SkyScreamer takes amusement park swing rides to new heights

Date: 5/22/2014

By Carley Dangona and Peter Spotts

AGAWAM – What is one way to impress an intern? Make his first assignment riding the new 400-foot tall attraction at Six Flags New England (SFNE).

SFNE enabled me and our new intern, Peter Spotts, to soar to new heights with its newest attraction, the SkyScreamer, that gives riders a bird’s eye view of Western Massachusetts.

SFNE celebrated the grand opening of the extreme swing ride on May 15. The SkyScreamer rises to more than 400 feet in the air while traveling at speeds greater than 35 mph. Twelve members of the Air Force were accompanied by a New England Patriots cheerleader for the inaugural ride, set to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”

This reporter and Spotts had the honor of taking the first civilian ride. It was fantastic! I’m an avid rollercoaster lover, but gliding through the air at 40 stories is just as exciting as the twists and turns of a rollercoaster track.

From the ground, SkyScreamer doesn’t seem that daunting, but once you’re lifted into the air; it’s a different story. Especially when the wind picks up and the seats start to sway.

The disconcerting thing about the ride is that the seatbelts – two per chair – are locked by computer, taking away my need for security as I listen to the “click” of safety when I lock myself into the ride.

The ride itself was quite enjoyable – the soundtrack needs some work though. The music only plays when the ride is in motion. I believe it should play consistently for those in line to enjoy. Song selections ranged from “Born to be Wild” to “Come Fly With Me.” I recommend SFNE uses more upbeat tracks to capture the atmosphere of the ride.

Spotts said of SkyScreamer, “Swing rides are unique attractions that are difficult to judge without actually going on them. While loops and 100-foot drops visibly draw in crowds, it’s hard to imagine a simple town fair swing ride being worth the line wait while there are other, high-profile options nearby.

“My first experience on large swing rides occurred at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, last summer.

“The SkyScreamer tops the Windseeker by about 100 feet. The only place it falls short in comparison to its Ohio rival is the psychological effect of its safety measures. Windseeker boasts steel supports and large seats that put my mind at ease even if I was 300 feet in the air with my feet dangling.

“For some, a small seat and chains that leave the occupants at the mercy of the wind conditions that can leave you spinning and twirling with no ability to make it stop can be frightening,” Spotts continued.

SFNE president John Winkler called SkyScreamer “a fantastic feat of engineering” that was two years in the making. He said that crews worked diligently through the winter and the park was able to open the ride two weeks ahead of schedule. More than three million pounds of concrete and steel were used to construct SkyScreamer.

State Rep. Nicholas Boldyga took park in the festivities.

“That was one of the most exhilarating rides I’ve ever been on,” he said, calling it a “treasure” and stating that he is proud to have the “planet’s highest ride” in Agawam.

He predicted SkyScreamer would draw adventure-seekers from around the world, boosting the local economy and supporting the Western Massachusetts region.

“We’re very proud to have this family-friendly ride in our backyard,” Mayor Richard Cohen said.