SkyScreamer is an amusement ride located at several Six Flagstheme parks in North America. Designed by Funtime, an Australian ride manufacturer, the attraction is one of their "Star Flyer" models. Since 2011, Six Flags has installed SkyScreamers in seven of their parks, with another unit under construction for Six Flags New England for the upcoming 2014 season.
Riders aboard SkyScreamer are carried aloft in two-person swing-like chairs attached to a rotating gondola mounted on a central tower. When the gondola reaches the top of the tower, riders are swung in a wide circle at speeds approaching 43 miles per hour (69 km/h), with expansive views of the adjacent countryside. The ride is marketed to both thrill-ride enthusiasts and patrons seeking a more family-friendly experience.
The first two SkyScreamers were announced in late 2010 for Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Six Flags St. Louis for the 2011 season. On May 14, 2011, SkyScreamer officially opened at Six Flags St. Louis, where it replaced the Riverview Racer. On May 27, 2011, SkyScreamer made its debut at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, adjacent to the Medusa roller coaster.
In September 2011, Six Flags announced the addition of SkyScreamer to two more parks, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Six Flags Great Adventure. On January 19, 2012, Six Flags announced that La Ronde would also receive a Star Flyer tower. On May 19, 2012, La Ronde opened their attraction, using the name Vol Ultime (French for "Ultimate Flight") instead of SkyScreamer. On May 23, 2012, Six Flags Great Adventure opened SkyScreamer as part of their new Adventure Alley section, which was based around the idea of retro-style amusement rides. On May 27, 2012, Six Flags Fiesta Texas opened their SkyScreamer in the Spassburg section of the park; season passholders were allowed to experience the ride one day earlier.
In July 2012, Six Flags New England submitted plans to the city of Agawam, Massachusetts requesting special approval to construct a 385-foot-tall (117 m) Star Flyer ride, as the proposed height exceeded the city's height limit. The approval was granted a week later, with an additional conditional approval to build as tall as 410 feet (120 m), in case a competing park built a taller model first. The planning documents revealed that the ride would replace the park's Skycoaster, "Taz's Dare Devil Dive".
However, when Six Flags announced its 2013 capital investments in August 2012, the Six Flags New England Star Flyer was not included. Instead, two other parks, Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Over Georgia, were set to receive SkyScreamer attractions. Six Flags Over Georgia's 242-foot (74 m) version replaces the Wheelie and officially debuted on May 24, 2013 after two weekends of passholder previews. Six Flags Over Texas' model, dubbed the Texas SkyScreamer, reached 400 feet (120 m) in height and opened on May 25, 2013. It replaced the Texas Chute Out. Texas SkyScreamer was awarded the title of the "world's tallest swing carousel ride" by Guinness World Records. Although reports suggested it took this record from the 117-metre-tall (384 ft) Prater Turm in Vienna, Austria,Eclipse at Gröna Lund actually held the record for a period of a month standing at 120 metres (390 ft), 3 metres (9.8 ft) shorter than the Texas SkyScreamer.
On August 29, 2013, Six Flags announced that they would be adding the New England SkyScreamer to Six Flags New England in 2014. At over 400-foot-tall (120 m), the ride will take the record for the world's tallest swing ride from the Texas SkyScreamer.
While the heights of the various SkyScreamer installations vary from park to park, the basic operation of the ride is consistent. Riders sit in one of 16 two-seat chairs connected to a gondola mounted on a central tower, which brings the gondola up and down. A seat belt is placed over the rider's waist to keep them firmly in their seat, and a lap bar is fastened into place. When the ride cycle begins, the gondola rises to the top of the tower, beginning to spin slowly around the central tower and picking up speed as it ascends further. By the time it reaches the top, it is rotating around the tower at its full speed of approximately 43 miles per hour (69 km/h), with riders rotating around the tower in a circle 98 feet (30 m) in diameter. The gondola remains at the top of the tower for a period of time, then it descends and slows down slightly before returning to the top. At the end of the cycle, the gondola lowers to the ground and slows its rotation such that, by the time it reaches the bottom of the tower, all rotation has ceased and the riders are able to depart.
The New England SkyScreamer and Texas SkyScreamer differs from the standard models, although the actual ride experience is intended to be the same. The gondola of the two rides will hold 12 two-seat chairs instead of 16. When the gondola reaches full height, the chairs will be rotating in a larger circle—124 feet (38 m)—but at a slower speed—35 miles per hour (56 km/h).
SkyScreamer has been described as being a "classic" and "retro" ride by the press. It is marketed as a compromise between riders who prefer roller coasters and similar thrills and those who prefer more family-friendly rides. Roller coaster enthusiasts, who are often sought out to sample new thrill rides, have been generally positive about the attractions. Frankie Gobel, a roller coaster fan whose father, Charlie Gobel, wrote a book about their experiences entitled Flying With Frankie: Three Hundred Days in Amusement Parks Riding Roller Coasters With My Son, described the ride as not being "your typical swing set" commenting that "It’s not too intense for Mom or too dull for a teenager. It’s the perfect family ride - assuming your family has a strong stomach."
Gary Slade, the publisher of Amusement Today magazine, said that while SkyScreamer doesn't have the same drawing power as a new roller coaster, it still was the type of ride parks needed to install to keep guests returning. Slade said, in regards to the attraction at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, "I think it's really going to be a huge hit for them."