Many people have expressed concerns about the roller coaster, mostly pertaining to its extreme speeds. Robert Niles posted a vote regarding wearing goggles on high-speed attractions. 71% of those who voted agreed that some roller coasters should require riders to wear goggles. The main concern Robert and the ride designers had with this new coaster was that guests would be exposed to sand, and, as Robert so eloquently put it, "High speeds + blowing sand = need for goggles."
That quote got me thinking. Eyes are delicate, so exposure to high-speed particles, regardless of the period of time, is an important safety concern. But what about the coaster itself? I'm working in the mechanical engineering department of a military college. Sand-exposed aircraft have been one of the newer research incentives. We have damaged or destroyed multiple aircrafts, including expensive UAVs, in Afghanistan and Iraq because of our relatively "limited" knowledge of sand impact. Icing, birds, ash, and other extremities have been studied thoroughly since the inception of aircraft, but sand remains a relatively new field. It can severely damage both the external (e.g. nacelle, wings) and internal (e.g. turbine blades, inlet) components of a plane. Small particles over long periods of time drastically affect the aerodynamics of a body, and can cause undesired effects such as increased drag.
My questions to you are these:
Have the designers at Jack Rouse Associates, the group responsible for designing the park's attractions, considered the impact of airborne sand on their vehicles and track? If so, what have they done? Did they use coatings, shielding, or special materials to reduce damages?
Will the designers have comparatively stricter maintenance procedures for their outdoor high-speed attractions?
If they haven't taken this issue into consideration, what would you do? What problems can you foresee?
As an example of a possible solution, I have a friend who's thesis is currently covering plasma-injected coatings for turbine and compressor blades to protect the surfaces from deformation.
It's really funny that you mention Jack Rouse Assoc. because my husband is a designer at JRA! I asked him about your question, and he says that they definitely thought about the sand issue; however, it's really more of a concern for Intamin, the ride manufacturer. JRA designs the ride concept and the theming, but Intamin is responsible for the actual ride vehicle and mechanics of the coaster itself.
Normally, the questions I pose are meant to stir-up discussion. However, this one was mostly just out of personal curiosity.
Funny that you'd mention that. The plasma-coated materials method I mentioned is an alternative to the traditional charged method. That method is still being used; I'm interested to know if that's what Intamin implemented.
Very cool that your husband works for J.R. I had no idea they handled the creative aspects. I'd love to hear Intamin's method of protection.
Just imagining a conversation among Intamin, Rouse and Ferrari sends me straight into theme park geek heaven.