Those who keep the roller coasting

ABU DHABI // Long before the first smile is cracked, nervous laugh escapes, or scream is yelled each day at Ferrari World, hundreds of employees are ensuring the park is ready for business. Whether climbing steep tracks, inspecting lap bar hydraulic cylinders, or test riding the fastest roller coaster in the world, an army of […]

ABU DHABI // Long before the first smile is cracked, nervous laugh escapes, or scream is yelled each day at Ferrari World, hundreds of employees are ensuring the park is ready for business.

Whether climbing steep tracks, inspecting lap bar hydraulic cylinders, or test riding the fastest roller coaster in the world, an army of engineers, technicians and ride operators work around the clock to keep the amusement park in top condition.

“The work we do here is very similar to that of the airline industry,” said David Ciciora, maintenance director at the park for the past three years. “Our priority is safety and we perform around 20 hours of visual inspection on every ride every day.”

Heading a maintenance team of 160 employees, Mr Ciciora said his department had to work around the clock to make sure the attractions – many of which are in operation for nine continuous hours a day – remain safe and in perfect working condition.

With more than 20 years of experience in theme park maintenance, including stints at Legoland California and Morey’s Piers in New Jersey, USA, Mr Ciciora said Ferrari World posed unique challenges he had never encountered before.

“Fifty-plus-degree weather and blowing sand affects the structure and the paint of our outdoor rides.

“Much of what we do is preventive maintenance,” he said.

The attraction that requires more upkeep than most is also one of the park’s biggest draws.

As the fastest roller coaster in the world, accelerating from 0 kilometres per hour to 239kph in less than four seconds, while subjecting its riders to 4.8Gs of force, Formula Rossa’s moving parts demand attention.

“It’s a complex ride operating in demanding conditions, so we make sure we give it the attention it needs,” said Mr Ciciora.

This includes replacing the roller coaster’s wheels twice a week – despite them being constructed from high-resilience durable urethane rubber and having a water cooling system – changing the launch cable at least twice a year – completely dismantling the train once a year, and painting the train and tracks regularly to prevent rust.

Despite Formula Rossa being in operation for six continuous years, Mr Ciciora said the roller coaster’s lifespan depended on how well it was preserved. “If we continue to maintain the ride properly it could last for decades. I’ve worked on rides that are more than 50 years old.” he said.

Despite extreme rides similar to that of Formula Rossa causing visitors the most anxiety, the park’s manager said the majority of their motion sickness cases resulted from the indoor dark rides. The animation, special effects, and sounds experienced on guided vehicles play tricks on the mind with some, usually adults, being caught off guard.

When it comes to the more than 900 people employed by Ferrari World, park manager Victoria Lynn said the greatest challenge was keeping the staff’s energy up at all times.

“You have to be dynamic to work in this industry, it’s not a bank. We may receive some applicants who need work with their English language but we are looking for that energy and that certain smile.”

Part of the training includes trying out each and every ride, which some of the staff are reluctant to do. “We end up strongly encouraging them to ride all of them so they can communicate to our guests what the experience is like,” she said.

In spite of having worked at the park for five years, Ms Lynn said she enjoyed the rides “at least once a week in the front row every time – I never get bored”.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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