• Doom Dropping: Record-breaking free-fall opens at Six Flags Magic Mountain

    Six Flags Magic Mountain opens the world's tallest drop tower. Attached to the side of Superman Escape from Krypton, Lex Luthor Drop of Doom lifts riders over 400 feet in the air for an 85 mph plummet back to earth. Join ThrillNetwork reporter Tom Zeliff as he challenges the latest in a long line of record breaking ride experiences at Six Flags.



    Six Flags’ latest advertising could not be a more appropriate moniker for the new Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom. At more than 400 feet tall, Drop of Doom breaks the record for tallest free-fall ride on earth.

    Tower of Terror, the former holder of the record, is also mounted to the side of an Intamin reverse free-fall coaster. However, Drop of Doom’s shared mount is Superman: Escape from Krypton. Superman begins on top of the hill, adding 40 feet of height to the main tower. The result means your doom starts dropping from near the top of the 420-foot-tall tower.

    Riders begin their experience in the old Colossus County Fair arcade, now themed to Lex Corp. industries. Artwork on the walls touts Lex Corp.’s achievements while a special power suit stands in the middle of the room. Riders will enjoy blissful air-conditioned comfort while waiting to take part in a special “experiment.” Exiting the queue building, the covered path leads to the base of the Superman tower. An eight-passenger drop vehicle awaits riders on either side of the tower.

    I must admit that I was in awe standing at the base of the tallest tower in the park. This area was previously off-limits to regular visitors, so I could never see it up close before. Similarly impressive is the monstrous winch drum mounted inside the base of the tower and the massive 535-horsepower electric motor powering it. Four steel cables wind around the winch and travel up the tower, splitting into pairs to pull each lift car.

    Riders board the vehicle and pull down on the overhead lap bar. Drop of Doom features the new Intamin lap bar shape found on Sky Rush. While nowhere near ergonomic nor conforming to legs, waist or thighs, the restraint does hold you securely in place. The overhead bars are shaped to give your upper body plenty of freedom to move around. There is no vest holding you back against the seat. The freedom is both enjoyable and disconcerting. The standard Intamin restraint belt and odd coupler completes the restraint system.

    Once restraints are checked, operators exit the drop zone, close and finally lock gates manually with a padlock. I’m not sure why the park opted for such a low-tech and inefficient padlock system*, but it certainly underscores the point of being locked in the ride. Once both sides are clear, the lift cars lower and latch on to the drop vehicle with a loud, metallic clank. A final clear announcement precedes the ascent up the tower.

    The motor whines in protest and steel cables stretch taut, defeating gravity and lifting the vehicles skyward. The climb is slow at first, a necessity because of the permanent magnetic brakes. Once the brake fins are clear (roughly a quarter of the way up) the vehicles rapidly pick up speed, slowly only briefly as the lifting car collects cable guides along the track.

    Higher.

    Riders pass the height of Riddler’s Revenge.

    Higher. Photo courtesy of Six Flags.

    Riders pass the height of Tatsu.

    Higher.

    Riders pass the height of Goliath.

    Higher.

    The ascent slows as riders pull even with the top of the Sky Tower. Upon arrival at the top, Lex Luthor’s voice welcomes you. You may be praised for your sacrifice, or mocked for the insignificance of your existence. Either way, his voice distracts you from a pneumatic actuator slowly moving.

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    Photo courtesy of Six Flags.


    Five seconds of weightlessness as the vehicles plummet, reaching 85 mph before magnetic brakes take control. The final 50 feet of the trip is under controlled speed once magnetic resistance hits an equilibrium with the pull of gravity (magnetic resistance increases as speed increases for these brake systems). The vehicles settle at the bottom of the tower, restraints are released, and after minor fumbling with keys*, the operators release riders from the secured area.

    Drop of Doom is a lot of fun. Media day riders report the ride gets better with multiple rides, a conclusion that I completely agree with. The anticipation during the climb is always the worst part. Acrophobics need not apply, but the rest of us will find a great thrill with this ride. Patience is necessary due to the low capacity (about the same as one side of Superman). I hope Six Flags Magic Mountain’s next record breaker will be a high-capacity people eater! With Superman, Road Runner Express, Green Lantern and now Lex Luthor’s low capacity, the last four attractions combine hourly capacities to equal a well-run B&M coaster.

    But I shouldn’t complain. After all, I have the world’s tallest drop tower to ride now, and an air-conditioned building to wait in! Whip out the “Angry Birds” and queue up for Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom!

    * Update: Six Flags Magic Mountain has installed electric locks on the gates protecting the loading area. Padlocks are no longer in use.

    Review by Tom Zeliff
    Photos by Tom Zeliff and Six Flags

    Special Thanks to Sue Carpenter, Connie Lujan, Tim Burkhart, and the entire Six Flags team for inviting ThrillNetwork to this media preveiw event.


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    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Wes -
      How are the restraints for those of us that aren't skinny?
    1. Tom Zeliff -
      They seemed no worse than other overhead Intamin lap restraints. Your mileage may vary though no had no trouble fitting and I am 6'2" and carry some extra pounds with me.

      -Tom Zeliff