Over the years, Kingda Ka has maintained its status as one of the world’s most extreme roller coasters, drawing coaster enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. However, with its 20th anniversary approaching, could it be time for this coaster to get a major refurbishment?
Kingda Ka, located at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, is a record-breaking roller coaster that has captivated thrill-seekers since its debut in 2005. Designed by Intamin, Kingda Ka stands at a towering 456 feet and has held the title of the world’s tallest roller coaster since it opened. The ride’s design is characterized by a hydraulic launch system, which propels riders from 0 to 128 mph in a mere 3.5 seconds. After the rapid ascent, riders experience a heart-pounding 418-foot drop at a near-vertical angle. The ride finishes out with a 129-foot camel hump.
Too Much Downtime and High Maintenace Costs
Image: Six Flags Great AdventureThe coaster experiences nearly daily downtime and has also experienced extended closures many times over its life. Most recently the coaster was closed for four weeks in June of 2023 due to a cable malfunction. Many of the issues are due to the hydraulic launch system. Hydraulic launch systems are known for being very finicky. There are many literal moving parts making it much easier for something to malfunction. If even one of the coaster’s dozens of sensors picks up on something, the ride could be closed.
Kingda Ka’s strata coaster predecessor, Top Thrill Dragster, has also experienced its fair share of issues due to the hydraulic launch system. However, when the coaster reopens as Top Thrill 2, it will utilize a Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) launch system. In fact, it will utilize not one, but three LSM launches. Moreover, the only other strata coaster, Red Force at Ferrari Land in Spain, also utilizes an LSM launch system. Is it time for KingDa Ka to jump on the LSM train as well?
While Kingda Ka’s hydraulic launch is one of the most powerful launches in the world, its unreliability and maintenance costs indicate that Kingda Ka may be better off with a new LSM launch system. Red Force has experienced much less downtime in its lifetime than that of its hydraulic launching counterparts. The launch on Red Force, while not as powerful as Kingda Ka’s, still launches riders from 0-112mph in 5 seconds. Overall, Linear Synchronous Motor launch systems are much more reliable for coasters, and an LSM launch could be a great upgrade for Kingda Ka.
A Few Key Improvements
Image: Ferrari LandThere are a few other changes that Kingda Ka could make to bring it up to par with the new and improved Top Thrill 2. First off, let’s start by saying the coaster should not also receive a vertical spike. While Kingda Ka was literally built to “one-up” Top Thrill Dragster, this is a time when Six Flags should not repeat what Cedar Point is doing. Keeping the coaster as it is will offer a ride experience that is unique, and not just the same as Top Thrill 2.
That said, there are a few things that could be done to improve Kingda Ka’s ride experience. In addition to a new launch system, the queue should be redesigned to offer views of the launch and include a non-rider observation area. The original queue was moved from this area due to a cable malfunction at the launch, but with fewer moving parts in an LSM launch system, it would be safe to house guests near the launch track.
Both Red Force and Top Thrill 2 have well-themed observation areas that allow for guests to watch the launch. Six Flags could use this opportunity to improve on The Golden Kingdom area of the park as it has declined over the years. Theming could be improved around the launch area and queue, and a flat ride could also be added to the area for those who are too small to ride Kingda Ka, or simply too scared. 
What about the restraint system and trim brakes? Continue reading…

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