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Amusements Industry

ATA – Providing Experience When It's Needed

Roller Coasters

ATA Associates and Amusement Rides

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATA – Providing Experience When It's Needed

Amusement parks! Amusement rides! Roller coasters, water rides, Ferris wheels, water slides, batting cages and numerous other rides and attractions lead the list of high-profile projects that ATA has supported over the years. ATA Associates has provided analysis, evaluation, and technical consulting services associated with the amusements industry since 1972. In addition, ATA provides occupational safety and emergency planning/response consulting and evaluation.

In its support to the amusement industry, ATA brings all of its expertise in areas of mechanical systems, cable systems, hydraulics, pneumatics, hydro-dynamics, electrical systems, control systems, structures and human factors. Knowledge gained from experience in the aerospace, industrial, transportation, and consumer products safety arenas provides a strong support base to ATA's technical experts for providing assistance to the amusement industry.

ATA has evolved to a position of being a strong proactive advocate for the amusement industry in providing safety analysis, evaluation, and test support, as well as strong litigation support to leaders in the amusement industry. As an independent consulting entity, ATA strives to maintain its professional objectivity towards all work within the industry by providing unbiased, professional, high-quality technical and engineering support that addresses the issues head-on.

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ROLLER COASTERS

by Ed Fritsch, P.E.
Sr. Staff Engineer

New roller coasters are taller and faster than ever. But coaster enthusiasts, like fans of high tech special effects movies and video games, want more. To meet the demands of current riders (over 300 million per year in the U.S. alone) and to attract new ones, ride builders have recently introduced stand-up coasters, hanging coasters, and hyper-coasters, which feature drops over 200 feet and speeds over 70 mph. These marvels are developed almost entirely with computer-based design and analysis tools – tools that permit designs that would have been impossible only a few years ago.

Regardless of the power of the new design tools though, the translation of any design from computer workstation to reality is never accomplished without surprises. Assembly tolerance stack-ups and dimensional changes associated with wear are variables that can influence actual performance, but those variables are often too subtle to be adequately addressed during the design phase.

ATA Associates, Inc. has the expertise and equipment to identify and quantify such problems. ATA is currently working with a major amusement park operator to reduce maintenance costs and to enhance safety and reliability. The centerpiece of ATA’s research effort is the use of strain gauges to measure actual loads applied to the undercarriages of the coaster’s cars as they traverse a track that includes four inverted loops.

Strain gauges permit the direct measurement of the stresses in structural components. Such information is fundamentally different from that provided by accelerometers, which are commonly used in roller coaster studies. Accelerometers integrate inputs from all parts of the car to provide a g-load at one point in the car. That number is typically used to characterize the rider’s experience, but it can say little about what is happening at other points in the car’s structure. On the other hand, the use of strain gauges and accelerometers together provides two independent data sets that can support and illuminate each other.

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ATA Associates and Amusement Rides


After Rosa Esparza fell from the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags in Arlington, Texas on July 19, amusement park safety was briefly thrust into the public's consciousness by the relentless drumbeat of cable television's around-the-clock echo chamber. Within just 24 hours of the fatal accident, ATA Associates' owner and CEO, Bob Swint, had been sought out for comment on the accident by a Houston television station and two national TV networks. Though facts were in short supply in the early hours immediately after the mishap, based on ATA’s long experience in amusement ride evaluation and testing, Mr. Swint was able to address some questions concerning Ms. Esparza's weight as a possible contributing factor in the incident and other questions concerning the largely unregulated environment in which amusement parks operate. Since that time, modifications have been made to the Texas Giant’s passenger restraint system, civil litigation over Mrs. Esparza's death has gotten underway and the news media have shifted their attention on to other, new interests of the moment.

As demonstrated by the quick calls for comment after the Esparza incident, ATA Associates, Inc. is a go-to resource for understanding amusement ride operations and dynamics. ATA’s arsenal of portable electronic instrumentation and video equipment, its expertise and experience in amusement ride inspection, evaluation and testing, its skills in test data interpretation and analysis and its talents for creating compelling, animated demonstrative products explain the company’s well-deserved reputation in this field.

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