In 2003, Fetterman made a bold pitch to the Knoebel family: Let’s build Flying Turns.
"I knew what a thrill ride it was," he said. "We figured we had the know-how to do it."
Fetterman immediately set about designing a new version of the old ride.
"It's the culmination of a dream," Fetterman told the Washington Post in 2006.
Based on the Flying Turns model at Chicago’s Riverview Park, the 47-foot-tall Knoebels’ version will have three lift hills, a 540-degree helix and a signature double figure-eight trough. The 1,300-foot-long half-pipe track will feature a durable and forgiving hardwood surface made of cypress.
Coaster fans salivated when Knoebels first announced plans to build Flying Turns during an October 2005 event. American Coaster Enthusiasts called it one of the most anticipated rides among its 7,000 members.
Construction began in April 2006, with plans for a 2007 debut. By October 2007, following successful test runs, Knoebels felt confident enough to give coaster enthusiasts a tour of the twisting track.
Then trouble started.
"The design of the vehicle was the problem," Knoebel said. "We essentially had to start from scratch."
First there were problems with the wheels, which had to be shipped back to the California manufacturer to be corrected.
Another test in summer 2008 found the cars simply too fast and wild to carry passengers. A year later, sections of the track were being redesigned and modified to accommodate new trains. A prototype of the new train proved so encouraging that Knoebels ordered three more. Then during testing in April of this year, the new cars jackknifed during one run.
"They worked beautifully five out of six times,” Knoebel told the local Daily Item newspaper after the failed tests. “It has to be right each time.”
The main challenge has been updating a 1930s ride to modern standards that would meet with approval from state ride inspectors and the park's insurance carriers. The hardest part has been designing a train with the perfect combination of size, weight, length, height and appearance.
"If we could build vehicles like they did in the 1930s, it would be open," Knoebel said. "But they’ve changed the rules."
The third and latest prototype chassis is undergoing on-track testing, with encouraging results.
The planned debut, promised every summer since 2007, remains indefinitely on hold at Knoebels.