Falcon's Flight - Where Do We Go From Here?

As many a millennial coaster enthusiast might tell you, the infamous Coaster Wars that started in the late 80s and continued throughout the 90s are somewhat responsible for initially leading me down the rabbit hole of coaster enthusiasm, changing the trajectory of my life forever. This iconic, era-defining battle between coaster manufacturers of who could build the biggest, tallest, longest, fastest...best, coaster in the world was a non-stop race to snatch the record-holding crown.

Just when it seemed like the competition had piqued and coaster design had hit the ceiling of the limits of human endurance, here comes the 00s to push us over the edge. Everything in the early 00s was outrageous: the brash, lads-mag, 24-hour Party People, Big Brother reality TV era where it seemed like nothing was off limits and nothing was ever too extreme, and coasters were no exception. 

Blogger Paul Skallas refers to this period as 'The Vulgar Wave' in his article of the same name: "a period of time...where popular culture focused on entertaining heterosexual men in their 20s and 30s". Fitting then that the coaster landscape started to look a little phallic in the early 2000s, with the dawn of the strata coaster and new designs finally breaking that eye-watering 400ft marker with the opening of Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka. 

And then we sort of...lost interest in record-breaking. A new wave of coaster design was on the horizon: one of innovation, of trying something new and strange and unexplored. Minimising restraints, engineering different ways to execute an inversion, the development of long and differentiated and interesting coaster layouts vs. just going taller and faster. A shift in focus to delivering a truly excellent, world-beating rider experience instead of just a one-and-done single-minded design in exchange for a quick and dirty marketing claim. 

I know every decade somebody probably says it, but this most recent era of coaster design is my favourite yet. One focussed on that excellent, all-encapsulating ride experience where the flow of elements and symphony of forces and speed are prioritised over seeing just how much a human body can endure. 

So where does Falcon's Flight fit into the modern coaster landscape then?

In a world where we've seemingly moved away from the bigger + faster = better formula, Falcon's Flight feels puzzling to me. I said in a recent tweet that I felt the coaster is so big it transcends comprehension. A vapid, soulless thing devoid of the intricacies and heart and detail that are a common factor in what many of us collectively agree are the 'best in the world' coasters these days. 

For those unaware, Falcon's Flight is the new world-beating Intamin coaster currently under construction in the blistering desert of Saudi Arabia - the star attraction of the upcoming Six Flags Qiddya City. Utilising surrounding terrain, the coaster will reach heights of over 600ft and speeds of over 150mph. For the avoidance of doubt, when (if?) it opens it will be the tallest and fastest coaster in the world - taking the crown from Kingda Ka and Formula Rossa respectively.

Looking at the layout though, it doesn't seem to really do much of the fun, interesting stuff we've come to except from our modern world-leaders in coaster design. Granted it's got a lot more to it than its top-hat focussed predecessors but it's not that far removed from them either: the iconic element of the design being the towering airtime hill that will dominate the park's skyline.

I just can't fathom how this will be fun to ride. Between increasing height and speed there has to be a point where enjoyment experienced plateaus and the money you'd spend developing the ride enters diminishing returns. I think around the 400ft mark is that point, and is largely why we largely moved away from that headspace when designing new coasters in the mid-00s  - instead leaning more towards a 'most-fun-per-sq-ft' metric, optimising space and budgets to deliver the most fun and enjoyable experiences possible. I guess in the world of Saudi Arabia where budgets are seemingly infinite it makes sense that Falcon's Flight is the end result, but I would have loved to have seen Intamin push that brief further. 

We could have had something truly incredible - something eye-catching and outrageous that isn't held back by a brief that so obviously asked for something record breaking as its number one must-have. Obviously I will reserve my judgement for if and when I ever actually ride the thing, but until then I have to wonder what Falcon's Flight means for the future of coaster design. Will the opening of this gargantuan, RCT-on-no-money-mode monstrosity spark a new era of Coaster Wars, or will it just be an anomaly on RCDB's record-holders page? 


What do you think? Are you excited for Falcon's Flight? Do you think it looks fun or are you like me and sceptical of the enjoyability of the experience given the scale? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to know your thoughts. 

Talk later xoxo,