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Extreme Roller Coasters: Dollywood's The Wild Eagle

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Looking for a rush like no other?  Would climbing 200 feet into the air and then flying downhill at speeds of 75 miles an hour in the winged seat of a roller coaster do the trick?

This summer, a new crop of even more extreme roller coasters are debuting all across the country. “Good Morning America” special contributor Cameron Mathison went to experience these high-speed rides first hand as part of a special series checking out the biggest, baddest and most extreme roller coasters around.

Destination: Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

The Coaster: The Wild Eagle

Dollywood's Wild Eagle Roller Coaster, the newest and most extreme roller coaster at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is a special wing coaster, designed to give riders the feeling of soaring high above like an eagle.

At a top speed of 61 miles an hour, the coaster rockets through 3,127 feet of track, climbs 21 stories above the park, and takes passengers on a break taking 2-minute, 22-second ride of twists, turns, flips and drops. (Not to mention showcasing amazing views of the Smoky Mountains).

“We really wanted to use the tallest point at Dollywood, so that you really could soar like an eagle,” Dollywood’s public relations manager Pete Owens told “GMA.”  “You're going to do things that you haven't done before, but you don't have to be a fighter pilot.”

That’s the beauty of the wing-coaster experience, which is different from your standard ride because the seats are next to the track, not on top of it, suspending riders with nothing above or below them. (Talk about thrilling).

Roller coaster critic Matthew Lambert, who has taken on 600 coasters, rode along with Mathison on the Wild Eagle and like the other riders that day, gave it a rave review.

“This is an amazing, amazing coaster,” he said, “From the very first part of the lift hill... You go upside down several times, you're going to have airtime, or come out of your seat a little bit.”



Destination:  SeaWorld, San Diego, Calif.

The Coaster: Manta

Move over Shamu. Thousands of vacationers are flocking to SeaWorld newest attraction. Manta is the park’s new marine-themed roller coaster that covers 2,835 feet of track and incorporates multimedia like never before.

“GMA” got an exclusive tour and access to the brand new coaster and the twists and turns that leave riders gasping for air.

“After you load onto the train you enter our launch building and you are immediately enveloped in a 270-degree multimedia screen,” SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz explained. “We've got 22 high-def projectors, 22 times greater than the average HD and its projecting the image of a coral reef and your under water and manta rays start to appear from behind the reef and they start swimming faster and they get bigger and there's music in the launch building and it gets louder and it builds to a crescendo.”

When the doors open, you’re launched out of the tunnel and the ride goes from zero to a maximum speed of 43 miles per hour in two seconds flat. It's a fun-filled minute and 40 second ride.

“It slows you down and then it like blasts you off,” one young rider said.

To go with the Manta theme, they've also built a 100,000-gallon pool attached to the ride, where guests can get up close and personal and actually touch more than 60 bats rays.

The European-designed coaster cost tens of millions of dollars to build, but is already paying big time dividends. In the first month alone, 350,000 people have taken a ride on the coaster, SeaWorld reports, or approximately 1,360 people an hour.

Destination: Hersheypark, Hershey, Pa.

Coaster: The Skyrush

The Skyrush at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa., is a brand new coaster that covers nearly 3,600 feet of track, boasts speeds over 75 mph, four high-speed turns, and five zero-G airtime hills -- all in a 63-second thrill ride.

“It is the most intense coaster I've been on. Ever,” a rider warned Mathison.

The Skyrush ride begins with a 50-degree ascent, but riders are motored up the hill at 26 feet per second, leaving little time for second thoughts. After reaching the maximum height of 200 feet, the first drop is at spell-bounding 85 degrees.

“The lap restraint makes you feel like you're going to come out of your seat and fly,” Mathison said.
Riders can opt for a regular seat or the even more extreme floorless outer seats, which are winged and provide the rider with a 270-degree panoramic view. (The Skyrush can carry 1,350 riders per hour).

Not far from the entrance is where the brains behind the operation are located.

“This computer then drives the 1,500 horsepower motor. Speeds it up or slows it down because we want to keep a constant,” explained engineer Kent Bachmann. “We want to get it to the point where that apex is just perfect you get the sense like you're taking off.”

At a cost of $25 million, it’s a marvel of modern engineering that will make your stomach climb up into your throat, but miraculously have you begging for more.

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