This princess is a single lady
Review of Wonder Woman Flight of Courage at Six Flags Magic Mountain
3.75 (out of 5)
After riding Rocky Mountain Construction’s original single-rail ride, Wonder Woman: Golden Lasso Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, I was really looking forward to giving its bigger sister, also themed to the Amazonian warrior, a go. Taking the single-rail IBox coaster concept, with its exceptionally nimble maneuverability and its theoretical rock-solid smoothness, and making it taller, faster, and much longer seemed to hold great promise. Imagine my surprise then when Wonder Woman Flight of Courage, which opened last year as the 20th coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern California, turned out to be less enthralling than its Texas counterpart.
It seems that bigger, even for mighty Amazonian warrior princesses, isn’t necessarily better.
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What is a single-rail IBox coaster you ask? As the name implies, it features one, instead of the typical two tracks that are found on most coasters. And instead of the tubular pipe that most steel coasters use, IBox track, a truly groundbreaking RMC innovation, is flat and shaped like the letter “I.” Among its many attributes, IBox track is known for delivering remarkably smooth rides. For its single-rail coasters, the ride manufacturer refers to the IBox track as “Raptor” track. At a width of 15.5 inches, the track is extraordinarily thin. (RMC has also developed a considerably wider single-rail “T-Rex” track, although it has not produced any rides that use it to date.) The narrow trains have single-passenger cars that straddle the track, monorail-style.
When I sat down a few years back to speak with legendary ride engineer and coaster designer, Alan Schilke, who helped develop the idea for RMC’s single-rail coasters, he explained that when the two rails of a conventional steel coaster are misaligned, either during installation or over time due to wear and tear, it can cause rough rides. A single-rail coaster, however, eliminates that problem and should provide a smooth-as-glass ride experience.
That was more or less the case when I rode RMC’s prototype single-rail ride in Texas back in 2018. But that coaster’s layout, which is a nonstop jumble of inversions and elements compressed onto a mere 1,800 feet of track, had me so disoriented, I wasn’t really able to appreciate its smoothness. Everything happened so quickly, it was just a blur.
Schilke also told me that the narrow, single-rail Raptor track allows the trains to adroitly and abruptly navigate the transitions between elements. That’s what made the bonkers layout of RMC’s first Wonder Woman coaster possible. The idea of having a taller lift hill (the Magic Mountain ride is 131 feet versus 113 feet for the Fiesta Texas coaster), a faster ride (58 mph compared to 52 mph), and a much longer track (nearly double the length) with much more breathing room between elements would provide an opportunity to really showcase the single-rail smoothness–or so I thought.
The queue for Wonder Woman Flight of Courage begins outside in the park’s DC Universe land. It’s the area where Magic Mountain’s godawful Green Lantern-themed Zac Spin coaster once stood. Passengers then move into the indoor Embassy of Themyscira where a modest attempt at Doric columns and other classic Greek architecture is on display. At the base of the stairs leading up to the loading platform are a bank of lockers to stow bags and other larger items since there are no bins in the station. The cars do have zippered pouches for phones and other small doodads.
It’s weird to make it to the top of the stairs and find ride attendants there to immediately usher you into a car on a train that slowly, but constantly moves through the station. There is no queueing in the station itself. The cars have odd over-the-shoulder restraint systems that are pulled down to tether passengers in place. Riders sit deep in the mostly open, low-slung cars.
Leaving the station, the train picks up speed to climb the lift hill and quickly drops down at a steep angle. Soaring back up into a dive loop, there is a nice pop of airtime, which is something of an RMC specialty. There is then a fairly long run into an airtime hill, followed by a zero-G stall that flips passengers upside down for a prolonged period. Reaching the end of the long, thin layout, the train turns around, plunges, and climbs into a zero-G roll. It then hits a brake run and twists and turns its way back over the entrance plaza and returns to the station.
The ride was not violent by any means, but there were a few surprising shudders. I suspect that despite the fact there aren’t two rails to mess with the equilibrium, the thin track just can’t adeptly handle the additional forces created by the ride’s taller lift hill and faster speeds. That, and the fact that passengers sit over and a mere few inches above the track, may cause the rough patches. So much for silky smoothness.
And while the transitions into and out of elements are perhaps a bit more brisk than a typical coaster, they are nowhere near the intensity of the original WW single-railer. Which leaves me wondering: What is the purpose of the single-rail track on the taller, faster, longer Wonder Woman? It’s a bit of a novelty I suppose, but it otherwise doesn’t seem to add much. It probably would be smoother and more stable if it was a two-rail IBox ride.
Don’t get me wrong. Fight of Courage is a fine coaster and a solid addition to Magic Mountain. But in the end, I prefer the shambolic ferocity of Princess Diana’s original Golden Lasso ride. That, in my opinion, makes far better use of the single-rail Raptor track. I’m holding out hope that the much more robust T-Rex track, which reportedly would be able to accommodate coasters with crazy-tall heights of 300 feet and wicked-fast speeds, will be the next RMC breakthrough. And, I’m guessing that even with wild speeds and forces, a T-Rex coaster would truly be single-rail smooth.
Have you mustered the courage to ride Magic Mountain’s Wonder Woman coaster? Have you been on other RMC single-rail rides? Are you, like me, eagerly awaiting a T-Rex coaster?
Arthur, can you think of any other cases where a 'bigger' version of the same or similar coaster was a worse experience than the smaller version?