Shockwave (Six Flags Great America)

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Six Flags Great America
Coordinates 42°22′16″N 87°56′03″W / 42.371180°N 87.934270°W / 42.371180; -87.934270Coordinates: 42°22′16″N 87°56′03″W / 42.371180°N 87.934270°W / 42.371180; -87.934270
Status Removed
Opening date June 3, 1988 (1988-06-03)
Closing date 2002 (2002)
Replaced by Superman: Ultimate Flight
General statistics
Type Steel
Manufacturer Arrow Dynamics
Model Megalooper
Lift/launch system Chain lift
Height 170 ft (52 m)
Drop 155 ft (47 m)
Length 3,900 ft (1,200 m)
Speed 65 mph (105 km/h)
Inversions 7
Duration 2:20
Capacity 2000 riders per hour
Shockwave at RCDB
Pictures of Shockwave at RCDB

Shockwave (occasionally stylized as ShockWave or Shock Wave) was a roller coaster manufactured by Arrow Dynamics at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. Standing 170 feet (52 m) tall and reaching speeds of 65 miles per hour (105 km/h), it opened in 1988 as the world's tallest and fastest looping roller coaster with a record-breaking seven inversions: three vertical loops, a boomerang (also known as a batwing), and two regular corkscrews.[1] Shockwave was closed in 2002 and has been dismantled.


Shockwave was designed by Ron Toomer at Arrow Dynamics and broke the world record for number of inversions when it opened. The previous world record was six on Vortex at Kings Island, which opened the year before.[2]

A year after Shockwave opened, The Great American Scream Machine debuted at Six Flags Great Adventure; this coaster had exactly the same layout that Shockwave had, but was three feet taller and had a top speed of 68 mph (109 km/h).[3] A year later in 1990, Viper opened at Six Flags Magic Mountain and set the records for tallest (188 feet tall) and fastest (70 miles per hour (110 km/h)) looping coaster. All three coasters were designed by Arrow Dynamics, and all three had the same inversions in the same order.

Operational issues[edit]

Shockwave was plagued with some operational issues throughout its lifetime. Due to the speed and stress from the train negotiating the first vertical loop, a track fracture developed and needed attention on a regular basis in order to remain safe for operation. The wheels for the ride were quite expensive and, according to some ride operators, wore out quickly, which required a vigilant crew and frequent closures for a period of ten to fifteen minutes for maintenance staff to be dispatched to change them out.[4] The coaster gained a reputation as being an overly intense ride, as evidenced by postings in roller coaster enthusiast newsgroups and forums. Finally, a rumored accident involving a wheel separation in August 2002, coupled with these issues, may have led to the ride being taken down in fall 2002 to make way for Superman: Ultimate Flight, which had originally been slated to replace the smaller Whizzer roller coaster. Since Whizzer was far more popular than Shockwave, the decision was made to keep Whizzer and tear down Shockwave instead. The ride was dismantled and placed into storage behind the park and offered for sale. After attempts to sell the coaster or relocate it to another Six Flags park failed, it was scrapped at the end of Six Flags Great America's 2004 season.

Remains of Shockwave[edit]

Pieces of Shockwave sitting in the employee parking lot in 2004.

After the installation of Superman: Ultimate Flight, much of Shockwave was demolished and sold as scrap in 2004, although certain pieces can still be found throughout the park today:

  • Most of the track and supports went to a scrapyard in Zion, IL.[5]
  • The red train went to Six Flags Great Adventure to use for spare parts on this ride's near-identical twin, Great American Scream Machine.[2]
  • The yellow and blue trains went to Six Flags Magic Mountain for parts on their similar seven-inversion coaster Viper.[2]
  • The sign at the ride's entrance was donated to the American Coaster Enthusiasts' Museum.
  • Several bolts were auctioned off at a coaster convention.[6]
  • A few support poles remain in Great America's employee parking lot.
  • The lift motor was installed on the park's Demon roller coaster, also by Arrow.
  • The large metal gates that were once part of Shockwave’s entrance were painted black and can be found during Fright Fest as part of the entrance to the Seven Sins Cemetery.
  • A portion of the spiral staircase once used to gain access to a maintenance platform between the 3rd loop and block brake is now used at the base of Whizzer’s lift hill.
  • An air compressor and a scrap of track are being used as props for Fright Fest.
  • The station was moved into the junk/bone yard area near the employee parking lot and was boarded up and is now used for storage.
  • The main queue house for Shockwave was retained and is used now as the queue house for Superman: Ultimate Flight.
  • A small segment of track was re-fabricated for use on Demon to replace a corroding segment of track.

Ride experience[edit]


1 Vertical Loop
2 Vertical Loop
3 Vertical Loop
4 Part 1 of Batwing Element
5 Part 2 of Batwing Element
6 Corkscrew
7 Corkscrew

The ride[edit]

On Shockwave, riders were seated and pulled down their over-the-shoulder restraints. They exited the station, rolling over the transfer track, and entered a short drop before making a tight un-banked U-turn toward the lift. Once at the top of the lift, the riders entered the roughly 150-degrees-to-the-left twisting drop, speeding down to the ground. They then climbed up to the first vertical loop, high above the queue line. A roughly 90-degree left turn followed, and then the two consecutive vertical loops. Next, the train rose up and negotiated a very tight left turn into the mid-course/block brake. After a braking, riders went through a zig-zag turn and drop and entered the cobra roll, getting their pictures taken between the two inversions. Upon exiting the element, the train made a roughly 180-degree turn to the right and entered the two back-to-back "right-hand" or "clockwise" corkscrews. Finally, riders went over a small bunny hill and made a roughly 210-degree turn to the left, entering the long brake run leading to the station.[2]


  1. ^ "Shockwave Info". Retrieved August 26, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d Marden, Duane. "Shockwave  (Six Flags Great America)". Roller Coaster DataBase. Retrieved May 16, 2006. 
  3. ^ "Shockwave History". Retrieved August 26, 2017. 
  4. ^ "• View topic - All Things Shockwave". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  5. ^ "Ziol IL Recycling Center for Roller Coaster". Retrieved August 26, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Pieces of Shockwave". Retrieved August 26, 2017. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
First Roller Coaster With 7 Inversions
June 1988–May 1995
Succeeded by
Dragon Khan