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Holiday World adds a steel beast to its renowned wooden coaster lineup

Thunderbird wing coaster
The new Thunderbird wing coaster will be located in the Thanksgiving section of Indiana’s Holiday World theme park.
(Holiday World)

Holiday World’s new $22-million Thunderbird launched wing coaster will join a renowned ride lineup that includes a trio of top-ranked wooden coasters.

Set to debut April 25 at the Indiana theme park, construction is already underway on the wing coaster that seats riders on either side of the track in a winged formation as the train navigates multiple inversions.

Located in the Thanksgiving section of the holiday-themed park, Thunderbird is rising near the short-lived Giraffica, which was billed in 2009 as the world’s tallest water ride but closed in 2013 following unresolved technical issues.

Following a pre-show featuring fog, sound and lighting effects simulating a thunderstorm, the new coaster will launch from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds along a 3,000-foot-long track that winds through a thickly wooded hilly terrain.

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Along the way, Thunderbird will navigate four inversions including a 140-foot-tall Immelmann loop, a zero-G roll, an in-line twist and a 125-foot-tall vertical loop.

In addition to crossing over the nearby Voyage wooden coaster twice, Thunderbird will fly through a pair of headchopper holes cut into the side of a barn.

So what does a tailfinned 1950s Ford or a fortified wine favored by bums have to do with early American pilgrims?

The Santa Claus, Ind., theme park has crafted an elaborate back story to thematically fit the new Thunderbird ride into the Thanksgiving section of the park.

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According to a cryptozoological legend, the mythical Thunderbird shot lightning from its eyes and flapped thunder from its 20-foot-wide wings to generate a storm that propelled the Mayflower sailing ship on its 1620 transatlantic journey to America.

Built by Bolliger & Mabillard, T-Bird will be the Swiss-based ride manufacturer’s first launched coaster. Holiday World has been trying for nearly a decade to work with B&M on the park’s first major steel coaster.

To date, B&M has built seven wing coasters: Raptor at Italy’s Gardaland, Swarm at England’s Thorpe Park, Wild Eagle at Tennessee’s Dollywood, X-Flight at Six Flags Great America outside Chicago, Gatekeeper at Ohio’s Cedar Point, Flight of the Demon at Germany’s Heide Park and Parrot at China’s Ocean Kingdom.

Holiday World is billing Thunderbird as the first launched wing coaster in the United States. The world’s first launched wing coaster, Furius Baco at Spain’s PortAventura, was built by Swiss-based Intamin in 2007.

In the United States, Thunderbird stands in the shadow of Cedar Point’s Gatekeeper, which is taller, longer, faster and has more inversions.

For the past decade, Holiday World has been known for its world-class collection of wooden roller coasters. Three of the park’s rides are ranked in the top 20 of Amusement Today’s annual list of the best wooden coasters: The Voyage (4th), The Raven (11th) and The Legend (tied for 19th).

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