The Flying Coaster
Manufacturer(s): Lang Wheels, Bennetts, Aero Affiliates, Maxwell, Pollards, Mack.
Debut year: c1960
First UK produced: 1961
Last UK produced: 1984
Total UK number: 34
Summary: Originally an 8 car ride, later 9 car. Simple spider frame and track ride with 'jump hill' combined with either spring or air compression dampers and chunky pneumatic tyres to soften the landing. Later themed with ski scenes, and one of the first rides to feature innovative fibre glass work and massed lighting centres.
The Flying Coaster arrived via import in the early 1960s, the first machine being manufactured by Aero Affiliates of Fort Worth (Texas) and purchased by Butlins for use at the Grand Parade park at Skegness. The park was quickly taken over by Botton Brothers, who then opened the machine at their Great Yarmouth park as early as 1967, moving it back to Skegness around 1972. The Aero Affiliates machine was the blueprint for the Lang Wheels version, having 8 cars and turning anticlockwise, however Botton Brothers built a small backflash for their machine whilst at Great Yarmouth establishing the link with skiing. Lancashire showman Tommy Green bought the machine in 1973 to bolster a popular trend of Flying Coasters in the North West, Tommy keeping the machine until the turn of the century.
A second Aero Affiliates machine would come over to the UK in the late 1970s, this being operated at Whitley Bay by Michael Houghton, but by this time Lang Wheels had manufactured their 5 versions and these were well established on the UK fairground. The first Lang Wheels machine was operated by John Collins in 1961, attending all the major fairs and spending time at their Seaburn park. The Collins organisation would also buy a second machine for the park at Barry Island and both of these machines evolved to appear very similar in terms of lights and decoration. The first of these machines is now operated at Hunstanton, whilst the second was laid up abroad. The three other Lang Wheels Flying Coasters were as follows: new to Butlins at Littlehampton, new to H. and J. Shaw and finally new to Kursaal amusement park.
Throughout 1967 and 1968 Bennetts placed advertisements in World's Fair for their version of the Flying Coaster, a rather swanky looking model with an art deco centrepiece. However, only 2 versions were constructed, both going into the Pat Collins organisation. The first one went in to Belle Vue with 'Baby' Pat, but was quickly bought by Bernard Cole, whilst the second one was travelled by Eddie Monte (husband of Flora Collins) but later sold to Rhyl followed by a string of owners and eventually was exported.
Manufacture of the Flying Coaster calmed down and the next batch of machines were the fine imported version of the Mack company. These machines were still 8 car Flying Coasters, but travelled in a clockwise direction. The three Mack machines were all stationed at North West coastal resorts; Blackpool, Morecambe and Southport, with the first machine later travelled by L. Silcock, the second purchased by W. A. Taylor and the third machine disappearing in the 1990s.
Pollards and Maxwell took up manufacture of Flying Coasters in the 1970s with Pollards establishing a functional design in the modern style and a momentum to develop the machine to better standards. The first Pollards machine was delivered to Arthur Armstrong in 1972 and quickly sold to George Burrows. This initial version was an 8-car design and a further six of these appeared up until 1977: to Reuben Wilson, to John Crole (since exported), to T. Saunt (now packed up), to D. Traylen, to B. Matthews and to Raymond Codona. In 1978 Pollards changed design to a more functional 9-car version and quickly began to establish the ride as the "Ski Jump" rather than Flying Coaster in turn adding the massive light up centres. Seven of these machines were manufactured up until 1982 and all of these still operate in the UK.
Maxwell's foray into Flying Coasters was less of a success. They developed a 2-hill 10-car version, producing models for J.R. and L. White, Bensons and Walton Pier Company. Even though all of these machines are still prominent the technical problems associated with the first of their machines, built in 1976, contributed in no small amount to the end of the company.
Cadoxoton built a single Flying Coaster, a 9-car model for Porthcawl, which replaced the park's long standing Lang Wheels model in 1984 and this machine still travels. Keith Taylor's "California Surf Rider" was a somewhat exotically themed self-built model, last travelled by Henry Scarrott, although machines built for/by W. Murphy, Clacton Pier and the Trickett family, do not appear to have survived.
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