Any job with lingo like "head choppers" and "air time" has got to be fun. And this one certainly is: designing wooden roller coasters. In a profile of Chad Miller, the "rock star" of wooden roller coaster designers, the New York Times looks at his company, Gravity Group, and Miller's means of creating nerve-rattling rides. Safety comes first, of course, but after that it's about making drops, curves, and parabolas that maximize the amount of time riders stay airborne.
Steel coasters may be faster, higher, and more extreme, but wooden ones have tighter turns. On the other hand, wood tracks must be checked daily and repaired quickly, and wood is trickier to work with. “If it’s cold, then you are going to have one amount of friction loss," says Miller. "If it’s hot and just rained, mixed with the oil on the track, it’s going to fly like crazy.” Still, many obsessive roller coaster fans say Miller's 1.2-mile-long Voyage at Holiday World in Indiana is the world's greatest. “What is amazing to me is how well thought-out this ride was," says a veteran rider. "I like the out-of-control feeling.”