Roller coaster in the United Kingdom
Watch the on-ride POV
Alton Towers
Location Alton, Staffordshire, England, UK
Coordinates 52°59′09″N 1°52′57″W / 52.985927°N 1.882511°W / 52.985927; -1.882511
Park section Forbidden Valley
Status Operating since 16 March 2002
Cost £12,000,000 ($19,340,400 USD) (original ride)

£2,000,000 ($2,586,320 USD) (Galactica)

Rider height 140 cm minimum
Manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard
Product Flying Coaster (Custom)
Designer / calculations John Wardley (original ride)
Type Steel - Flying
Riders per train 28
Hourly capacity 1500
Propulsion Chain lift hill
Height 20 metres
Top speed 75 km/h
Length 840 metres
Inversions 2
Duration 1:40
G-Force 3.5

Galactica (formerly called Air) is a steel flying roller coaster located at Alton Towers in Alton, Staffordshire, England, UK. It was built by Bolliger & Mabillard and situated in the Forbidden Valley area, in close proximity to Nemesis. The ride was originally scheduled to open in 1998, but due to the complex features of the ride, it was delayed to 2002.[1] Opening instead in 1998 was Oblivion. Before its official name was released, Air was codenamed SW5 (Secret Weapon 5).

For the 2016 season, the name was changed from Air to Galactica as virtual reality headsets were added to the ride. These only lasted until 2018, however.


The entrance plaza to Air

The idea for Air came to fruition after many years of planning, and construction started towards the beginning of the 2001 season. Advertisements for the ride were placed around Alton Towers towards the end of that year. In early 2002, testing began on one of the world's most technologically advanced rides ever made, and the ride opened on 16 March 2002 at a cost of £12 million.

Air opened as the first prototype flying roller coaster designed by Swiss manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard.

Early difficulties with unreliability were reduced towards the end of the first year, and problems are now rare.[2]

In July 2015, Alton Towers submitted plans to enhance the ride's theming and station. On 12 January 2016 it was announced that Air would be renamed Galactica. As part of the change, the ride received virtual reality headsets in which guests experience a space-themed film. The building that housed the former Air gift shop became the Rollercoaster Restaurant. The ride reopened as Galactica on 24 March 2016.

For the 2018 season, the virtual reality headsets were removed from all but the back three rows of the train. On 17 March 2019, Alton Towers confirmed that the virtual reality headsets would be gone completely for 2019, in response to guest feedback and the increased queue times.[3]



Galactica's track layout consists of several close-to-the-ground turns, and dives over and under park paths, giving the illusion of flying. At one point in the ride, the riders are turned on their backs so they face the sky.

Galactica has a dual station which allows two trains to load and unload at the same time. It also has a transfer track which can store a train while not in use.

Galactica is painted mint green with black supports.


A closeup of the flying restraints

3 trains with 7 cars per train. In each car, riders are arranged 4 across in a single row, for a total of 28 riders per train. Riders board the trains in a seating position. The cars are then tilted back, with guests leaving the station in a flying position.


The entrance sign for Galactica

The theme of Galactica is a journey through space. The virtual reality film that the ride showed between 2016 and 2018 took riders to numerous fictional planets, including a volcanic planet named Nero 5 and an ice planet named Keplar 9. Before the 2016 refurbishment into Galactica, the ride was named Air and was loosely themed around a calm oasis at the bottom of Forbidden Valley.

Ride Experience

Galactica starts with a short passage through a tunnel out of the station, followed by a lift hill. Galactica's first drop dips to the right, rises up to a 180 degree turn, and drops down in to a large drop to ground level. The track then twists over so riders are riding on their backs, performing a large upward left turn before twisting back so riders are once again in the prone position, flying underneath a small ravine. The track then pitches up in to a tight turn before performing a 360 degree in-line twist. The train then dips down into a left hand curve above the storage track, and into two bunny hops separated by a right hand curve. Afterwards, the ride goes into two curves, one to the left and another to the right. The train then hits the brake run and re-enters the station.

Extra Facts

  • Constructed by: JJ Cavanagh Construction
  • Programmed by: Consign AG
  • VR programmed by: Figment Productions
  • Headsets: Pico Headsets



  3. "Galactica: VR removed from Alton Towers rollercoaster". Ride Rater. 17 March 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2021.

External links

Articles on Alton Towers