Superman: Escape from Krypton (originally known as Superman: The Escape) is a steel shuttle roller coaster located at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. When it opened in 1997, it was the tallest roller coaster in the world, and its speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) was tied for the fastest with Tower of Terror II, a similar roller coaster which opened two months earlier at Dreamworld in Australia. These two coasters were the first to utilize Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) technology to propel vehicles to top speed. The park originally intended to open the ride in 1996, but the opening was delayed because of several issues with the launch system. The ride was closed in late 2010 for refurbishment, and it emerged in 2011 as "Superman: Escape from Krypton". The refurbished ride featured new trains which face backward, and it was painted with a new color scheme. As of 2013, Superman: Escape from Krypton has the third-tallest structure, the fifth-fastest speed and the third-longest drop in the world.
While in the planning stages, the ride was going to be named Velocetron and themed as The Man of Steel. The ride was announced on January 5, 1996 as Superman: The Escape, breaking records as the first roller coaster to reach 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), passing Desperado and Phantom's Revenge at 82 miles per hour (132 km/h). The ride was designed by Intamin, a Swiss roller coaster firm. It was originally intended to open on June 1, 1996. However, due to a range of problems with the launch system, its opening was delayed. In late 1996, there was a preview for season pass holders. After 10 months of testing and reengineering, the ride opened on March 15, 1997. After its opening, the media claimed Superman to be the fastest roller coaster in the world. However, since it was delayed, a similar roller coaster known as Tower of Terror, which also has a 100-mile-per-hour launch (160 km/h), had opened about a month earlier at Dreamworld in Australia. Superman therefore lost its claim as being the first roller coaster to reach 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), although it was then tied with Tower of Terror as the fastest roller coaster in the world. However, the ride became the first roller coaster in the world to go over 400 ft, therefore becoming the tallest roller coaster in the world at the time.
In June 2004, Superman: The Escape's seat belts were modified because of an incident on the Superman – Ride of Steel roller coaster at Six Flags New England. California State Regulators asked the park to make modifications to the rides' restraint systems to prevent a similar incident in the future.
Just after July 4 weekend of 2010, Superman: The Escape ceased operations with no reason given. A sign posted in front of the ride indicated that it would not reopen until the 2011 season, with hints that there would be improvements made to the ride experience. After Superman: The Escape's sister ride, the Tower of Terror II at Dreamworld, underwent a major refurbishment in 2010 which entailed a new vehicle which launches backward, speculation turned to the possibility of a similar modification to the Magic Mountain ride. Six Flags Magic Mountain officials quickly denied rumors that it would receive a Bizarro retheming, similar to roller coasters at other Six Flags parks.
On October 20, 2010, Six Flags Magic Mountain officially announced the refurbishment and re-theming of Superman: The Escape, in addition to the construction of two new roller coasters. As part of the refurbishment, the ride was renamed to Superman: Escape from Krypton and featured new backward launching cars and a new color scheme. The upgraded ride reopened to the public on March 19, 2011.
Superman: Escape from Krypton closed again on February 5, 2012 (almost a year after the refurbishment) to prepare for the new 2012 attraction Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom. Two drop towers, also built by Intamin, were integrated into the existing sides of Superman: Escape from Krypton's structure. The ride reopened when construction was finished on July 7, 2012.
To enable the construction of the park's 2013 roller coaster, Full Throttle, Superman: Escape from Krypton was temporarily closed from December 2012. It reopened in mid-January with Six Flags Magic Mountain stating the ride may have intermittent closures as the construction of Full Throttle continues.
At the entrance to the ride, the Superman "S" shield is imprinted and now painted onto the ground. The entrance area and queue are modeled after the Fortress of Solitude, Superman's headquarters. The station is lit green, modeled as Krypton, the planet that is full of Kryptonite rock that can take away Superman's powers. Inside is a crystalline-looking environment which recreates Superman's fortress in the Arctic. If the Velocetron name had been chosen, the queue and station would have had ancient ruins and a giant laser. A page on display in the Sky Tower, the park's observation tower, shows the concept art for Velocetron.
The roller coaster has two parallel tracks, with both tracks being identical. The vehicle is accelerated by Linear Synchronous Motors in reverse out of the station from 0 to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) in approximately 7 seconds. Riders experience a g-force of 4.5 during the launch. The vehicle then climbs up 415 feet (126 m) at a 90 degree angle. Riders climb this vertical section facing directly downward, before slightly stopping near the top of the tower. During the vertical section of the ride, riders experience weightlessness for about 6.5 seconds. The vehicle drops 328 feet (100 m) and is slowed down before re-entering the station.
The roller coaster originally featured two vehicles, each with three rows of four seats and one row of three seats for a total of 15 riders per vehicle. Both vehicles were built to only run forward. After the ride was refurbished in 2010, new "streamlined" vehicles with the Superman logo were introduced. The new vehicles were designed with low-profile sides to enhance the open-air feeling. Although they are wider, the row of the three seats in the older vehicle was reduced to two, resulting in a lower total of 14 riders per vehicle. Both of the new trains were configured to run backward, though they were designed to run forward as well. It was reported that the park would eventually run one side forward to give riders a choice, but both trains have remained facing backward.
The steel track is approximately 1,235 feet (376 m) in length and the height of the tower is approximately 415 feet (126 m). The tower is in an "L" shape with two parallel tracks. When the ride opened, the entire structure was painted white. After the ride was refurbished, the top third of the structure was painted red, the track was painted yellow and the rest was painted blue.
For the first four years of operation, Superman: Escape from Krypton was tied with Tower of Terror II as the fastest roller coaster in the world. In 2001, the speed record was taken by Dodonpa in Japan which features a top speed of 106.9 miles per hour (172.0 km/h). Superman: Escape from Krypton held the record for the tallest roller coaster in the world until 2003 when the record was taken by the 420-foot-tall (130 m) Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. As of 2015, it has the fifth fastest speed, the third tallest structure and the third-highest drop in the world.