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Galactica (roller coaster)

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Previously known as Air
Galactica Logo Alton Towers.jpg
Alton Towers
Park sectionForbidden Valley
Coordinates52°59′09″N 1°52′55″W / 52.9859°N 1.88205°W / 52.9859; -1.88205Coordinates: 52°59′09″N 1°52′55″W / 52.9859°N 1.88205°W / 52.9859; -1.88205
Opening date16 March 2002 (2002-03-16) (as Air) 24 March 2016 (2016-03-24) (as Galactica)
Cost£12 million
General statistics
TypeSteel – Flying
ManufacturerBolliger & Mabillard
DesignerJohn Wardley
ModelFlying Coaster
Track layoutCustom
Lift/launch systemChain lift hill
Height20 m (66 ft)
Length840 m (2,760 ft)
Speed75 km/h (47 mph)
Capacity1,500 riders per hour
Height restriction140 cm (4 ft 7 in)
Trains3 trains with 7 cars. Riders are arranged 4 across in a single row for a total of 28 riders per train.
Fastrack available
Galactica at RCDB
Pictures of Galactica at RCDB

Galactica (formerly known as Air) is a flying roller coaster located in the Forbidden Valley area of Alton Towers amusement park in Staffordshire, England. Previously known as Air, it is the first flying coaster manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard. Guests ride in a prone position lying chest down and experience the feeling of flight by "flying" close to the ground, under footpaths, and narrowly past trees and rocks.

The roller coaster originally opened as Air on 16 March 2002. Following the close of the 2015 season, the ride underwent refurbishment and reopened as Galactica on 24 March 2016. It features an 840-metre-long (2,760 ft) track, reaches a top speed of 75 km/h (47 mph), and debuted a dedicated virtual reality experience, although this has since been removed.[1][2]


Air (2002–2015)[edit]

Alton Towers conceived the concept of a flying roller coaster in 1990, twelve years before Air eventually opened.[3] Following the opening of Nemesis in 1994, a flying coaster was planned by the park to open in 1998, but was delayed due to technological limitations.[4] During its development, Alton Towers marketed the ride as Secret Weapon 5 (abbreviated to SW5),[5] following the naming pattern established for previous major park developments. The ride was developed in part by ride designer John Wardley, the producer of many attractions at Alton Towers and other former Tussauds Group theme parks.[6][7]

Construction of Air began in mid-2001.[4] Later that year, Alton Towers initially advertised the new rollercoaster as a "next generation Aerial Inversion Ride"; subsequently revealing the name Air.[8][9][10]

In early 2002, testing of Air began with special crash test dummies. At the time of opening, Air tied with Oblivion as the most expensive ride at Alton Towers, at a cost of £12 million.[11][12] A £4.5 million marketing campaign for the ride included commercials based around the ride's slogan, "assume the position".[4] Air officially opened to the public on 16 March 2002.[11] On opening, Alton Towers entered into a five-year sponsorship agreement for the ride with Cadbury Heroes.[13]

Galactica (2016–present)[edit]

In June 2015, the park submitted a planning application to make modifications to the station building and retail space. This proposed adding a new photo opportunity into the queue, enclosing the station building with new walls, and constructing additional theming elements around the ride area.[14] This was in addition to an earlier planning application to convert the existing ride shop into a restaurant.[15] In October 2015, the first promotional material was posted on the Alton Towers website, advising guests to "prepare for a new flight" and to "watch this space".[16]

On 12 January 2016, Alton Towers announced that Air would be re-themed as Galactica for the 2016 season and would include on-ride virtual reality headsets simulating a ride through the cosmos. The announcement was made at an event held at the Science Museum.[17] Each seat on the roller coaster was initially fitted with a Samsung Gear VR headset and pouch.[18] The virtual reality experience was optional, as guests could choose to ride without using the headsets.[19] A promotional website was also released explaining more information about the ride and its new storyline.[20] In late February 2016, the park announced that the official opening date would be 24 March 2016.[21]

For the 2018 season, the virtual reality headsets were reduced to the back three rows of each train only, with guests choosing whether to use the VR or not when they entered the station.

On 17 March, 2019, Alton Towers announced that the virtual reality headsets have been removed entirely, due to guest feedback.[1][2] Despite this, the ride will maintain its Galactica name and theme.



At the time of opening, Galactica was the tallest ride at Alton Towers, standing 20 metres (66 feet) tall.[11][12][22] The 840-metre-long (2,760-foot) ride reaches a top speed of 75 kilometres per hour (47 miles per hour). Riders can experience a g-force of up to 3.5g whilst on the ride. One cycle of the ride lasts approximately one minute and forty seconds.[11]


Galactica 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[11], although this was heavily reduced when VR was in operation.


