Bolliger and Mabillard, despite being among the highest quality manufacturers, rarely comes up with a new coaster model. However, in 2011, they did just that. The first new coaster model from Bolliger and Mabillard since the flying coaster in 2002, the wing coaster made its debut at Gardaland in Castelnuovo del Garda in Italy with Raptor. The Raptor wasn’t very big (only 108 feet) or long (only 2526 feet.) However, the Raptor delivered a ride experience unlike any other before it. With track neither above nor below them, riders could experience interactions with surrounding elements closer than ever before and new types of inversions. Only once before, on Hydra, the Revenge at Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has Bolliger & Mabillard made use of a slow roll-type inversion designed for maximum hangtime. Now, it is a staple element on almost every single wing coaster that has been built.
X-Flight’s layout including the slow-roll.
Following the massive success of the Raptor in 2011, Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois started eyeing up the wing coaster. In October of that year, they announced that they would be receiving a wing coaster of their very own, X-Flight, making them the first park in the United States to announce such a coaster (but not build one–that would go to Dollywood with Wild Eagle.) Themed to an experimental military aircraft, X-Flight takes riders on an exhilarating flight through the County Fair section of the park with several insane elements including a first-of-its-kind Dive Drop (a half inline-twist into a half loop) and its signature slow-roll right through a control tower.Starting with a very fast lift right out of the station, riders are taken up to a height of 120 feet before flipping head-over-heels and diving toward the ground in the dive drop. Next is a zero-g roll followed by a strange inclined immelmann inversion. Following this is a low-to-the ground turn that SHOULD have fountains for a wing-dip effect but hasn’t since the first year X-flight was open. After this is another zero-g roll before dipping down into a hangar facade. After a sweeping turn to the left, the ride enters its signature roll through the control tower. Midway through the roll is a black and yellow A-frame support which SHOULD have fog coming out of it but hasn’t since 2013. Coming out of the roll, riders go through a 270-degree helix before a wide, upward turn to the brakes.
A train flying through a zero-g roll. Note that each inversion has at least some hangtime on it.The trains on X-flight are the longest-available on a wing coaster–8 cars. And like the flying and dive coasters, the connectors between each car is very long compared to the rest of Bolliger & Mabillard’s trains. As a result, it is imperative to sit in either the front or the back of the train for a forceful ride. Otherwise, this coaster suffers from the same forcelessness as other wing coasters. Once you sit down, the seat will be very comfortable. The vest is nice and elastic and the restraint doesn’t strain your shoulders as a normal shoulder harness would. Also, there will be no head-smacking as the bars aren’t anywhere near your head. However, the second the ride is dispatched, the vest locks in place. These vests can get VERY tight as a result and instead of saying “that was fun” at the end of the ride like should be the case of a great layout like this, everyone is saying “get me off this thing” as the vest starts mildly choking them. Six Flags Great America needs to fix this as every other park with a wing coaster in the U. S. has done. As for the ride itself, as I stated before, it is a really good layout if you are on either end of the train and a really mild one if you are in the middle. That is because with such a long train, you can’t really make elements too quick without lateral g’s getting out of hand (those who use No Limits 2 know this all too well.) This is all-the-more-evident to people such as myself who have also ridden Thunderbird at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. Thunderbird only has a 5-car train and it is MUCH more forceful than any other wing coaster on the planet–even surpassing some of Bolliger & Mabillard’s inverted coasters which are their most forceful type.
The inclined immelmann. Note how long the train is.As for the handling characteristics, it depends on the day. Some days, the trains on X-flight run really smooth adding to the feeling of elegant flight. Other days, it’s like you’re flying into Chicago–Turbulence aplenty! Unfortunately, the latter is much more common nowadays as X-Flight is really starting to show some age. As a sand-filled coaster it should be a really quiet ride but it still has a dull roar due to its rattle. Overall, X-flight is my least favorite wing coaster out of the four I have ridden (every wing coaster in the United States.) However, this is solely because of the vests. If you aren’t a big kahuna like I am, you might not even mind the vests very much (I have even learned to accept it.) Despite the rattle, X-Flight still has a very good layout and can seem very fast-paced and very smooth if you catch it on the right day. As for the wait time, lines can get quite long and, unlike Raging Bull, the line might not move very fast as there is often only one operator checking each side. If you are at the park on a wet day, the drainage in the station is TERRIBLE, so miniature ponds tend to form on the concrete surface on days like those.