Sean: As you may have read in our brand new Six Flags Over Georgia report, we were huge fans of Blue Hawk at the Southeast Six Flags park. Blue Hawk went through life as Kamikaze for two years before opening as Ninja at Six Flags Over Georgia in 1991. For the 2016 season the ride has received a makeover with brand new MK1212 trains from Vekoma. The ride is now one of the best loopers we’ve ridden. We believe that Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain can benefit from these trains, to assure amazing ride experiences for years to come!
Blue Hawk is a Vekoma MK-1200 looping coaster that utilizes the same track type that other older Vekoma loopers do, as well as all the Arrow loopers. Therefore the successful MK1212 trains, that now run on Blue Hawk, are able to run on Arrows too. Some Arrows, such as Hot Wheels SideWinder at Dreamworld in Australia, run these trains already. Since 2011, Six Flags Over Georgia actually ran the Great American Scream Machine Arrow trains on Ninja, demonstrating that the tracks are the same, and thus Viper can support the MK1212 trains. The Arrow Great American Scream Machine trains that ran on Ninja for 5 seasons are seen below:
Blue Hawk has a layout that inspired the SLC layout, and as one would likely expect, it is not the smoothest layout out there. At least it used to be considered rough. There are several elements and turns that are banked oddly and the ride’s main element, the Butterfly, is a combination of quick transitions to form the double loop element. Now the ride has MK1212 trains there are honestly no moments of discomfort, and it has proven to be my favorite coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia.
As part of the transformation, Six Flags Over Georgia placed a poll for the visitors to vote in, among the options were Air Commander (my favorite) and Blue Hawk (still cool). The theme was an all-american air force related theme, which works perfectly next to the Great American Scream Machine wooden coaster at the park. The entrance to the ride was upgraded to look like this:
The set of switchbacks is located on land as where the coaster is located over water. The samurai themed bridge has appropriately been rethemed with red, white, and blue for Blue Hawk. Fresh paint, shade structures, and flags. It looks very clean.
The trains, we’ll go into details of Vekoma MK1212s later, have a wonderful gray and red color scheme with blue accents. The restraints are vests, similar to those found on Tatsu, and the restraints are hydraulic, meaning they close on guests to each of their unique body configurations, adding to the comfort. In the image below the train flies through the Butterfly, which was always regarded as one of the roughest elements around, but is amazingly smooth now.
Blue Hawk was repainted a popping shade of blue, with a dark shade of gray for the supports, and it’s actually one of my favorite color schemes out there. Blue is often paired with black or white, but the shade of gray on the ride makes the coaster look less harsh and more inviting. The park did a wonderful job relaunching the 1991 addition with a perfect color scheme, solid retheming of the line and station, and of course the best train in the industry for these types of coasters!
On Viper, there are even more transitions that are considered to be rough by many of the general public. And transitions such as the entry to the corkscrews and the transition into the turn following the ride’s first loop are just a few of them. How could shorter Viper riders enjoy these transitions without banging their heads? The answer you already know: MK1212 trains.
Viper opened in 1990 as the world’s fastest and tallest looping coaster. The ride has been a true success story for the park, much like the two other Arrow 7-loopers were at their respective Six Flags parks. Unfortunately in recent years the popularity of this 188 ft. tall looping coaster has dwindled down to the ride being a walk-on, even on relatively busy days. This is due to the smoother coasters that many guests are used to today. For many riders the first drop is where the headbanging begins, I am personally about 6 and a half feet tall so I really do not experience the head banging, but I’ve ridden with plenty of riders that do, sadly. I would absolutely hate to see Viper get removed, even if it was just for its quality first drop and the fact that it’s the last remaining Arrow 7-looper out there.
If the park were to relaunch Viper, much like they did with The New Revolution in 2016, it would blatantly come with new trains, but also with a repaint and possible renaming of the ride. I am personally a huge fan of the idea to give the iconic looper a new color track, but keeping the supports white. Funny enough the park doesn’t have a purple coaster yet, and with recent Six Flags usage of the DC Comics character “The Joker”, it wouldn’t even be that crazy of an idea to retheme the ride to this villain, since the park does not yet have a Joker-themed ride.
