The American Eagle at Six Flags Great America turns 30

Posted Sunday, May 8, 2011 4:07 PM | Contributed by Chitown

Literally thousands of people drive by it every day of the year, and it speaks to them. Even during the winter, when it’s dormant, it’s a testament to summer, a reminder of all the times it has thrilled us, made the blood rush to our head, maybe even made us hurl. It is the American Eagle at Six Flags Great America, which opened this weekend with ceremonies to mark 30 years since the wooden fortress first dominated the corner of Washington Street and the Tri-State Tollway in Gurnee.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011 5:50 PM
Kick The Sky's avatar

This was my very first coaster and I rode it the year it opened. I was thirteen and scared to death to ride any coaster, but was getting into the flat rides and stuff. Back then, the Eagle was being billed as the tallest, fastest, and scariest coaster on the planet. It had a huge, 15 story drop that seemed like it was straight down.

I decided to ride the scariest thing first and if I liked it, I would ride the others. I didn't like it. I LOVED it. That first drop, hanging over the edge just before the train crested and fell into the abyss seemed like forever. I was scared senseless but got off the ride with the greatest adrenaline rush. I rode every other coaster in the park that day(and fell in love with Tidal Wave).

Thanks American Eagle for all the memories!

Certain victory.

Monday, May 9, 2011 12:59 AM
CoasterDemon's avatar

^I sure do miss the Tidal Wave!

Was at the park yesterday - rode American Eagle - red side of course. The ride has really had a history; was the first woodie with metal I-beam tracks (on the out-run only). Before that, the ride was often heavily brakes (in 4 spots) and was too rough for me to ride!

In the last 4 years the ride is running better than ever. Red side is fast as a bat out of hell and still has some of the best ejector/slamming air time anywhere. Of course, things could be done to greatly improve... the ride could be one of the top coasters anywhere...

Here's a video from

Last edited by CoasterDemon, Monday, May 9, 2011 1:15 AM
Monday, May 9, 2011 8:47 PM

I was there opening day for the Eagle - was one of the many waiting 2 plus hours :) definitely worth the wait!

The ride has improved greatly in the past few years! Still an amazing ride - 30 years later.

Monday, May 9, 2011 10:27 PM
CoasterDemon's avatar

There is a great video of a reporter (who also the reporter when Little Dipper opened last year) riding the ride soon after it opened in 1981. There were no headrests or side 'wings' - so it was very soon after opening, b/c most remember all those extras being there already, opening year (the gear was in place already at the time they filmed the commercial for the ride - ) . And buzz bars of course :) I'm trying to find that video.

Over the years, I remember the ride having seat belts, then not having then, then having then, not having them, etc. Must have been a trade off - some years Viper didn't have them either. A trade off - quicker loading but perhaps higher insurance.

Monday, May 9, 2011 10:45 PM
Jeff's avatar

I've only been on it a few times, but it was mostly forgettable to me. That said, it's obvious why the ride would have a soft spot for people in the area. Even I was taken aback at how in your face it was as seen from the freeway. It might have been late in the season too, with the spider on it.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 5:51 AM

The times that you rode it Jeff, I agree, it was very forgettable. Maintenance on it for awhile was very low. In its early years it kicked ass, and the last time I rode it in 2007, it was near that form.

My favorite MJ tune: "Billie Jean" which I have been listening to alot now. RIP MJ.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 10:23 AM
HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

I rode it last in 2009 and I couldn't believe how awesome the ride was. Our group that went had gone in with low expectations, so I'm sure that had a bit to do with how blown away we were.


Saturday, May 14, 2011 9:04 AM

It is running great again this year too. I've been riding it since year 1, when I was only 5, so it has a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 1:06 PM
CoasterDemon's avatar

Color construction pics of AE:

Thursday, September 22, 2011 3:13 AM

Coasterdemon... I-beam track? Is that why it feels so weird on the first drop and next few hills? I swear it felt like the bearings were shot in every wheel on the train right from the drop, but once you hit the helix it ran normally. I never got a good look at the track but it looked like the wear pattern zig-zags on the metal. Are there pics of that track out anywhere?

Thursday, September 22, 2011 7:32 AM
CoasterDemon's avatar


The track (under the top 2 layers of wood/running rail) are the I-beam track from a 1/3rd the way down the drop until about a 1/3rd of the flat section atop the giant helix. The track ties are also all steel (if you look closely, all the steel parts are painted blue. The track ties return to white when you change back to traditional track.)

There is a very distinctive rattle sound over that steel track. But that track gave the ride a new lease on life. Before it was installed, the ride got very painful and was usually much slower than it is now.

Thursday, September 22, 2011 12:14 PM

Ahh that's cool. I'm not complaining about it, the ride is fine... just unusual. Totally feels like failed bearings, but not rough at all. It does fly through that first section pretty quickly! You can sorta see the zig-zag wear pattern on the running rail going down that hill.. must have something to do with the way the wood is anchored to the I-beam.

Now they just need to give it a paintjob!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 7:02 PM

Its amazing that it been 30 years. I remember when she ran 3 trains a side and didn't trim at the top of the helix . I just loved how it flew through the helix and then cuts back though as it exit it. I was always scared of whacking my hands. Red is definitely the better side of the sides. But Demon and Whizzer will alway 1 and 2 in my book.

Last edited by otterkpr, Wednesday, September 28, 2011 7:08 PM
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 7:23 PM
CoasterDemon's avatar

^My favorites too, otter! Here are some good construction shots that just popped up online:

There is more good stuff on the site as well, just browse around.


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