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Holiday World's Thunderbird: A Review

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2015 10:20 pm
by Paul Drabek
Hey everyone;

I wanted to do a quick review of Thunderbird for you all as with about 400 amazing photos to thin down (I already got rid of 200 out of the 600 that I shot yesterday) It is going to be minimum of a week before I get a full Thunderbird Media Preview Day TR up on Negative-G for you all. I will go into all of the details about the day then but lets get into what do I think about Thunderbird now.

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Yes I am a huge Holiday World fan but that has little to do with what I think about this coaster. I have a hard time re-riding most inverted/looping/flying/wingriders because after 5 or 6 rides without getting off I get a bit sick, primarily due to the pacing and BOOM, BOOM, BOOM of elements that seem to be crammed into as little space without thought to flow or the rides story. My favorite steel coaster designer is Anton Schwarzkopf and his coasters flowed perfectly from element to element is a very zen/fung shui kind of way that like a good story has a beginning, middle and end. Very few steel coasters since Anton retired have really replicated the harmony that he was able to do with coasters like The Whizzer, Shock Wave or Mind Bender. B&M did it with Goliath at SFOG (my current #1), Patriot at WOF and now Thunderbird has joined the list.

I'll get into more about that later but first it all starts with the launch.
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First off long gone are the days of theming from Pier One Imports (aka The Voyage) for Holiday World as Thunderbird and the theming all around it would fit in just fine at a park like Dollywood or SDC. You work your way up to the farm, into the barn and up into the hayloft where you get secured into Thunderbird. After getting your restraints checked it is "Time for launch" where the train moves forward into another room of the barn where special effects and some serious sub woofers that will rattle you simulates a thunder storm out on the hillsides of Southern Indiana. Mist blows right in front of you half a second and them BAM you are off!

While Top Thrill Dragster has a faster launch I have always been fond of Anton's flywheel launch system like used in Montezooma's Revenge as it has a great physical kick to it. While I know that Thunderbird has a magnetic launch (LSM's to be specific) it feels like Monte to me as you speed out of the barn. What is interesting is after the initial jolt of speed the acceleration really kicks in about a third of the way down the launch track that takes your breath away.

I am normally not a front seat fan but make sure you get at least one ride in the front as you are blinded by the mist as you shoot through it for a second disorienting you making for a little more of a thrill.

My favorite type of inversion is an Immelmann (or dive loop) which is an aerobatic maneuver where you loop up and then roll over out of it. Thunderbird's launch sends you speeding up into an Immelmann which pleased me to no ends. That is followed up with a traditional vertical loop as Thunderbird heads towards The Voyage before crossing over it into the woods. The launch and first two loops are fun but on the far side of The Voyage is where Thunderbird really begins to shine.
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One post by a fellow Media Preview attendee said that he really didn't get the Overbanked Horseshoe and Overbanked Spiral that follow the loop. Thunderbird is themed after a bird of prey. Maybe this guy was from a city or had never watched birds before but they circle around weather it be over a thermal to gain altitude while soaring or over prey it spotted before swooping in for the kill. Thunderbird in theme and is creating an experience and those turns are an integral part of the story. If you just want loops and turns thrown together with little thought go and ride an old Arrow Dynamics designed looping coaster that sits on a barren patch of land like Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Holiday World as the late Will Koch would have wanted went out of their way to keep as much of the trees under and around Thunderbird as possible including several right in the middle of these pair of high turns. This whole section just feels like flying through the woods which just fits perfectly with the rest of the ride and the experience it is trying to give.
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Following the turns comes my favorite part of the entire ride; the Zero G Roll. Rolls are cool and throwing a little weightlessness to it makes it even more fun but the placement of this one just makes it perfect. Instead of rolling through a tower's keyhole like on Gatekeeper at Cedar Point this Zero G Roll threads through and under several trees. This is one of the many reasons I really prefer the left side of the train as you have the tops of the trees right above you as you rise and roll your way through this element. Not all of the leaves were out yet but I really can't wait to go through this in May when all of the leaves are out because it is going to look so cool. For those of you who knew Will know that he certainly gave his approval from Heaven of his children going out of their way to save all of the trees around Thunderbird and to incorporate them into the ride experience.
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"Sorry about your barn" is what CoasterDemon said every time we passed through the Double Fly Through barn. The entire element consists of a helix and a 360 Degree Inline Roll. What makes it stupidly fun is a barn that you crash through before entering the ground hugging (another reason to love the left side) helix and crash through again as you exit the helix and transition into the 360 Degree Inline Roll. There are "jazz hands" cut into the barn where you crash through which made all of us giggle and then the close call to the barns walls especially on the left side of the train just made it that much more fun. Just a little FYI if you have change in your pockets it will come out as you are just hanging by the restraints as you are inverted through this roll.

From there it is into the brakes, back into the station and for myself back on Thunderbird again. The ride has thrills, laughter, fun, terrain, trees, close calls, silliness and when you sit there and just listen to the train as it goes by all you hear is laughter and when the train arrives back into the station everyone on the train has the biggest grin on their faces. All of that is extremely addicting and I couldn't get enough of it yesterday even with 60+ laps on it. After my first five laps I texted Carrie and asked if we could move back to Santa Claus as it was that good. It has been 28 hours since my last ride and I want it again. Thunderbird is really the perfect coaster for any park as every rider from a kid barely tall enough to ride who is a little nervous to the seasoned coaster addict like myself are going to love it.

Being open and honest about the only negative I have about Thunderbird it is a bit of a hike beyond The Voyage and once you get past The Mayflower and the foundation/station that was Pilgrims Plunge (I hated the name Giraffica) there is quite a walk to the coaster. At least there is a restaurant/bathroom/store/swing ride back there to make the hike a little more worth it. I hope that over the next few years Holiday World fills in the space with a few more rides.
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God I need to get back there soon!

So who wants to ride with me at HoliWood Nights?

Have fun!


Re: Holiday World's Thunderbird: A Review

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2015 11:16 pm
by Spencerman
That sounds awesome! As soon as Thunderbird was announced, I was very excited for it. I'm glad it didn't disappoint. Holiday World certainly does things right.

Re: Holiday World's Thunderbird: A Review

Posted: Fri Apr 24, 2015 11:45 pm
by CoasterDemon
Great review, Paul!

btw, Mind Bender not Mindbender ;)

Unless of course you meant Mindbender ;)

Re: Holiday World's Thunderbird: A Review

Posted: Sat Apr 25, 2015 8:11 am
by Paul Drabek
CoasterDemon wrote:Great review, Paul!

btw, Mind Bender not Mindbender ;)

Unless of course you meant Mindbender ;) is fixed. My bad.

Re: Holiday World's Thunderbird: A Review

Posted: Sun Apr 26, 2015 4:15 pm
by Vonni
That launch actually looks crazy intense!

Re: Holiday World's Thunderbird: A Review

Posted: Wed May 27, 2015 12:23 am
by trainman_dave
Great review, the coaster looks really cool. I guess I have another reason to venture out to southern Indiana one day!

Re: Holiday World's Thunderbird: A Review

Posted: Wed May 27, 2015 11:58 am
by Paul Drabek
trainman_dave wrote:Great review, the coaster looks really cool. I guess I have another reason to venture out to southern Indiana one day!
You will love it there Dave. Thanks.