Skyliners suffer major downtime, loaded, at Walt Disney World

Posted Saturday, October 5, 2019 10:57 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Riders on the recently opened Skyliner gondola ride at Disney have been stuck for more than an hour after an apparent power failure, according to social media posts.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Saturday, October 5, 2019 11:02 PM

Based on the social media photos, I'm not convinced that this is a power outage problem. What I find concerning about the system is that there's no way to off load a bunch of gondolas at each end point. So let's say there's a problem at a station, or one of the corner transitions. If something goes wrong, you can't move the gondolas through the station to the next segment because you can only put a dozen or so in each station. If you need to unload a bunch but can't send them back out, what do you do with them?

Think about a small system like any sky ride at any amusement park. If you need to, you can park most of the gondolas in either station.

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Saturday, October 5, 2019 11:31 PM

Yeah reading posts on social media about it sure is interesting. If it were some sort of power loss, I can’t imagine this were the designed result.

https://twitter.com/ada58974405/status/1180682003764649985?s=21

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Sunday, October 6, 2019 1:08 AM

Apparently some kind of crash occurred in the Riviera station. I'm not sure if it was a the cause or the effect of the stoppage, but either way, that ain't good.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019 8:39 AM

There very well may have been a power outage as they say. But in the photos/video of where the gondolas appear to have made contact I feel like I see some broken glass on the ground. That they are selling this as “not an incident” seems to be a stretch at best.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019 10:24 AM

I suppose this was inevitable but it does make me question how, after hours and hours of emergency planning and training, it took that long to get guests out of the gondolas. This will happen again so they need a better plan.

I'm guessing those guests who had to break into the emergency kits are wishing they had waited on a bus.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019 12:33 PM

But here's the thing... if it was an issue of power, I can almost guarantee there are multiple ways to turn that cable without power. I think the issue is they had a station problem, given the photos of stacked up gondolas, and nowhere to put them. Cherry picking them out is to worst possible plan.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019 1:31 PM

Yea I was thinking generator, hand crank, something could be used in the event of a power outage. Certainly the thing is built to be evacuated in less than three hours and without the heavy resources of the fire department in the event of a power outage, right? I don't think it would have been allowed to be built if it wasn't. Maybe there was a power outage. Maybe the outage caused the issue at the station (something they have to fix to make sure it doesn't happen again) which led to bigger problems or maybe the issue at the station caused the power outage. Definitely not as simple as a power outage though.

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Sunday, October 6, 2019 11:37 PM

If you want to nerd out on the particulars of Gondala operations:

https://liftblog.com/2019/10/05/disney-skyliner-evacuation-underway/

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Monday, October 7, 2019 7:25 AM

Detachable ski lifts can certainly run on their own generators.

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Monday, October 7, 2019 8:32 AM

Aw man, I meant to edit my post and clicked delete instead.

There is an eyewitness account that is claiming that the blue gondola dispatched, started up the incline, and then rolled back and collided with the waiting cabins.

That seems, to me, like it should be impossible, but from the looks of it, I would believe it if I heard from a reliable source.

In my own mind, I half picture a scenario where the blue cabin dispatched but didn't roll forward, however the system didn't see it still there so it kept pushing the others forward and basically crushed them all together. I don't know if that would cause the kind of damage that we're seeing, but I guess we will find out, eventually.

Last edited by Raven-Phile, Monday, October 7, 2019 8:34 AM
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Monday, October 7, 2019 9:04 AM

Since it looks to have happened with OUTGOING cabins, that sort of invalidates all the people saying "I knew this was going to happen I told them it was coming into the station too fast!"

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Monday, October 7, 2019 10:27 AM

I knew this was going to happen I told them it was coming into the station too fast

That kind of comment from the general public shows that people aren't used to riding detachable chairlifts and gondolas. It is understandable as the cabins on the rope are moving way faster than the cabins in the station so it "feels" like you are going to hit them. Of course in order for your cabin to get into the station, it has to detach you from the rope but most people don't understand that.