A train in the loading position
A train ready to depart
A train in the loading position (left) and flying position (right)

Station and loading[edit]

Riders board a train sitting down, in a similar style to inverted roller coasters.[23] 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.[23] From 2016 to 2018, riders had the option of wearing virtual reality headsets, which were attached to the restraints.

Ride layout[edit]

A train navigating the fly-to-lie
A train navigating the inline twist
Trains navigating the fly-to-lie (left) and inline twist (right) elements.

Galactica departs the station and rises a chain lift hill. The ride's first drop dips to the right, before rising back up and flying through the ride's centrepiece theming element, a portal, which links to the ride's space theme. Followed by this, riders are turned from the prone position onto their backs.[24] The coaster then performs a large upward left turn before twisting again, returning riders to the prone position.[24] After exiting from the lie-to-fly element, Galactica passes underneath a small ravine before pitching up, into a tight turn over the plaza area.[24] A 360 degrees inline twist[11] is followed up by a series of straight flying, and several turns and dips in the track. The train then comes to a stop on the brake run before returning to one of the station's two stations.[24]


The Tussauds Group, owners of Alton Towers in the early 2000s, claimed that Air contributed to the park's strong performance in 2002 and 2003.[25]

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,[26] before dropping to position 34 in 2004 and 36 in 2005.[27][28] In 2006, it tied for position 49 with another Bolliger & Mabillard flying coaster, Superman: Ultimate Flight.[29] It has not appeared in the top 50 since until 2015 it peaked at 38.[30]

In Mitch Hawker's worldwide Best Roller Coaster Poll, Air peaked at position 36 in its debut year.[31] 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[31]
Year 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
[nb 1]


  1. ^ No steel roller coaster poll was held in 2011.


  1. ^ a b "Reply to user @Ev_Jay". Alton Towers official Twitter account. 17 March 2019. Retrieved 18 March 2019. Galactica no longer features VR due to guest feedback regarding their experience on the ride.
  2. ^ a b "Galactica: VR removed from Alton Towers rollercoaster". Ride Rater. 17 March 2019. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ a b c "Air: A Coaster in the Making". Alton Towers Almanac. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  5. ^ "All Time Greats - Air". Alton Towers. Archived from the original on 31 July 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  6. ^ Gogarty, Paul (6 July 2002). "Tight buckles, white knuckles and screeeams!". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  7. ^ Ralph, Owen (9 August 2010). "John Wardley". Park World Magazine. Archived from the original on 30 December 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  8. ^ Koranteng, Juliana (15 October 2001). "Coaster shoots for all ages". Amusement Business. 113 (41).
  9. ^ Koranteng, Juliana (14 January 2002). "Alton Towers debuts coaster". Amusement Business. 114 (2): 9.
  10. ^ "Air Rollercoaster". Alton Towers. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Marden, Duane. "Air  (Alton Towers)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  12. ^ a b Marden, Duane. "Oblivion  (Alton Towers)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  13. ^ "Minor works to the 'Air' rollercoaster, including enhancing the existing station area, installing a photo-opportunity kiosk and new themed features". Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. Archived from the original on 18 March 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  14. ^ "Alton Towers plans extension to 'Air shop'". Leek Post & Times. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  15. ^ "Alton Towers promise 'out of this world' year for 2016". Airgates. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  16. ^ "Galactica launches at London's Science Museum". TowersStreet. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  17. ^ White, Jeremy (18 March 2016). "Galactica at Alton Towers: What it's like to ride a VR rollercoaster (Wired UK)". Wired UK. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  18. ^ Wright, Dan (12 January 2016). "Alton Towers announce Galactica". Airgates. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  19. ^ "Galactica". Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  20. ^ "Exciting developments for our 2016 season!". Alton Towers. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  21. ^ Marden, Duane. "Nemesis  (Alton Towers)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  22. ^ a b Bevil, Dewayne (17 November 2008). "Manta on demand: more details about SeaWorld coaster under construction". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  23. ^ a b c d Bell, Ian (13 October 2006). "Air, Alton Towers POV". Coaster Force. YouTube. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  24. ^ Koranteng, Juliana (22 December 2003). "Despite Economic Woes, Attendance Stable In Europe". Amusement Business. 115 (51): 11, 15.
  25. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. September 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2013.
  26. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. September 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 April 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  27. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. September 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2013.
  28. ^ "Top 50 steel roller coasters" (PDF). Amusement Today. September 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 May 2013.
  29. ^ "Issue Archive". Golden Ticket Awards. Amusement Today. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  30. ^ a b Hawker, Mitch. "Steel Roller Coaster Poll 12 Year Results Table (1999 - 2012)". Best Roller Coaster Poll. Retrieved 27 April 2013.

External links[edit]