First, I want to apologize for not getting any good pictures of the ride or the park. One of my cameras broke the night before. I took a few shots with my video camera but the quality is pretty horrible. I did put together a short video of some off-ride shots, which is embedded below. Now on to the review!
We arrived at Dollywood on Saturday afternoon and made a beeline straight to the new addition for 2012, Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster. We got in line and waited about a half an hour for seats on the right hand side in the third row. One of the ride ops claimed they were doing around 800 people per hour which wasn’t bad for a brand new ride and crew.
When the station gates finally opened for our turn we eagerly sat down in our seats and pulled the harnesses down over our heads. I liked the soft over the shoulder restraint over the usual harder ones and I now even more firmly believe that B&M (the manufacturers of the ride) make the best (read: most comfortable) roller coaster seats and restraints in the industry.
After the all clear was given we were off. The lift is so fast and so steep there really isn’t much time to look around and admire your surroundings. So how did it feel? For the experienced roller coaster enthusiasts, I’d say 2/3 of the ride felt like a typical B&M invert or looper (not a bad thing) but a few of the transitions between elements felt really cool – like you could tell you were further away from the center of gravity. I did feel a slight “bounciness” in the outer seats towards the end of the ride in the helixes, not an uncomfortable feeling, actually kind of cool and unique!
Another aspect of the ride I found quite interesting was the fact that you’re riding right next to the wheels and can clearly see the underside of the vehicles. You can watch the anti-roll backs bounce off the teeth all the way up the lift hill! As an engineer it’s really very cool to be able to observe all of the mechanics in motion up close.
On the downside, I thought the loading and unloading was a bit awkward. They were opening the gates for people to get on the ride while others were still trying to get off and pick up their loose articles. This type of ride would definitely benefit from separate unloading and loading stations. At this point, I think the only improvement that could be made would be utilizing free lockers outside of the attraction and not allowing guests to bring loose articles into the station. Also a bit frustrating was on Sunday morning, despite a full queue, they were only running one train to begin with. But it was opening weekend so I’ll give them time to work through it and get those people through the attraction as quickly and safely as possible.
Overall, I think Wild Eagle is a great addition to Dollywood and is easily their signature attraction. Thanks to a low height requirement (for a B&M) a wide variety of guests will get to experience this fun ride.
As for the rest of the park, when we walked by on Saturday afternoon Mystery Mine had valleyed just after the first lift before the short brake run over the path. On Sunday, the car was gone but the ride was still down. Thunderhead was running great. Dolly Parton herself was in the park Saturday but we left before her parade due to rain. And the former topple tower ride from Huss has been replaced with some extra thrilling picnic tables!
Leave a comment below to let us know what you think of Wild Eagle!
Update: So how does Wild Eagle stand up to other new for 2012 coasters like SkyRush? Find out what I think in my Leviathan review.