Air (roller coaster)
|Park section||Forbidden Valley|
|Opening date||16 March 2002|
|Type||Steel – Flying|
|Manufacturer||Bolliger & Mabillard|
|Lift/launch system||Chain lift hill|
|Height||20 m (66 ft)|
|Length||840 m (2,760 ft)|
|Speed||75 km/h (47 mph)|
|Capacity||1500 riders per hour|
|Height restriction||140 cm (4 ft 7 in)|
|Trains||3 Crafts trains with 7 cars. Riders are arranged 4 across in a single row for a total of 28 riders per train.|
Single rider line available
|Air at RCDB
Pictures of Air at RCDB
Air (abbreviation of Aerial Inversion Ride; originally stylised as air) is a steel flying roller coaster located in the Forbidden Valley area of Alton Towers in Staffordshire, England. It was the first flying rollercoaster manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard, and as a result labeled as the first successful flying rollercoaster. Guests ride in a prone position and experience the feeling of flight by "flying" close to the ground, under footpaths, and narrowly past trees and rocks. The 840-metre-long (2,760 ft) ride reaches a top speed of 75 kilometres per hour (47 mph). Air was the third 'Secret Weapon' ride to have opened.
The concept of a flying roller coaster was first conceived in 1994 and was meant to debut at Alton Towers in 1998 but due to technological limitations at the time, its realisation was delayed. Flying roller coasters are characterised by passengers riding parallel with the track. Shortly afterward, Bolliger & Mabillard began designing their own flying roller coaster. Alton Towers began construction of Bolliger & Mabillard' prototype flying coaster in mid-2001. Later that year, Alton Towers officially announced the ride as being an unnamed "Aerial Inversion Ride" which would open in March 2002. Alton Towers later revealed that the ride's name would actually be "AIR", the abbreviation of "Aerial Inversion Ride"; it was subsequently altered to lowercase.
In early 2002, testing of Air began with special crash test dummies. Costing £12 million to complete, Air was, at the time of its opening, tied with Oblivion as the most expensive ride at Alton Towers. Air officially opened to the public on 16 March 2002.
In April 2015, the park announced that the Air Shop is to be extended and a FoodLoop restaurant to be added in the building in 2016.
In July 2015, Alton Towers submitted planning permission to make improvements to the ride. These include the addition of a new photo kiosk, the addition of a photo opportunity into the queue, pre-show areas, walls around the station building and 2 new theming elements. These will debut in 2016, along with the restaurant. In October 2015, Alton Towers said to "prepare for a new flight" and to "watch this space", in a statement made on their website. In early November 2015, the Air Shop closed and on-ride photos stopped being sold, in preparation of the new changes.
Air was the first flying coaster installation by Swiss roller coaster manufacturer, Bolliger & Mabillard. The ride was designed by John Wardley, the designer of many rides at Alton Towers and other Merlin theme parks. The ride cost £12 million, which at the time of opening, was one of the most expensive rollercoasters ever made and the most technologically-advanced. 
At the time of opening, Air was the tallest ride at Alton Towers, standing 20 metres (66 feet) tall. The 840-metre-long (2,760-foot) ride reaches a top speed of 75 kilometres per hour (47 miles per hour). Riders can experience up to three-and-a-half times the force of gravity whilst on the ride. One cycle of the ride lasts approximately one minute and forty seconds.
Air features a dual-platform loading station, permitting three trains to operate simultaneously. Each train has seven cars, with each car carrying four riders side-by-side in a single row. This configuration allows for up to 1500 riders per hour.
Station and loading
Once in the station, riders board a train sitting down, in a similar style to inverted roller coasters. Riders are restrained through a padded over-the-shoulder harness and a lap bar. At the ankles, two flaps hold the legs in position and close as the harness locks into place. After a train is fully locked and checked, riders are raised into the flying position and the train departs the station.
