North West Premier Construction

The sky’s the limit

Sky Force Blackpool
Written by Roma Publications

Sky Force Blackpool

This spring, Blackpool Pleasure Beach will take to the skies with the launch of a brand new ride – Skyforce.

Created in association with the Red Arrows, Skyforce is a 72ft high, 12-seat white-knuckle ride, designed to spin, swirl and ultimately excite, thrill-seekers. Those brave enough to hop on board Skyforce will be given the chance to take a 360 degree tour of the sky, whilst comfortably strapped into their very own Red Arrows cockpit.

Skyforce’s biggest selling point is its ability to provide a tailored experience for each passenger. Once securely strapped into Skyforce, passengers can control the wings of their own plane ensuring that they can increase or decrease the intensity of their ride however they see fit.

Deputy Managing Director of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Nick Thompson, has been very instrumental in bringing Skyforce to Blackpool. Commenting on the new attraction he said:

“Our main target market for Skyforce is people looking for a real thrill from their rides. After developing a number of family attractions at Blackpool Pleasure Beach over the past few years this is our first real dip back into this type of white knuckle ride and it is one which is unique to this country.

“What makes this ride so different is that you can control the intensity of the ride. Should you wish to enjoy Skyforce quite sedately then you can. However, by adjusting the wings on your own plane you can up the excitement level considerably.”

Nick added:

“For Skyforce we have linked up with the Red Arrows – a national institution. This ride demonstrates a great partnership in action, fitting in perfectly with what we are both all about.”

Keen to find out a little bit more about Skyforce, Premier Construction recently caught up with Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Technical Director, Alex Payne to get the lowdown on the new ride. We asked Alex about the finer details of Skyforce, as well as the challenges he faces constructing a new ride for Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Sky Force Blackpool

Hi Alex; so the first question we have is the all-important question – how does Skyforce work?

“Sitting in the upright position, an over-the-shoulder restraint is placed down over the passenger, securing them in place. The restraints are detected by our control system and once everything is good to proceed, the control screen will indicate to the operator that the ride is ready to begin.

“As the ride starts, the central hub tilts, which in turn tilts both arms lifting the ride’s gondolas off the ground. The locking mechanism on the gondolas is then released and the ride gets underway.

“As the ride picks up speed an aerodynamic effect is created and with wings either side of the chair, passengers can rock the gondolas from side-to-side, making it entirely possible to do a complete rotation on the ride.”

A complete rotation? So does mean the ride requires numerous components to make it work?

“Not really; the ride consists of relatively few components. There is a main central column, bolted down into the foundations, which are 7m² x 1m deep; there’s a tiltable slewing ring; and there’s a central hub.

“The central hub holds two arms; the main arm of the ride and a counter weight. The main arm carries 12 individual gondolas and each of these gondolas has the freedom to provide passengers with a 360 degree rotation.”

When designing a ride such as this, what are the main aims? Do you look to top your current selection of rides or do you look to appeal to a different section of the public? 

“It’s really a combination of everything. We look at what space we have; we look at who we want to appeal to; and we also look at what is currently being developed at the moment.

“Over the last few years we have focused on family-friendly rides, from Nickelodeon Land to Wallace & Gromit, so with Skyforce we are looking at reaching a different corner of the market – young adults and thrill-seekers. We are always looking at providing our customers with something different, so we will continue to look at a broad offering with all future rides.”

Sky Force Blackpool

What are the biggest challenges of a project like this?

“For us it is corrosion. Due to its location, Blackpool suffers very badly with corrosion – in fact it’s one of the worst places for corrosion in the UK. So, corrosive protection has been one of the biggest challenges that we have had to overcome with this ride.”

 It’s something you wouldn’t ordinarily think about with theme park rides.

“Yes, corrosion is not something which is common in Europe, so in Germany, where the components are being manufactured it is an aspect of the project which doesn’t ordinarily have to be addressed. However in Blackpool, we can rust stainless steel in a heartbeat, so anything that can be galvanized or hot zinc metal sprayed is being actioned accordingly.

“We also have some alternative treatments which we are using on the machined components too – something we have all learnt a lot more about recently.”

You mentioned that the components are being manufactured in Germany, so how does something created in Germany transform into a workable attraction in Blackpool? 

“We will do all the relevant testing that we can do in Germany, before the ride is dismantled into a certain, set number of components. We prefer to keep the amount of components to a minimum, in order to reduce the build time when we are back on site in Blackpool.

“So we will ship the components across to the UK, where we will install it and the manufacturer will commission it on site. The initial tests will be performed by the manufacturers and witnessed by our inspection body. Once everyone is happy, we will then be issued with a certificate of safe operation and the ride will open to the public.”

 So once Skyforce is fully assembled what will this new ride mean to Blackpool?

“Blackpool is a town that needs to move forward and in turn Blackpool Pleasure Beach as a resort needs to keep moving forward. If we stood still for too long we would fall too far backwards, so it is our policy to continually develop our offering. Each year, whether you see it or not, there is something new going on at Blackpool Pleasure Beach – either something designed to enhance our rides or something designed to enhance areas of the park for our customers. Skyforce is another example of this.

“The council has spent a lot of money on the promenade in Blackpool and in recent years there have been improvements to the tower, SEA LIFE and more. All of the businesses in Blackpool have a responsibility to keep the town active and rides like Skyforce help us to do our bit, whilst retaining our profile for innovation too.”

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