|Previously known as Air|
|Park section||Forbidden Valley|
|Opening date||16 March 2002|
|Type||Steel – Flying – Virtual reality|
|Manufacturer||Bolliger & Mabillard|
|Lift/launch system||Chain lift hill|
|Height||20 m (66 ft)|
|Length||840 m (2,760 ft)|
|Speed||75 km/h (47 mph)|
|Capacity||900 riders per hour|
|Height restriction||140 cm (4 ft 7 in)|
|Trains||3 Crafts trains with 7 cars. Riders are arranged 4 across in a single row for a total of 28 riders per train.|
|Galactica at RCDB
Pictures of Galactica at RCDB
Galactica (formerly known as Air) is a flying virtual reality roller coaster located in the Forbidden Valley area of Alton Towers amusement park in Staffordshire, England. Previously known as Air, it is the first ever flying coaster. Manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard, Galactica is the company's first flying roller coaster. Guests ride in a prone position lying chest down and experience the feeling of flight by "flying" close to the ground, under footpaths, and narrowly past trees and rocks.
The roller coaster originally opened as Air on 16 March 2002. Following the close of the 2015 season, the ride underwent refurbishment and reopened as Galactica on 24 March 2016. It features an 840-metre-long (2,760 ft) track, reaches a top speed of 75 km/h (47 mph), and debuted a dedicated virtual reality experience.
Alton Towers conceived the concept of a flying roller coaster in 1990, twelve years before Air eventually opened. Following the opening of Nemesis in 1994, a flying coaster was planned by the park to open in 1998, but was delayed due to technological limitations. During its development, Alton Towers marketed the ride as Secret Weapon 5 (abbreviated to SW5), following the naming pattern established for previous major park developments. The ride was developed in part by ride designer John Wardley, the producer of many attractions at Alton Towers and other former Tussauds Group theme parks.
Construction of Air began in mid-2001. Later that year, Alton Towers initially advertised the new rollercoaster as a "next generation Aerial Inversion Ride"; subsequently revealing the name Air. 
In early 2002, testing of Air began with special crash test dummies. At the time of opening, Air tied with Oblivion as the most expensive ride at Alton Towers, at a cost of £12 million. A £4.5 million marketing campaign for the ride included commercials based around the ride's slogan, "assume the position". Air officially opened to the public on 16 March 2002. On opening, Alton Towers entered into a five-year sponsorship agreement for the ride with Cadbury Heroes.
In June 2015, the park submitted a planning application to make modifications to the station building and retail space. This proposed adding a new photo opportunity into the queue, enclosing the station building with new walls, and constructing additional theming elements around the ride area. This was in addition to an earlier planning application to convert the existing ride shop into a restaurant. In October 2015, the first promotional material was posted on the Alton Towers website, advising guests to "prepare for a new flight" and to "watch this space".
On 12 January 2016, Alton Towers announced that Air would be re-themed as Galactica for the 2016 season and would include on-ride virtual reality headsets simulating a ride through the cosmos. The announcement was made at an event held at the Science Museum. Each seat on the roller coaster is fitted with a Samsung Gear VR headset and pouch. The virtual reality experience is optional, as guests can choose to ride without using the headsets. A promotional website was also released explaining more information about the ride and its new storyline. In late February 2016, the park announced that the official opening date would be 24 March 2016.
At the time of opening, Galactica was the tallest ride at Alton Towers, standing 20 metres (66 feet) tall. The 840-metre-long (2,760-foot) ride reaches a top speed of 75 kilometres per hour (47 miles per hour). Riders can experience a g-force of up to 3.5g whilst on the ride. One cycle of the ride lasts approximately one minute and forty seconds.
Galactica features a dual-platform loading station, permitting three trains to operate simultaneously. Each train has seven cars, with each car carrying four riders side-by-side in a single row. This configuration allows for up to 1500 riders per hour.
Once in the station, riders board a train sitting down, in a similar style to inverted roller coasters. Riders are restrained through a padded over-the-shoulder harness and a lap bar. At the ankles, two flaps hold the legs in position and close as the harness locks into place. After a train is fully locked and checked, riders are raised into the flying position and the train departs the station. Since being rethemed to Galactica for 2016, riders have the option of wearing virtual reality headsets, which are attached to the restraints.
Galactica departs the station and rises a chain lift hill. The ride's first drop dips to the right, rises up to a 180 degrees turn, and continues down a large drop to ground level. The track then twists so the riders are on their backs. This manoeuvre is known as a fly-to-lie. The coaster then performs a large upward left turn before twisting again, returning riders to the prone position. This manoeuvre is known as a lie-to-fly. After exiting from the lie-to-fly element, Galactica passes underneath a small ravine before pitching up, into a tight turn. A 360 degrees inline twist is followed by a series of straight flying, and several turns and dips in the track. The train then slows in the brake run before returning to one of the station's two platforms.
In Amusement Today's annual Golden Ticket Awards, Air was ranked in the top 50 steel roller coasters numerous times following its opening. It peaked at position 24 in 2003, before dropping to position 34 in 2004 and 36 in 2005. In 2006, it tied for position 49 with another Bolliger & Mabillard flying coaster, Superman: Ultimate Flight. It has not appeared in the top 50 since until 2015 it peaked at 38.
In Mitch Hawker's worldwide Best Roller Coaster Poll, Air peaked at position 36 in its debut year. The ride's ranking in subsequent polls is shown in the table below.
|Mitch Hawker's Best Roller Coaster Poll: Best Steel-Tracked Roller Coaster|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Air (roller coaster).|