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Monday, October 7, 2019 7:50 PM

Yeah, what little evidence there is to observe, it was a problem in the station, not on the rope.

Follow up story on USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/experience/america/theme-park...897283002/

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Monday, October 7, 2019 9:42 PM

Is the sky ride at Kings Island a good example to use in that article? Wasn't the ride removed 2-3 years after the incident that stranded people for hours? Weren't there weather related issues that made the incident worse? People here I am sure have better recollections of the incident at KI than I do.

For the Disney gondolas, the outside of their control/ride itself issues were all in Disney's favor. Incident happened at night rather than in the heat of the day (during heat of summer). Weather was calm from what I understand. Fire department could devote all their resources because nothing else was going on at the time. Change any or all of those and the results it seems to me may well have been very different than an "unexpected downtime."

Social media also serves to magnify the situation (something that didn't apply at KI). That is a reality though that is a minus that accompanies the pluses.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019 7:50 PM

Jeff said:

Based on the social media photos, I'm not convinced that this is a power outage problem. What I find concerning about the system is that there's no way to off load a bunch of gondolas at each end point. So let's say there's a problem at a station, or one of the corner transitions.

Think about a small system like any sky ride at any amusement park. If you need to, you can park most of the gondolas in either station.

You're thinking of the old VonRoll gondolas from the 60s and 70s. Removing many carriers from the system would only be necessary if there is a catastrophic failure. However in that case most likely you wouldn't restart the line and instead you would rope evac it.

Parking for all or many carriers in each station is very uncommon for newer ropeways. Typically if carrier parking is available it is at one location only where there is a transfer rail to a maintenance bay or car barn. Many gondolas now are being built without parking for all of the carriers. Instead they remain on the line at all times with parking limited to just a few for maintenance purposes.

I believe in Disney's setup the dual loading can double as a parking rail if you had to remove a single carrier for immediate maintenance and it was not at the station that has the car barn.

In this incident I believe one carrier got stuck while moving through the station and based on the stacking of cars I believe the system was restarted one or more times before they realized that the cars were stuck. I don't know for sure, but based on similar incidents that's most likely the case. Gondolas use blocking systems that are very similar to roller coaster. Did someone override the system without throughly checking? Possibly.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019 9:25 PM

You're probably right. I think these are very similar to those on Crystal Mountain near Seattle, and certainly at the peak, you couldn't offload very many gondolas there either (if they even had a pull off line... I don't remember).

But even then, if you shut down the rope, I assume it's possible to manually move gondolas around, and if you then have to bring one in at a time and stop again, that's a lot safer than picking people out with fire trucks. It just feels like the failure here shouldn't really be entirely the machine.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019 11:46 AM

I've been on a gondola of the same manufacturer when the whole ski resort lost power. They definitely had a back up generator that was able to slowly cycle everyone off at the top. The lift ran at about half speed or less on the back up power source.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019 4:19 PM

Jeff said:

You're probably right. I think these are very similar to those on Crystal Mountain near Seattle

Disney's lift is similar to Crystal's Mountain Rainer Gondola which was designed and built by Dopplemayr-CTEC. In that setup they have cabin parking at the bottom terminal only on a parking rail and they can park 9 cabins in the bottom terminal. I believe they have enough spaces for all cabins. That system is only setup for 900pph, so they don't have a lot of cabins.

Le Monster

In the event of a power failure almost all aerial lifts have a secondary diesel backup motor to operate the lift for evactuation. Many diesel backup engines can continue to operate the lift, but only at half capacity (load every other carrier is most common) and often at a reduced speed of about 70-80%. I don't know Disney's setup, but I'm very certain they have a backup motor (redundancy for main failure) and they may even have a electric generator as further backup to power the main in the event of a power failure.

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Monday, October 14, 2019 8:59 AM

As of this morning, the Skyliner is open and running with people.

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