Superman: Escape from Krypton has been terrifying Six Flags Magic Mountain visitors since 1997. Once the tallest roller coaster on the planet and the first to employ a linear motor system, Superman launched riders up a 415-foot vertical track at 100 MPH. Now GE is working to convert the technology behind the amusement park ride into an electric catapult capable of flinging F-35s into action.
US aircraft carriers have used the steam-powered CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) system to launch piloted aircraft from their tightly packed decks for years. The problem is, "traditional steam launch catapults rely on steam raising plants that are large, complex and expensive to buy, run and maintain," Graham Bellamy, senior engineering leader at GE Power Conversion, Naval, explained in a press release. "That was not so much of a problem when ships needed to produce steam for various purposes, not just for launching aircraft. But today, ships don't need so much steam, so boilers of the size and type required for catapults are rare. But modern navy ships do have large electrical generating capacity. This can be used to satisfy the needs of EMCAT (Electro Magnetic Catapults) in short bursts."