was still being advertised at least as late as 1964. Bartlett patented improvements to the ride in 1965 and 1972.

At the 1960 NAAPPB convention, Herschell introduced a Jumping Jupiter ride. A brief description indicates that this was a rampless jumping roundabout, probably introduced in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the Flying Coaster.

Norman Bartlett visited Europe in late 1960, where it was reported that he was trying to license the Flying Coaster for overseas production. This led to an agreement with Mack, the main seller of Flying Coasters in Europe, which began producing the Sprung Schanze around 1962. Unlike the original, German version had a raised platform and a large backflash. Versions of the ride were later manufactured by several makers in the UK.

Here are the parks and locations that had Flying Coasters in 1961:

In addition to Kennywood Park, Belmont Park (Canada) and Waldameer Park were among those that received rides in 1962.

Not all of the rides that operated in the US were made by Stapf or Aeroaffiliates. Several of the Mack rides were imported into North America in the 1960s, and a 1993 NAFLIC technical bulletin (#49) mentions an incident on a flying coaster in the US that had been built about 20 years earlier by Lang Wheels.

Comments may be sent to Victor Canfield

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Last revised 14-Aug-2009

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