The ride itself sits on a hilly plot of land parallels the X2 entrance. Taking out the 27 year old Arrow looper may create some space, but for a park that has quite some space to begin with, and is so set on keeping the record for most coasters, giving up this ride may not be the best plan of attack. Relaunching it, creating a new interest from the General Public, may just be their best (and relatively affordable) shot.
In my opinion the location of Viper is ideal. It is somewhat close to the park entrance, it’s right next to the very popular X2 and the relaunched The New Revolution. Both X2 and The New Revolution have industrial themes and with an Asian restaurant in front of Viper, hanging on to the ‘Baja Ridge’ Latin theme is no longer a necessity. Therefore I would involve Viper into the area and just as Revolution and X were relaunched, I would relaunch Viper. Updating the station would not be very challenging to do, and depending on the theme of the relaunched coaster, may be very inexpensive. I do love the current look of the entrance and station with the faded-red track swinging above, but there’s no denying that this station could benefit from an upgrade.
The MK1212 Trains
Vekoma is known for their many Boomerangs and custom looping coasters that either run/ran older Vekoma trains or Arrow trains. In 2009, after several years of decreasing popularity among Vekoma rides, the Dutch manufacturer sold several new MK1212 trains for their existing rides that would reduce, or even eliminate, the headbanging by offering vest-restraints. The trains have proven to do just that, and after having ridden multiple coasters with the MK1212 trains myself, there is such a clear difference between traditional trains and these re-imagined trains, that I would suggest any park with a Vekoma Boomerang or a Vekoma/Arrow looper to at least consider these trains. The restraints on the ride are hydraulic and perfectly fit to one’s body. The handle bars are huge and are far removed from riders’ heads, making it impossible to bang your head against them. The seats are slightly tilted backwards, enforcing your body to be seated more comfortably and against the headrest. In addition, the sleek design of these trains doesn’t only look great, but it runs amazingly well over the track and through rough/quick transitions. A perfect kind of train for a large and forceful looper with some undesirable transitions, such as Viper.
Now how marketable is a relaunch of an older coaster with a bad reputation for being rough? Actually quite marketable! From my first MK1212 experience on a relaunched Vekoma Boomerang in the Netherlands, to a relaunched Boomerang at Carowinds, to Blue Hawk, they have all become amazing experiences and the General Public on the ride is incredibly excited. Coaster enthusiasts often see straight through a relaunch and will always look at the original coaster when riding a relaunched version of it. The General Public, not so much. In fact, some guests will consider it a whole new ride. In the case of Blue Hawk, it really should be considered a whole new ride. Besides the physical track, about everything else has changed.
I believe the same is possible for Viper. Repainting the ride, retheming the ride and renaming the ride, will totally change the look and identity of the ride. The New Revolution kept a similar name, but with a new color scheme and the added VR aspect, has proven to be successful. If Six Flags Magic Mountain were to market the relaunched Viper, or whatever the name would be, as a “brand new coaster experience”, people will check out the ‘new’ ride, and with MK1212 trains are much more likely to enjoy the experience. The General Public will not be as fast to see it as a repainted Viper, but instead would likely consider it to indeed be a new ride. It’s an affordable way to offer the park’s audience a new experience that will remain popular for years to come, while preserving a classic Arrow looper, the last Arrow 7-looper.
We may be huge Viper fans here at California Coaster Kings, but what Vekoma MK1212 trains have done to other Vekoma and Arrow loopers around the world, successfully relaunching them into some of the most popular rides in their respective parks, is not something one can deny. Viper is a large forceful ride that perfectly suits the Six Flags Magic Mountain line-up of coasters as a solid, classic looping coaster. The intensity of this coaster with an amazing layout would be well complimented by Vekoma MK1212 trains, turning it into an enjoyable ride for every park visitor. We’re curious what you think and we’d love to read your reactions below or on our many social media pages.