The Freefall is an amusement ride developed by Giovanola and marketed throughout the world by Swiss company, Intamin. Two generations of this ride were developed. First generation Freefall rides can be identified by the angled supports at the base of the lift tower. Second generation Freefall rides were identical, but the tower's base structure on those variants did not taper outward. It was a common ride at major amusement parks until the 1990s, when the Drop Tower was developed. Since then, Freefalls have been disappearing from the midways, to be replaced by newer-technology rides. Riders are required to be 42 inches (107 cm) tall or more.
The gondolas on both variants carry four people. The gondola loads in the station. Once it does, the gondolas move backwards to the rear of the ride. Then, the gondola is carried to the top of the lift structure. Once there, the gondola slides forward and hangs over the drop track. The gondola is released after a few seconds. At the bottom of the tower, the gondola pulls out of the dive - it is now horizontal, and riders are facing the sky. The gondola slows as it rolls through the brake run, and then stops near the end. Following this, the gondola moves backwards, and a mechanism swings the car down. At this point, the gondola is at a 45 degree angle, and the riders are traveling in reverse. Then, the gondola slides to the station (below the brake run) and stops for loading.
The above picture of a Freefall shows a gondola plummeting down the tower.
In 1984, an accident occurred on "The Edge", a Freefall ride at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. A supporting cable snapped, and the mechanism's anti-rollback devices failed to stop the car from plummeting to the bottom of the tower. Contrary to public belief and rumour, it did not crash down on top of another car and no one was killed in the accident. Four teens were treated at a local hospital and released. To prevent this type of accident from recurring, Intamin doubled the number of anti-rollbacks on the tower and the ride programming was changed so that a car did not enter the elevator shaft until the previous car has completed its descent from the tower. This change slightly lowered the ride's capacity.
The Edge re-opened after having been refitted, but the stigma associated with the accident caused ridership to be low. It closed after the following year and was relocated to Rocky Point Amusement Park, where it received the generic Freefall name, before going to Geauga Lake under the name "Mr. Hyde's Nasty Fall" with a new control system. The ride was dismantled in 2006. Parts from it were then sent to Cedar Point and used to maintain Demon Drop.
Installations No Longer Operating
In 1996, Paramount's Great America opened the Drop Zone Stunt Tower. It was about twice the size of the park's first generation Freefall (also named "The Edge", but not to be confused with the Edge not famous for the accident), which had been removed after the 1995 season. In 2008, Great America changed the name of Drop Zone to Drop Tower.
By the late 90's, the classic freefall rides were being substituted for larger, higher-capacity alternatives. These include the Intamin Giant Drop (2nd generation), Gyro Drop (3rd generation), and the S&S Power series of compressed-air tower rides.
Currently, Demon Drop at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, Torre do Terror, at Beto Carrero World, Brazil, Hollywood Tower, at Movie Studios Park, Italy, and those at Toshimean and Central Park in Japan are the only remaining Intamin first generation Freefall rides in operation. In December 2006, Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags Over Georgia dismantled their respective first generation Freefall rides. In September 2007, Six Flags Over Texas announced and began dismantling their first generation Freefall, Wildcatter. February 2008 saw the dismantling of the original Freefall from Six Flags Magic Mountain.
In 2004, Loudoun Castle theme park in Scotland applied for planning permission to build an Intamin Freefall. The planning permission took too long to be granted, however, and the park sold the ride in order to have a new attraction open for the 2005 season. Ironically, Loudoun's new ride for 2007 was an S&S Power Double Shot tower drop ride.
At the end of the 2009 season, Cedar Point removed their first generation freefall ride, Demon Drop. The ride was originally supposed to be moved to Knott's Berry Farm for the 2010 season, but the ride ended up at Dorney Park instead with the same name.