Sky Ride Safety?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 7:55 PM

Hello Everyone,

I am always curious when I look at, or ride CP's skyride. Now, I know they probably go through pretty extensive inspections and such, but really, where is the safety backup on these things? If that cable would give away like it has on say MF or Dragster, what stops the ultimate worst case scenario?

Has there been an accident like this before, where the cable has sheared or gave way under load with passengers?

Just trying to understand how these can be so safe...


Wednesday, August 26, 2009 8:20 PM

Worst case scenerio? Pull the cord for your parachute! No back-up system in that regard. Bouncing your ride vehicle/cabin along with a bunch of other passengers in other ride vehicles would also be a bad thing.

The cable has been found frayed before and, while not simple, is removed and rewired with a new cable.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 8:22 PM

There have been several cableway (or skyride) accidents that I know of including a few where a car has dropped off the cable to the ground. The accident at Vail Ski resort in Colorado I think was partially due to cable failure as a portion of the cable had unraveled.The cableway at St. Louis had a car fall off when a failed tower wheel assembly somehow released the car from the cable as it rolled over the tower.

I'm not aware of any accidents where the cable failed completely and the cars dropped to the ground. There was an accident at Mount Cermi in Northern Italy when the cable was hit by a low flying U.S. Marine surveillance aircraft. That particular cableway was the large tram type with only two cars on separate cables. The cable was sheared and one of the trams dropped to the ground killing all 20 passengers.

Last edited by Jeffrey Seifert, Wednesday, August 26, 2009 8:30 PM
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 8:41 PM

Back in 1970, one of the cars fell off of the Alpine Sky Ride at West View Park. Fortunately there were no riders in it when this happened. The ride was inspected and back in operation the next day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 9:59 PM

mlnem4s said:
Worst case scenerio? Pull the cord for your parachute! No back-up system in that regard.

Not that it has anything to do with the topic, but all licensed skydivers maintain an emergency reserve chute in their packs. This 'back-up system' may be popped manually but is also equipped with a device that, at a preset altitude, detects if a safe descent speed has been exceeded and if necessary blows the reserve chute open via a small explosive. Or at least it did in 1989, last time I jumped.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:47 AM

Okay. I am officially scared of sky rides now. Thanks a lot, guys. :-p

Thursday, August 27, 2009 1:19 AM

There are sensors on the ride that can detect a fray in the cable. I also know that it has a seemless cable as well.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:52 AM

As I recall one of the Texas parks had some cabins fall back in the early 1980's.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 11:26 AM

That was at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. Two vehicles dropped from the cable and landed in the midway. One person was killed, and 20 injured. Nearby SFOT had shut down their cableway that day due to high winds, but the State Fair continued to operate theirs.

I have a friend of mine who calls these rides dangling buckets of death. I know it sounds scary, but considering the number of cableways in operation all over the world, and the relatively few amounts of accidents, they are like most amusement park rides, safer than the automobile drive to and from the park.

Last edited by Jeffrey Seifert, Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:23 PM
Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:56 PM

crazy horse said:There are sensors on the ride that can detect a fray in the cable. I also know that it has a seemless cable as well.

Maybe at CP but I guarantee you most skyrides have no such sensor and are visually inspected only.

There are also tension test that can be given. Ususally the loads given to such cables are ten times less than what the cable is designed to handle.

That being said. Even most flyers have backup cables, loops ect in case the main one fails.

I'll not be afraid, Litterally millions of people have been transported this way, possibly billions including all ski lifts ect. The death rate over a hundred fifty years is what? 40?

Cables are interesting, the multi spool of wire is designed to help insure total failure doesn't occur. However it is pretty hard to visually inspect the interior of the spool.

Last edited by Charles Nungester, Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:59 PM
Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:21 PM

I read something about at SFGA in the 80's maybe? that a bucket (or car what ever you want to call it) fell from the wire and killed three of the four people inside. Don't remember were I read that at.

Friday, August 28, 2009 12:47 AM

On they report some of those early gondola accidents that killed people.

Looks like one in 1978 at MM and one inSix Flags Mid-America that same year.

1979 One at the Texas fair - interesting it says "The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that the ride's operators knew of defects in the ride, but failed to report them. The woman won a $3.1 million settlement on the basis that the ride had been operated negligently in high winds."

So I guess a defect of some of these rides is that they cannot operate in high winds. Which I believe was/is because the way these rides attached to the cables require gravity to apply the grip needed to stay attached. In high winds or bouncing of the cable would reduce the "grip" and allow the gondola's to detach mid-ride.

Even Google'ing for other gondola/skyride/ski-lift ride cable breaks - I only found this one that looked like it was caused because the cable snapped.,2933,503024,00.html

Looks more likely that your gondola will drop off the line due to wind, the cable fall off the towers supports due to wind, or the support tower fail due to ice - then the actual cable snapping.


Clamp Failure: That didn't sound like fun - "Witnesses said the accident caused some skiers to jump for their lives,while others waited suspended up to four hours in the dark on swayingchairs. About 200 of them were rescued by ski-patrol members using anemergency rope system."

As for testing the rope - I read they can use Electromagnetic induction to test for those hidden dangers that they cannot see.

Friday, August 28, 2009 1:47 PM


I posted a trip report from sfne, and a few pictures of the cool looking sky ride they have.

Friday, August 28, 2009 2:51 PM

Woah. Could they be these guys?

Yah, cableways are pretty safe if you ask me. If forgot what our threshhold for shutting them down at Great America was. Something like sustained 12 MPH winds or gusts over 20 MPH (or was it 25?).

Friday, August 28, 2009 2:56 PM

I think it is something like 8mph or something silly like that.

I know that if a fly farts within a mile of cedarpoints, they shut it down.

Friday, August 28, 2009 3:44 PM

Although the ride at Pacific Ocean Park looks similar I've always heard that the sky ride at SFNE was from Astroland.

Sunday, August 30, 2009 12:43 AM

SoI guess a defect of some of these rides is that they cannot operate inhigh winds. Which I believe was/is because the way these rides attachedto the cables require gravity to apply the grip needed to stayattached. In high winds or bouncing of the cable would reduce the"grip" and allow the gondola's to detach mid-ride.

Negative. They are not operated in high winds because they can swing and collide with the support towers and the loading/unloading platforms.

The gondola's actually attach to the cable by grips that rest above and on either side of the cable. The grips incorporate strong springs that force the sides tightly against the cable. When the gondola reaches the bullwheel, the springs are compressed and thus allow the grip to be lifted off the cable. The grips rest on the cable but do not rely on gravity alone to stay attached.

Most cases of lift injury arise from poor maintenance on the grips of a detachable chair/gondola, metal fatigue in support towers (either from age, improper construction, or ice expansion), or swinging chairs/gondolas striking or getting caught against objects. I'm not really aware of any cable failures in recent history.

Last edited by Strijder, Sunday, August 30, 2009 12:44 AM
Sunday, August 30, 2009 1:18 AM

I would think tension in the cables would also be a factor.

Monday, August 31, 2009 12:40 AM

Wait a sec.

"Like it has on MF or TTD" ?


Monday, August 31, 2009 10:05 AM

The cables on lifts like the Sky Ride are rated very conservativly when it comes to loading. Presumably, they are under less stress then the cables on MF and TTD. I wouldn't worry about the cable breaking on any type of aerial tramway.


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