The Gravitron (later marketed as the Starship 2000, Starship 3000, Starship 4000, and Alien Abduction) is an amusement ride, most commonly found as a portable ride at fairs and carnivals. The Gravitron first appeared at Morey's Piers in 1983 and quickly became a fixture at amusement parks in many countries. It is a modification of an earlier ride called the Rotor. The ride was originally designed and manufactured by Wisdom Industries, though several examples of the Gravitron were produced under license by ARM in the UK and Ferrari in Australia.
Design and operation
The ride is completely enclosed, with 48 padded panels lining the inside wall. Riders lean against these panels, which are angled back. As the ride rotates, centrifugal force is exerted against the pads by the rider, removing the rider from the floor, due to the slant. The ride can reach a maximum speed of 24 rpm in less than 20 seconds, due to the 33 kW 3-phase motor. At this speed, the riders are experiencing centrifugal force equivalent to three times the force of gravity.
The ride operator is located in the center of the ride. Part of the operator's duty is to control lighting and music in addition to the ride itself. Some variants include closed-circuit television cameras, allowing waiting riders and passersby to observe the ride in action.
There are a few versions of this ride that do not have a ceiling (i.e. the top canvas is not installed).
The entire ride racks on a single 50-foot trailer for transport. The ride can be assembled in less than six hours, and packed up in three.
On August 20, 1991, a Gravitron spun itself apart at the Missouri State Fair, injuring seven children. The accident led to a class-action lawsuit against Murphy Enterprises, the operator of the ride, and Wisdom Manufacturing, resulting in modifications to the rides and stricter safety standards.
In April 2004, an accident occurred at the Dade County Youth Fair in Miami, Florida when a panel came off and threw a girl out of the ride. As a result, DCYF strengthened their safety guidelines and removed the ride from the park.
On September 8, 2007, a teenage boy was injured while riding a Gravitron amusement ride at the Spokane County Interstate Fair in Spokane, Washington. The boy hit his head on a metal part of the ride, and needed two staples in his scalp to close the wound. Witnesses reported that the boy ignored safety warnings and climbed the walls of the ride while it was in motion. State investigators determined that the ride was safe and that the accident was the result of the victim's behavior.
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- Australia – At least six; Vortex at Dreamworld (removed in 2009) and five traveling models.
- Oahu, Hawaii – One traveling model owned by EK Fernandez Shows; named Area 51
- North America – Believed to be upwards of 40.
- The Bahamas – The Holiday Carnival hosts this ride.
- The United Kingdom Alton Towers had this ride for three seasons from 1990 to 1992; it later moved to Pleasure Island.
- Finland Suomen Tivoli hosts this ride.
- New Zealand – Two are owned by Mahons Amusements, mobile.
- Canada – One is owned by Hinchey's Rides and Amusements, one is owned by Puck's Farm near Toronto, and another is in Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition, and is called Starship 3000 instead of Gravitron. Another tours Newfoundland every summer with Thomas Amusements, and is called Starship 2000.
- A Gravitron with nearly all original factory cosmetics can be seen in operation in Chaka Khan's "Love Of A Lifetime" (1986) video. Several dancers are seen performing in front of the ride. The video was shot at Long Island's Adventureland amusement park. In the early 1990s the ride was removed from the park.
- The season 2 episode "Chuck Versus the Gravitron" of the TV series Chuck featured a functioning Gravitron at a carnival that plays a key role in the episode's plot.
The exterior of a Gravitron in Madisonville, Kentucky
- Futrell, Jim (2004). Amusement Parks of New Jersey. Stackpole Books. p. 171. ISBN 0-8117-2973-7.
- Miller, Tom (August 22, 1991). "Ride that failed at state fair sent back to factory". Kansas City Star.
- "Gravitron Mobile Amusement Rides To Be Modified". U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. March 19, 1992.
- "Gravitron Rides to Get More Stringent Safety Inspection". tvseriesfinale.com. June 9, 2004. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
- "Bronson Cites Fair Ride Owner in Miami Accident This Spring". Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. July 26, 2004.[dead link]
- "Rideaccidents.com: Teenager injured on Gravitron at Washington fair".
- "Vortex (Dreamworld)". Theme Park Database. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
- "Gravitron". TowersTimes. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- "Puck's Farm". pucksfarm.com. October 10, 2011. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
- "Attractions". Thomas Amusements. Retrieved July 13, 2012.