Tallest, Fastest Coaster Wows 'Em

A roller coaster unlike anything anyone has ever seen is open for riders, with strong stomachs.

It's 456 feet tall and launches you up to 128 miles per hour, in three-and-a-half seconds

"Nothing like it in the world. It's the tallest and the fastest, bar none," says Larry Chickola, who built the coaster, known as Kingda Ka, at Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, N.J.

The name, says Axelrod, "roughly translates into 'lose your lunch' in Swahili.

"Are you a nice guy?," Axelrod kidded Chickola. "Like, who comes up with this? You working through some issues?"

"There's a little tenseness on the launch," Chickola chuckled. "But when you come around the station, they're all smiles."

Kingda Ka opened it to the public Thursday. Judging by the first few riders, pulling 4-Gs could be the biggest thing in amusement parks this summer.

"It was awesome," said one of them, pumping his fist.

Says roller coaster historian Steve Urbanowicz, "It's really in its own category."

Urbanowicz says he's been on 875 coasters around the world. But none like this: "It's more like an extreme sporting events. No, more like five extreme sporting events.

"It's sky diving, drag racing, rocket launching. It's everything you ever thought of as an extreme activity, and it's all wrapped into one thing."

Engineers at Great Adventure say it's possible to build a faster, taller coaster. But, observes Axelrod, given the expense and the practical limits of today's technology, Kingda Ka is likely to be the heavyweight champ of coaster for quite some time.