During my last trip to Phantasialand, in early July, I rode F.L.Y
for the first time. Here is my word-heavy review. If you are too lazy, skip to my overall thoughts
Upon arriving at Phantasialand (9am sharp) with my boyfriend (not a coaster enthusiast by any means), I was kind of cred-anxious because I had read that even though rides are supposed to open at 10 am, Phantasialand starts cycling F.L.Y at 9.30am-ish, so we were headed to Rookburgh. The land itself is something out of this world. My jaw dropped at the grand reveal that is getting out of the tunnel and being immersed into Rookburgh. It truly is breathtaking. Soon after, we were joined by a relatively small queue of people already lining up for F.L.Y. While waiting, F.L.Y started testing and my inner goon (I am an operations nerd) was over the moon seeing that it ran all 4 trains! By contrast, I could see on my boyfriend's face that he was hesitant whether to ride or not (mind you, his biggest coaster achievement is riding Hyperspace Mountain at DLP, and he was really shocked). To my surprise, he said that he would give F.L.Y a go!
A bit after 9.30 am, the ride attendants opened the entrance to the coaster and the queue moved at a nice pace. I really wanted to have a closer look at everything but there were just too many people behind me to stop to admire the intricate queue details, which I grasped when I came back later to reride F.L.Y.
Let's start with the ugly. F.L.Y's queue (and in general mainland Europe) is not wheelchair-friendly at all. I am not handicapped but I always wonder how a 21st-century attraction is not accessible for people in wheelchairs. Upon being greeted by the friendly attendant at the beginning of the line, there is the first set of stairs. Basically, the queue goes around the perimeter of Rookburgh and gives some vantage points over the coaster. I absolutely loved that there are very few and short cattlepen sections, which are great to avoid line-jumping. There are some parts of the queue which are extremely well themed and are distinctively steampunk. There was a straight section which had actual chains as railings, which I thought was a neat touch. Towards the end of the outdoor area you walk past the first launch (you get really close to it), which I think is a great way to get the rider's hype through the roof (and might scare inexperienced first-time riders). I also loved how nestled the downwards spiral staircase is in the center of a downwards helix. Details like this make the queue memorable.
When I went down the stairs I was really surprised by how spacious and big the circular dome is before the lockers. The projected videos on the walls are quirky and easy to understand. From this point, you can choose to be in one of three lines (if I am not mistaken): regular stand-by, front row or FastLane (Single rider if they ever implement it again). The attendant at the end gives you a plastic band to open the double-sided lockers. I thought it would be a lot more trouble going through the metal detectors but it was all done in a breeze, and I saw a couple of people turned away using a shortcut that dumps you right in the lockers again. And then, there is the station, which is glorious. It's a shame because there are no pictures (I think), but there is a sort of large piece of steampunk machinery in the middle of the batching area with some changing lights. To the left, you wait for the first row, and to the right, the rest of the train.
Station, trains and boarding process
Attendants are extremely well-trained on F.L.Y. They waste no time batching people in the 10 spaced gates. The station itself has a lot of kinetic energy with trains moving in and out of it, many effects. I wish I could have had more time to take it in. Somebody described it as a retro-psychedelic metro station, and I think that description is on point. On our first ride we got placed in the second row. The trains enter the station really fast against the wall. It's surreal seeing such a long train move sideways and park so abruptly, but I guess that's how you get good capacity. The loading process reminded me of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, albeit with leg holders. These trains are very comfortable and extremely easy to load. Vekoma has really solved one of the biggest flaws in flying coasters, which is the loading process, making it easy for both attendants and riders. In fact, F.L.Y only has 2 attendants on the loading platform and the train was ready to be dispatched in no longer than 1 minute: those trains are a breeze to check. Take that, B&M!
At that point, on my first ride I was really excited to ride but also a bit concerned by how my boyfriend would react to such a particular riding position. Upon leaving the station, the iconic dispatch soundtrack
can be heard in the background. You make a quick outwards turn onto the darkride portion of F.L.Y. It really goes by in a matter of seconds but it's a nice way to get riders pumped and a good excuse to take the train to ground level. There are some projected advertisements about travelling, flying and Rookburgh (as far as I can remember) which are cool. As you crest the short tire-driven lift hill and make a 90º turn, the track twists downwards and the seats rotate clockwise in a very smooth maneuver. It’s such an elegant and gentle solution compared to B&M’s way of getting you into flying position. At that point, my boyfriend started to panic as he wasn’t fully prepared to experience being flat on his stomach.