Air departs the station and rises a chain lift hill. The ride's first drop dips to the right, rises up to a 180° turn, and continues down a large drop to ground level. The track then twists so the riders are on their backs. This maneuver is known as a fly-to-lie. The coaster then performs a large upward left turn before twisting again, returning riders to the prone position. This maneuver is known as a lie-to-fly. After exiting from the lie-to-fly element, Air passes underneath a small ravine before pitching up, into a tight turn. A 360° inline twist is followed by a series of straight flying, and several turns and dips in the track. The train then slows in the brake run before returning to one of the station's two platforms.
Preceding the ride's launch prior, and to it receiving a name, Alton Towers marketed the ride as Secret Weapon 5 (SW5). This followed other similar project names at the park including SW3 and SW4 for the Nemesis and Oblivion coasters. The pre-launch naming trend continued with SW6 and SW7 for Thirteen and The Smiler coasters, respectively.
In 2002, Alton Towers entered into a five-year agreement with Cadbury Heroes, to become the ride's sponsor. This was part of a wider marketing campaign costing £4.5 million. The campaign featured the slogan "Assume the position" and consisted of a series of cinema and television commercials. Air was not marketed as a thrill ride, but rather a ride to simulate flight.
In Amusement Today 's annual Golden Ticket Awards, Air was ranked in the top 50 steel roller coasters numerous times following its opening. It peaked at position 24 in 2003, before dropping to position 34 in 2004 and 36 in 2005. In 2006, it tied for position 49 with another Bolliger & Mabillard flying coaster, Superman: Ultimate Flight. It has not appeared in the top 50 since until 2015 it peaked at 38.
In Mitch Hawker's worldwide Best Roller Coaster Poll, Air peaked at position 36 in its debut year. The ride's ranking in subsequent polls is shown in the table below.
|Mitch Hawker's Best Roller Coaster Poll: Best Steel-Tracked Roller Coaster|
- No steel roller coaster poll was held in 2011.
- "The World's First Flying Rollercoaster Opening At Alton Towers" (Press release). Alton Towers. 10 March 2002. Archived from the original on 28 May 2005. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- Marden, Duane. "Glossary (Flying)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- Koranteng, Juliana (15 October 2001). "Coaster shoots for all ages". Amusement Business 113 (41).
- Koranteng, Juliana (14 January 2002). "Alton Towers debuts coaster". Amusement Business 114 (2): 9.
- "Air Rollercoaster". Alton Towers. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
- Marden, Duane. "Air (Alton Towers)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
- Marden, Duane. "Oblivion (Alton Towers)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Marden, Duane. "Roller Coaster Search Results (Flying Coasters)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- Gogarty, Paul (6 July 2002). "Tight buckles, white knuckles and screeeams!". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- Ralph, Owen (9 August 2010). "John Wardley". Park World Magazine. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- Marden, Duane. "Nemesis (Alton Towers)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Bevil, Dewayne (17 November 2008). "Manta on demand: more details about SeaWorld coaster under construction". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on April 14, 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- Bell, Ian (13 October 2006). "Air, Alton Towers POV". Coaster Force. YouTube. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- "All Time Greats - Air". Alton Towers. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- "All Time Greats - Nemesis". Alton Towers. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- "All Time Greats - Oblivion". Alton Towers. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- MacDonald, Brady (29 November 2011). "Top 13 for 2013: Best new rides at theme parks around the world". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- Koranteng, Juliana (1 July 2002). "TiLE Group Looks At New Trends, Ideas". Amusement Business 114 (26): 1, 9.
- Koranteng, Juliana (22 December 2003). "Despite Economic Woes, Attendance Stable In Europe". Amusement Business 115 (51): 11, 15.
- "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. September 2003.
- "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. September 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 April 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
- "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. September 2005.
- "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. September 2006.
- "Issue Archive". Golden Ticket Awards. Amusement Today. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
- Hawker, Mitch. "Steel Roller Coaster Poll 12 Year Results Table (1999 - 2012)". Best Roller Coaster Poll. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
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