Kings Island Gives Firehawk the Axe – Misdemeanor or Felony?

Editorials and Rants

Kings Island had recently hinted that one of their coasters was about to bite the dust and there was considerable speculation as to which one.  Clues pointed to either Vortex or Firehawk as the most likely victim.   And now the suspense is over.  The park announced yesterday that Firehawk would be removed at the end of the operating season in late October.   According to Kings Island’s blog, although this coaster remains popular it has reached the end of its service life.  There is plenty of speculation – possible giga coaster? – but no word as to what will replace it.  Nor is it clear whether Firehawk will be demolished or once again relocated.  Final rides/rites will be from this weekend to the end of Halloween Haunt and Great Pumpkin Fest.  Under the circumstances, I just might go back to Kings Island for one last ride despite being some distance away and having been there as recently as April.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Firehawk, relocated from Worlds of Adventure in Aurora, OH (where it was known as X-Flight), is one of only three Vekoma Flying Dutchman coasters currently in operation.   That is one of the reasons I will miss it.  It’s a rare breed.   The custom riding position – leaving from and returning to the station in a lying down posture – differentiated it from countless other coasters.  The ride experience itself, for me at least, was a thrilling one – from facing downward feeling as if I was about to be ejected to going through the vertical loop on my back.  The removal of Firehawk brings the count of Vekoma Flying Dutchman models down to two and one of them, Nighthawk at Carowinds, has become too painfully rough to be tolerable.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

I had been hoping that of the two most likely candidates for elimination, it would be Vortex that got the axe.  Vortex is a rougher and as far as I am aware less popular ride than Firehawk but also undoubtedly much less expensive to maintain.  And obviously, the space needed to erect a new attraction would be a factor in determining which coaster to kill off.  Even so, I’m extremely unhappy about Firehawk’s fate and think that getting rid of it is a crime.  Video courtesy of Kings Island.

What’s your take?  How do you feel about Kings Island’s decision to eliminate Firehawk?

Hi! I took up roller coasters late in life, 8 years ago at the age of 59 and am trying to make up for lost time. Most of my favorite coasters were made by Intamin and lately, Rocky Mountain Construction. I love Hersheypark not only because it's the sweetest place on earth but because the three major coasters are Intamins. In real life I work in the legal profession.

11 Comments

  1. Vortex just isn’t fun any longer. (It was at the very beginning when it was novel.) Nighthawk would be cool if they could figure out 1) The Capacity and 2) how to tighten it back it. The last time I rode it I just remember thinking how it took FOREVER to get through the line. Then the ride was just…..over. It is a fun jaunt, but I always had the sinking feeling that the trains had better days.

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  2. I never rode Firehawk, I have ridden the one at Carowinds and I’m guessing Batwing at Six Flags America is of the same type. I say good riddance!
    They were fun and novel when they first came out but flying coasters are just a waste of time unless you like waiting in line! Just like stand up coasters there just too slow to load! Batwing at Six Flags America has got to have the worst capacity ever. I think they only have one train. They only ever ran one and I used to go weekly when I lived locally. I have walked directly to the station and still waited almost a half an hour for that ride!
    I do prefer lying on my back while going up the lift till and waiting to unload. It’s much more comfortable than the type like Superman a great adventure.
    I was at great adventure for the opening weekend of Superman. The train got stuck on the left till for about 20 minutes then finally completed the circuit. A girl must have popped a blood vessel in her eyes, she came off with the reddest eyes I’ve ever seen and a small trikle of blood coming out of one eyeball from hanging that long. That memory has always stuck in the back of my head because when I was waiting to unload my arms went to sleep and it was pretty painful. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be stuck on that ride for any length of time.

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    • You raise two interesting points. First, capacity and wait time. I can’t dispute the fact that these Vekoma flyers have low capacity and long wait times – although for me the ride would be worth the wait. I must have gotten lucky b/c when I rode Batwing some 3 or 4 years ago they were running two trains and I didn’t have to wait very long.

      Secondly, supine versus prone position for going up the lift hill and waiting to unload. Scary story about Superman. My own experience was being stuck – although not for very long – outside the loading station face down with my hair hanging in my face. That’s a pretty awful position in which to be stuck. I’d much rather be stuck outside the station on my back while waiting for the train in the station to be loaded and dispatched, another reason I like Firehawk.

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      • The fact that I never went on a weekend must explain why I never saw two trains running on Batwing. I also really liked the way the train rolled over to hanging position at the first drop. For me it was more enjoyable than the Superman style, I feel it is a little scarier. The anticipation waiting for the rollover is better than hanging because you can’t easily see when the drop starts.

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  3. “end of its service life” seems like sort of a cop-out response from KI, especially since Nighthawk — formerly Stealth — is older and still in operation. Although Batwing @ SFA (which I’ve ridden, identical to Firehawk) experiences plenty of downtime, I’ve gotta figure the general public cared less for Vortex.

    At the end of the day, two things come to mind: 1) availability of change parts, and 2) location in the park.

    1) there’s likely salvageable pieces from similar Arrow loopers to keep Vortex in operation for another few years. With only 2 other ‘Flying Dutchmen’ models around, maybe it got too difficult to fix Firehawk when things broke. Plus it’s ridiculously over-engineered.

    2) If the giga rumors are true, it wouldn’t make sense to build one right next to their hyper coaster Diamondback, where Vortex currently sits. Especially with the closure of Dinosaurs Alive, the land clearing off to the side between Flight of Fear & Racer is enormous.

    I loved my rides on Firehawk. May it rest in pieces 🙁 #KIgigacoaster2020

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  4. Meanwhile at BGW today I picked up a 40 year anniversary hat for Loch Ness Monster. 17 years seem short when compared. Be interesting to know what it takes to keep these machines rolling.

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  5. I’ve never ridden Firehawk, but I have ridden both Batwing and Nighthawk. Only once each, so I don’t have a deeply informed opinion, but I didn’t find one to be rougher than the other. I acknowledge the negatives that lead you to prefer the Vekoma experience, but I hate being face-up on the lift hill and brake run, so I prefer the B&M version for myself.

    As a result, I won’t be too upset if Firehawk is demolished rather than moved, but the important question is: if only two of this model are left standing, and I’ve ridden both, does that mean I’ve completed the set, or does it mean I can never complete the set because I didn’t ride Firehawk before it was demolished?

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    • Interesting question, one open to interpretation. My interpretation is that you can’t complete the set without having ridden Firehawk.

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  6. Postscript: I went back to Kings Island on the next to last day of the regular operating season for final rides on Firehawk and managed to get in three good rides. Was going to call it a day but couldn’t resist embarking on a 4th. Should have quit while I was ahead, as the train got stuck on the lift hill and could not be moved forward. I spent an hour and a half on the lift hill before being evacuated. Call it poetic justice.

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    • Too funny. I bet you were glad to be on your back instead of hanging…

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      • You bet right that I was glad to be on my back instead of hanging. That would have been beyond torturous. This was bad but could have been a lot worse. Just watched a video of riders stuck face down on Flying Dinosaur at USJ; enough to turn one off flying coasters.

        Reply

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