The first launch was really gentle. In fact, it feels quite weak, but being in a flying position is strange, as you cannot see how long it takes to get to the end of the launch track and “take off”. The first overbank has some kick to it, followed by the first corkscrew. It was great seeing Rookburgh (and the park) upside down. I had the feeling that the inversion was taken rather slowly (although my boyfriend would tell you otherwise, since he was screaming at the top of his lungs!). A couple of swooping turns over and under the launch track and you get to that section where a blast of steam takes you by surprise. That effect is both great on and off ride, and it was running consistently all day. After a right turn, the coaster dives to the right into a trench getting into full steam (pun intended) with the second launch.
The second launch feels like a junior version of Taron’s second launch, in the sense that you enter rather quickly and you can really feel the boost, although in F.L.Y’s case it’s only 78 kph (I was really shocked to see that it doesn’t run faster!). Cresting the hill after the launch gave a surprise pop of airtime I was really not expecting. The biggest indicator that the airtime was intense is that my boyfriend told me it felt as if he was slipping from his seat (aka airtime). From here, F.L.Y shows its true potential, with the tightest downward turns (first to the left, then to the right). After the downwards helix surrounding the queue staircase, the ride dives providing another quick pop of airtime, followed by a rather elongated corkscrew which felt like a zeroG roll. After the corkscrew you navigate a series of S-turns really low to the ground/water, slaloming past some water jets (nice effect!) into the tunnel for the final brakes, which look like a landing runway with light strips and everything. Following the smooth brakes, the ride’s track is again twisted sideways, and the train gently rotates anticlockwise back in the upright position. The train then heads out of the tunnel performing a slow sideways inward 90º turn, and it’s the only bit where you can see the train in the loading position without being in the station. Since that turn also doubles as a waiting block before the unload station I was surprised to see huge fans facing riders to prevent sickness. I am curious to know if these were installed with the ride or if it was an afterthought seeing how intense/nauseating F.L.Y can be for some people.
Last, you enter the unloading area, where you easily hop off the train. Later in the day, I found that there is a magic gate that connects the load and unload station. Mid-afternoon, F.L.Y had very few people, so attendants had that gate open and were encouraging riders to reride without having to go through the burden of queuing and going through the metal detector process again. That’s how I got two back-to-back rides on F.L.Y (one in the front and one in the very back), which, admittedly, were a bit too much to handle for me: after the second go in the back, I felt light-headed and had to sit for a while.
After leaving the unload station, you get to a small circular area surrounded by the other side of the lockers you used before boarding. You scan your band to retrieve your stuff and to avoid taking bands as souvenirs and making sure that everyone has collected their belongings, you need to check yourself out of the baggage area by scanning the band and dropping it, to activate a turnstyle. Such an easy and practical solution. Well done, Phantasialand!
F.L.Y is a superb ride but after careful consideration, it doesn’t top Taron. Taron is the better coaster (my current #1) but F.L.Y is an all-around better experience.
F.L.Y’s (and Rookburgh’s) soundtrack is amazing. At the beginning I didn’t quite get it but the dispatch sequence
is almost as iconic as Taron’s
. Pure earworm!
F.L.Y is an engineering and architectural feat. The amount of planning and civil engineering to fit SO MUCH track and underground facilities is just baffling.
Theming is a cross between Diagon Alley (big reveal) and the steampunk areas at Tokyo Disney Sea and DLP’s Discoveryland. Top notch. No matter where you look there is always something happening. Seriously, no pictures, videos or reviews make it justice. Eye candy!
F.L.Y is and feels
long, almost too
long. Definitely a substantial coaster, but it takes a toll on some people. It must be the mix of strong positives and pops of airtime (really surprising on a flying coaster), combined with the flying position.
I am stunned at how smooth the ride is, and I am obsessed with F.L.Y’s operations. It runs like clockwork. Congratulations to the F.L.Y crew!
Unpopular opinion, but F.L.Y could well do without both inversions and it would still be a great coaster. The flying experience is unmatched. I read somewhere that the layout on F.L.Y could work as a new-gen Suspended Thrill Coaster, like Hals-über-Kopf.
F.L.Y surprised me with its modest speed and launch stats: it doesn’t ride very fast at just 78 kph and the launches are not its strong suit.
There are definitely some similarities between Taron and F.L.Y. It’s as if Phantasialand got the best bits of Taron and cranked them up to eleven, as both:
- have two launches (one of which a rolling launch)
- have layouts impossible to follow and almost as long (both around 1.300 meters)
- play with near misses all the time
- run 4 trains and have separate load and unload station
- feature an iconic music every time a train is dispatched
- queues and paths interact with the ride masterfully
- are enclosed by extremely themed walls
- neither have ORP (quite odd, since both are major coasters with plenty of photo ops
Random pictures (for some reason, some are shown sideways):
Before boarding, me and Marc (my non-coaster bf)