roller coaster compressed air

Roller Coasters & Compressed Air

Summertime is the time to have some fun with your family and enjoying the amazing West Coast weather before heading back to school. A classic summer event is inviting your family to visit local amusement parks and going on the tallest rollercoaster in the park! But for you to be able to enjoy the thrilling coaster experience, there’s a lot of work that goes into creating a ride that is extremely exhilarating yet also safe.

To give you an idea of the technology incorporated in operating a roller coaster, we’ll walk you through the technology used in operating a roller coaster and the often overlooked use of compressed air that makes it possible.


Air Gates, Restraints & Pneumatics

Although air gates are not actually part of the roller coaster, they are an integral part of roller coaster safety. These are the gates that automatically open for guests in line when the roller coaster is ready for boarding. They keep people and children from entering the boarding area while the ride is in motion.

Air gates are controlled by a switch which opens and closes them with a pressurized air cylinder. Many roller coasters are launched at a high velocity when taking off, so making sure every rider is behind the gates at a safe distance is very important.  So if you’re ever told not to lean on the gates, it’s because they need to keep the gates clear at all times as it is a safety precaution.

Making sure riders are safely fastened in their seats is another big safety component to riding a roller coaster. Your seat restraints are controlled pneumatically with compressed air for maximum safety when riding a coaster with many loops, turns and twists in order to keep passengers in place. Pneumatics also ensure the roller coaster does not jerk around too much by opening and closing valves that release air during acceleration and deceleration for a much smoother ride experience.


Pneumatic Launches

Roller coasters have evolved over the years and engineers have developed more advanced ways of being able to launch riders at a higher velocity from the start to finish. Throughout its evolution, different launching techniques have been implemented. The most recent launch systems include hydraulic and pneumatic launches. The main difference between the two is that hydraulic launches involve nitrogen gas, while pneumatic launches involve compressed air. The two methods are more powerful and launch coaster at higher speeds than dated techniques like chain-lifts used on older wooden roller coasters. Dodonpa, a roller coaster at Fuji-Q Highland amusement park in Japan is one of the coasters that utilizes a pneumatic launch system, which makes it able to launch passengers from 0 to 106.9 mph in 1.8 seconds!


Air Brakes

Once you get up to blazing speeds on a coaster, you have to stop at some point!

Safety is one of the main focuses when building anything that is going to be holding passengers and zipping them through plunging drops and rapid turns. What many people don’t realize is that compressed air is an essential portion of having brakes that are fully operational. Having functioning brakes and emergency brakes are crucial when operating a roller coaster for the safest experience.

In order for the brakes on a roller coaster to function, compressed air is used to create friction between the rails and metal by steaming air through a compressed tank. Compressed air is also used as a control in certain brake systems. If a roller coaster were to lose power or has any mechanical issues, the compressed air brakes would automatically close and stop the ride in its tracks for passenger safety. You can actually hear the hissing sound the brakes make as the ride comes to a stop, which is an indicator that the brakes are working properly.



Roller coasters are one of the many industries that utilize compressed air. Companies involving construction or assembly can absolutely benefit from using compressed air for tools or pneumatic systems. When you need compressed air for your commercial or industrial projects, Air Source Industries is the company to call.

Contact us today about renting cylinders or next day gas delivery to your facilities. Our knowledgeable staff will help you get setup with what you need and answer any of your questions. Call our gas experts at 877-586-9611 or get a gas delivery quote online today.