Kingda Ka Breaks Speed and Height Records Thanks to These Motors

If you’re looking for heart-pumping, adrenaline-inducing action, you’re likely to love Kingda Ka. The New Jersey, Six Flags Great Adventure-based roller coaster is a world-record-setting ride that’s sure to get your heart racing on your next vacation due to top-tier maintenance and performance. Adrenaline junkies, add Kingda Ka to your bucket list, and get ready for a thrill ride unlike any other.

What makes Kingda Ka special?

A workman performing maintenance on the Kingda Ka roller coaster
The Kingda Ka roller coaster | Joe McNally/Getty Images

With a peak of 456 feet, Kingda Ka is the world’s tallest roller coaster. That’s a ridiculous 45 stories up in the air, to which you’ll be taken to at a 90-degree angle before you come flying down in a 270-degree spiral. As per Six Flags, it’s also North America’s fastest roller coaster, hitting its top speed of 128 mph in just 3.5 seconds. With an acceleration speed faster than most cars on the market, Kingda Ka is definitely not for the faint of heart.

While you may not have heard of Kingda Ka, it has been around for a while. It first started operating on May 21, 2005, according to Worldwide Hydraulic Professionals (WHYPS). Additionally, it was designed by the Intamin company, which also designed the Top Thrill Dragster. Located at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, the Dragster formerly held the continent’s fastest coaster title. It can hit 120 mph in 4 seconds, but it is closed for the remainder of the season.

That’s all the more reason to head to New Jersey to check out the 3,118-foot tall Kingda Ka. Given its speed, the ride will last approximately 28 seconds. However, it’s not half a minute you’re likely to forget.

How do its coaster cars move so quickly?

With the fifth quickest launch acceleration time in the world, Kingda Ka can hit its top speed so quickly because of its hydraulic launch system. This system can generate a massive 20,800 horsepower through interconnected accumulators, cylinders, motors, and pumps. However, the system does not generate this much force for every ride. As per Hydraulics & Pneumatics, such a system allows operators to generate just enough force to surmount the peak, making it very efficient.

Fundamentally, the hydraulic launch system works in the following fashion. A piston subdivides the accumulators into a wet and a dry compartment, the former containing hydraulic fluid and the latter containing pressurized nitrogen gas. The wet side is piped to the hydraulic system, and the dry side is piped to gas bottles also containing nitrogen. When the system is activated, hydraulic fluid is pushed into the wet compartment, compressing the nitrogen gas in the dry compartment, generating additional pressure. An electrical charge is then used to open a valve that moves the pressurized fluid to drive the hydraulic motors, propelling the roller coaster cars.

The hydraulic system is also used for the coaster’s lap restraints. Hydraulic cylinders are attached to each end of the lap bars. When an operator presses down on the lap bar, the cylinders retract and are kept in place by a valve, which also pressurizes hydraulic fluid in the system and prevents the bar from being pushed upward. However, when the ride is finished, an electrical signal triggers the valve. The free flow of the hydraulic fluid allows for the release of the lap bar.

Is Kingda Ka safe?

While Kingda Ka clearly has been in operation for a long time, its height and speed may have prospective riders asking about how safe it is. In addition to its hydraulic lap bar system, Kingda Ka also features a very effective magnetic braking system, as per New Jersey Monthly. Additionally, according to the New York Daily News, while one young boy was struck by a bird while riding Kingda Ka in 2012, no one has suffered a critical injury since it began operation.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Top Thrill Dragster. Though the Cedar Point roller coaster is very similar to Kingda Ka, the ride’s temporary closure stems from a malfunction that left an amusement park attendee with a critical injury. The Akron Beacon Journal reported that a brake bracket attached to the back of the last coaster car became dislodged while the roller coaster was in full operation. Flying off the train at high velocity, it struck 44-year old Rachel Hewes in the head, leaving her with a critical brain injury.

No passengers were injured, but the Akron Beacon Journal noted that operators found several bent track beams after this accident, leading to the closure. Additionally, though no similar accidents have been reported at Kingda Ka, it’s not a bad idea to keep your eyes open for accident reports and look up safety inspection records for any roller coaster before booking a trip to an amusement park. After all, a roller coaster ride should be about the simulation of danger, not actually be dangerous.

RELATED: Broken Bracket on Top Thrill Dragster Blamed for Woman’s Critical Brain Injury