By Selina MacLaren, 16, West Valley Christian Jr./Sr. HS
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Selina enjoyed riding Tatsu, although she thought it wasn't as scary as it was hyped to be.

My hair hung in front of me as I sat with my entire body parallel to the concrete below. When we moved forward the concrete floor disappeared from below me replaced by treetops. I held onto the chest harness, not trusting it to carry my weight, with my feet strapped behind the ankle buckles that kept my knees bent. The roller coaster slowly inched up the incline, raising my nervousness and the pitch of the squeals around me with each click of the chain. Soon, I was staring down at the grimy green lake at Six Flags Magic Mountain, waiting for the brand new ride Tatsu to plunge down its first dragon dive.

Tatsu is a "flying roller coaster" designed to make the rider feel as if he or she is strapped to the bottom of a dragon, and the Japanese theme was chosen because it corresponded with other rides in the area, such as Ninja. This new and highly anticipated roller coaster opened May 13th, but I had the special privilege of trying the ride a day early for Student Media Day. High school and college journalists interviewed theme park experts about the ride, ate lunch, and best of all, rode Tatsu!

My friend though wasn’t planning to ride. The ride speeds of 62 miles per hour and the 3,602 feet of twisting bright red, orange, and yellow metal rails intimidated her. However, after she spoke to a representative and learned the surprising fact that 97 percent of roller coaster accidents are a result of rider recklessness, such as chewing gum (a choking hazard) or trying to stand up, my friend gave in to her curiosity and got in line with me.

Students ride Tatsu during Student Media Day at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Kirsten Filonczuk, 17, West Valley Christian Jr./Sr. HS

We got to the front of the line, overwhelmingly nervous, and sat in the padded seats that were in eight rows of four. Once the harnesses were secure—and the ride operators were exceptionally careful in checking that everyone’s harness was tight and working—our feet lifted up behind us and we were horizontal, staring at the concrete floor, hair hanging. We grasped the harness bars feeling utterly helpless as the gravity pulled us down. Paul Reuben, a speaker at the press conference who has been to every amusement park in the world, said that this was the first roller coaster he’d visited where the riders began to scream before they left the station—and now I knew why!

The coaster clicked up the first incline, giving us an excellent view of the green pond and big pagoda in the Asian area of the park, but since the headrests mostly shielded us from the other riders it felt like we were flying alone.

I knew I liked the ride as soon as the coaster dove down the first drop—111 feet—curving to the right as I tilted to the right and I saw the theme park below me turn into the sky. The coaster smoothly wrapped around the Sky Tower and then whipped us in a flat spin, in which we continued on a straight track but were twisted onto our backs and brought back to the dangling position. It sped over Six Flags’ oldest looping roller coaster, Revolution, and through trees, rocking us and making us feel truly in the control of a deranged dragon. Finally, we saw the notorious pretzel loop ahead as we were lifted high above the ground to face our curved, diving destiny below us.

Tatsu, the world's first flying coaster.
Kirsten Filonczuk, 17, West Valley Christian Jr./Sr. HS

We dove headfirst toward the ground, yanked forward just in time to go flying face-up along the ground, feeling all the intensity of four Gs pressing us down into the cushioned seat and stealing our breath. Next we flew upward again to dart past where we had started, rushing in the other direction. Soon after the intense pretzel loop, the ride coasted to a stop outside the station. While we hung for a little longer than was pleasant, we caught our breath and saw the many keys that had already been dropped on the landing below us. We also listened to ladies complain about the discomfort of the harness for female chests. However, the ride had been a series of amazing sensations, and we were abuzz with energy as our feet lowered, our harnesses lifted, and we climbed off the ride with wild hair and dizziness.

The flying sensation was definitely one-of-a-kind. While the arm room had been tight, the chest harness a bit uncomfortable when the ride was at standstill, and the ride’s movement had a way of emptying pockets, the dream of flying had come close to reality. Compared to other rides such as X, Tatsu wasn’t painfully intense—in fact, it was very hard for me to believe that it went 62 mph. My friend enjoyed the ride too, and we tried it three more times, discovering that the front is much more suspenseful than the back because the front cars fall slowly into the drop, waiting for the other cars to climb the peak and give the downward fall momentum. Although the ride’s motto—"Flying at the speed of fear"—overstates the ride’s intimidation, it does capture the uniqueness of Tatsu, the world’s first roller coaster that lets you fly.