Coaster Kingdom


Star Flyer, Goetzke

Sometimes you can add two and two and make three. Sometimes you can take the most mouth-watering ingredients and somehow end up with something that tastes like cardboard.

The good folk of Austria’s Funtime Group obviously saw the universal popularity of the Zierer Wave Swinger, and then the enormous success of the myriad of tower rides littering the world’s parks and fairs. They then whipped out their pencils and sketched out a ride that would neatly combine the two. Before you could say “These are a few of my favourite things”, the Star Flyer was born.

The travelling Star Flyer, like any travelling tower ride, looks mightily impressive. With a dazzling set of patterned lighting running the length of the tower, it functions as a beacon for fair-goers, and a perfect advertisement for whatever event it visits. The brightly coloured seats and star-shaped structure combine with the strategically placed floodlights to make quite a majestic sight when the ride is in motion.

Getting closer, the standard of presentation is high. The huge number of flashing signs ensures that the ride’s name remains burned into your retinas, as does the huge backflash that sits atop a parked lorry at the rear of the platform. Everything looks set for a truly extraordinary ride.

So, having exchanged your cash for a token, you head to your seat and prepare to do battle with the spider’s web of seatbelts, chains, and restraints. Those of us who can remember when even theme park Wave Swingers relied on nothing more than a bar to separate you from a messy doom will be amazed at the rigour with which you are held in your seat, to the extent of an electronically locked belt to hold the lap bar in place. Unlike most Wave Swingers, Star Flyer offers all double-seats so that your flight needn’t be solo.

And we have lift-off. OK, I use “launch” more in the Detonator sense than Power Tower, but as we move up the tower, the star begins to turn and the seats begin to fan out into a wide circle. Time to see what this supersized Chair-O-Plane can really do.

Up and up, and round and round, and up and up, and round and round we go.

Then down and down, and round and round.

Then up and up, and round and round.

Then down.

I’m sorry if this doesn’t sound like the most exciting piece of prose you have ever read, but let’s be completely honest, there’s nothing else to be said. If Star Flyer was designed as a combination of a Wave Swinger and a Shot ‘n’ Drop, then there’s two things that were left out at the planning stage.

1: The Wave Swinger is a fun ride because of the wave element. 2: The Shot ‘n’ Drop is a fun ride because you can feel the shot, and feel the drop.

What we’re left with is a ride that, in all honesty, is little more than an observation tower that looks like a thrill ride. As such, it is difficult to know what to make of it. If you buy your token expecting a thrill ride, you will be left feeling let down, whereas anyone looking for an observation ride will almost certainly find a Ferris Wheel nearby to do the job far better.

Sure it’s a nice novelty, but it soon wears thin. The frustrating thing is that it would not take much to turn Star Flyer into a highly enjoyable ride. Make the climbs and drops a little sharper so that riders notice them.

Turn half the seats backwards so that riders can see each other, and run the ride in both directions. Install some speakers in the tower and let riders listen to the same music as the spectators. As it is, Star Flyer relies on nothing but its height to excite riders, and that’s a novelty that is never going to last long.

Even the length of the ride is a dichotomy. On the one hand, it is far too short, particularly for a fairground ride, where neighbouring competitors are likely to be charging less money for significantly longer rides.

On the other, the ride is so repetitive that you are hardly likely to be left wanting more. It is certainly difficult to imagine anybody leaping from their seat and reaching for their wallet to go and buy another token, that’s for sure.

I truly wanted to like Star Flyer. I loved the idea of a gigantic Wave Swinger, but Star Flyer simply isn’t the ride I’d been hoping for. I hate to say it, but this is one to consign to the “All mouth and no trousers” category.

Still, maybe we should just accept that, like Big Ben and perhaps even Power Tower 2, Star Flyer functions best as a way of attracting punters to the fair. Once they’ve been lured in, they’ll hopefully find something a bit more substantial to keep them happy.

Star of the show? Nope, just a flight of fancy. Disappointing.

JP 16 January 2005

Good points:

▪ Highly attractive
▪ Well presented

Bad points:

Very short, yet repetitive ride
Lack of atmosphere during ride
Terrible waste of a potentially brilliant idea



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