Coaster Kingdom


Chaos, British Fairs

As an intelligent and discerning reader, I assume you’re perfectly familiar with chaos theory, but for the benefit of those who didn’t pay attention at school, chaos theory simply states that, if the universe is infinite, and time is eternal, then there must be an infinite number of ways that ride manufacturers can make new variations on the old Huss Frisbee. KMG certainly subscribes to this philosophy, and having come up with the Afterburner, a floorless Frisbee using suspended seating, the Dutch firm now seems intent on making Afterburners of every different conceivable size.

The most famous Afterburner in the UK is Thorpe Park’s Vortex, a 32-seat park model of the ride. Thorpe was not the first to bring an Afterburner to the UK however, as that honour went to Midland showman Willie Wilson, who first presented the mighty Chaos to the fairgoers of this green and pleasant land in 1999. However, comparing Vortex and Chaos is rather pointless, as for all their basic similarities, the two are totally different rides, for spectators and riders alike.

When you first come across Chaos, the first thing that grabs you is that this is one of the most lavishly presented rides in the UK, and possibly in all of Europe. Travelling rides are not exactly noted for subtlety, but even amid the hysteria of a major fair, Chaos has a remarkable presence and stature. With it’s gleaming white structure, and majestically dynamic swing that lifts the gondola well beyond vertical and up into the heavens, Chaos commands authority, and leaves you in no doubt that it means business. Better still, with an astonishing array of multicoloured lighting effects, strobes, and dry ice, the atmosphere around the ride is more like what you’d expect from the Ministry of Sound than an amusement ride. Make no mistake, whatever the competition, Chaos is more than capable of punching its weight.

Having bought a ticket, you are quickly ushered into the batching area, right in the heart of the action. As your lungs fill with a dense cloud of dry ice and your eyes adjust to the bombardment of lights, you are enlisted into a group of 24, and ushered to the gondola. Indeed, if the fair is busy, you may find that the ride has yet to completely stop, and that the previous riders are still stuck in their seats, waiting for the restraints to rise. It goes without saying that you are expected to get seated ASAP, and that faffing around will be met with a zero-tolerance manner. For a ride called Chaos, the loading seems remarkably well drilled and organised, and the gondola will be stationary for next to no time.

The warning horn sounds, and immediately the restraints close themselves, ready for the off. Anyone more used to Vortex will no doubt think they’ll have time for a breather as the floor lowers, but this too is instant, with the floor collapsing into a neat “V” shape, often with staff still standing on it as it goes. With a few choice words from the operator over the PA, a blast of dry ice, and a few deafening jingles, the ride powers into life, gaining height remarkably quickly.

As the swings get more and more powerful, the gondola begins to spin. To return to Vortex for a moment, the biggest single criticism levelled at Thorpe’s ride is that the gondola always turns 180º in precisely the time it takes to do a full swing, meaning that the same seats are always at the “top” of each swing, and making it dull for those always stuck at the bottom. Well, if that’s what aggrieves you, then you will be delighted to hear that Chaos does not share this problem. In fact, at full speed, the gondola manages to do almost a full 180º during the momentary pause at the top of each swing. This is impressive, to say the least, and means that the spinning alone creates a quite a considerable amount of G-force, which of course can be good news or bad, depending on your tastes.

Reaching full swing, the ride reveals a unique sensation. With G-force still pushing you into the seat, the swings go well beyond the vertical, and riders get the odd sensation of being whirled around high above the crowd, with gravity doing all it can to pull you up from the seat. This odd moment of serenity is in sharp contrast with the powerful blast past the platform, where strobe lights and speakers do all they can to send your senses into meltdown. The fact that there is so little of the ride’s structure to block your view means much of your vision is taken up by an amazing blur of dazzling colour. Whatever else you may say about it, Chaos is one ride that does not do things by halves.

As the ride surges on mercilessly, the operators maintain the party atmosphere with the usual fairground tricks of urging you to scream, wave your arms and legs, and play endless jingles (a favourite being a blast of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, which makes you regret not having a floor to stamp your feet upon). This is where the Afterburner excels over the myriad of other Frisbee clones. With all riders visible to each other, it generates a truly fantastic atmosphere among riders, and has few rivals in terms of generating a perfect blend of outright thrills and communal spirit. The fact that a ride on Chaos can last for quite a while means that there is a sense of “all being in it together”, as we’re asked to put our arms in the air if we want some more, and 48 hands duly reach out and grab a slice of sky.

Eventually, the ride comes to an end, and with little more than a sad sounding “oh no” jingle, it’s time to vacate your seat for another gang of pumped up punters. Staff again leave you in little doubt that you are to leave the area post-haste, and before you know it, you’re on the exit ramp while the high-flying frenzy resumes behind you.

Let’s not mince words here, Chaos is fantastic. Not only has KMG came up with the goods in creating the Afterburner in the first place, but the Wilson family have made it easily the finest example of its type you could ever hope to see. It looks gorgeous, sounds incredible, and offers a wild and truly thrilling ride. It certainly ranks alongside such heavyweights as Top Buzz and Move It 32 in terms of being one of the best rides touring the UK at the moment, and is arguably the finest ride on the road in terms of presentation.

There are, however, one or two minor negative points. As with many KMG rides, the restraints are far from ideal. KMG seems to work on the odd assumption that all human bodies are both slim and perfectly rectangular, which means that their restraints can be hard work on the shoulders, while larger riders will struggle to fit into them at all. Given that Chaos is a far more intense ride than any other member of the Frisbee fraternity, the restraints are quite restrictive, and the lack of comfort may make it more likely that usual that riders may feel queasy during the ride.

It is amazing to look at the variation between the many different rides that have been spawned by the Frisbee. Chaos, Vortex, and Drayton Manor’s Maelstrom all use the same basic principle, and are all excellent rides, yet ride very differently indeed. Which you’ll prefer is obviously down to personal preference, and if you favour relatively calm rides, Chaos is probably the one to avoid. If, however, you have a masochistic streak, and you are looking for a ride that grabs you by the throat and indulges in unabashed adrenaline-pumping mania, then Chaos is the undisputed king of the swingers.  

JP 6 February 2004

Good points:

Fabulous presentation
Fast and intense ride
Expertly and efficiently operated

Bad points:

Poor restraints
May be too much for many riders



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