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My Cool Job: Roller Coaster Engineer

TWISTS AND TURNS Larry Chickola poses in front of the Joker’s Jinx, a roller coaster at a Six Flags in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The ride reaches speeds of 60 miles per hour. GLENN KOLINEK

Larry Chickola is the vice president and chief corporate engineer of Six Flags theme parks. He spoke to TFK’s Rebecca Mordechai about his job.

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I’ve always loved theme parks. Growing up, I would visit Cedar Point amusement park. That’s in Sandusky, Ohio.I rode the Corkscrew roller coaster there. It was awesome!

I dreamed of becoming an engineer. I studied mechanical engineering. But I didn’t realize that I could design roller coasters for a job. Then a friend told me about a job at Six Flags. I could be a roller-coaster engineer. That made me excited.

I’m now the chief engineer at Six Flags parks. I do the engineering for parks all over the world. I look over the design and construction of rides. In North America, there are more than 1,000 rides in these parks. That includes 157 roller coasters.

SAFETY FIRST Chickola inspects Kingda Ka, a roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township, New Jersey.

MICHAEL REITZ

Right now, our engineers are making something special. They are making the tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster that has ever been built. It’s called Falcon’s Flight. It’s being built at Six Flags in Saudi Arabia.

My job takes creativity. It also takes problem-solving. For example, I wanted to make roller coasters accessible to people with disabilities. So I worked with engineers to make the rides more inclusive.

TEAMWORK Chickola (right) discusses a safety inspection of Joker’s Jinx with Six Flags engineers.

JERRY ABEL

I often walk around the Six Flags Great Adventure park. It’s in Jackson Township, New Jersey. That’s where my office is. I like to watch visitors. I figure out what makes a ride fun for them. That’s a different question from how tall a ride is. If I want a ride to be tall, I can make it tall. But if I want it to be fun, how can I do that? Finding that answer is the hardest part of my job.

There are some roller coasters that I’m very proud to have made. One is the Iron Rattler. It’s in San Antonio, Texas.

WILD RIDE This is the Iron Rattler at Six Flags in San Antonio, Texas. It is one of Chickola’s favorite roller coasters.

ROBIE CAPPS

The Rattler is surrounded by walls of rock. You get a look at the beautiful rock walls as the coaster goes up. Then you drop almost straight down. I’m happy that my rides can bring thrills like these to visitors every day.

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