Get a group of Flyer Addicts together and talk will eventually gravitate towards epic snapping sessions at Knoebels during Phall Phunfest, or the still stinging loss of Kings Island’s Flying Eagles (remember, they still run just as great at Carowinds!). But how many times has the Butterfly at Burns Park Funland been mentioned? Probably a bit more often – after you read this in-depth review of this out-of-the-way scooter during an addict visit from August 2010.
We first posted some pictures and a simple video of our visit on the Flyer Addicts Anonymous Facebook page. (Hint, click here to like us…really really like us.) Now, the full story…
Funland is actually a small municipally-owned amusement park inside the much larger Burns Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas. When it opened in 1958 as Joyland, the park was a private venture by two local businessmen – Jess Woods and Robert Starkey. It opened on July 21 of that year with 5 kiddie rides. From the 1970s through 2001, the park was owned by Lloyd “Mokey” Choate Sr. and his Star Amusements. Since then the park and its 12 rides including a Train, Tilt-a-Whirl and Scrambler, have been owned and operated under the direction of North Little Rock Parks & Recreation. Of course, the gem of the park is their Bisch-Rocco Flying Scooter.
Flyer Addicts first learned of this scooter in 2004, when NAPHA (National Amusement Park Historical Association) visited the park as part of their “Tale of Two Cities” event. But it wasn’t until 2010 that we were able to talk with Park Manager Travis Young and schedule a tour of the park with Facility Leader Scott Pennington. It was a very steamy 102 degrees when we pulled up. We took a quick look at the scooter and met with Scott who brought us into the park office to look over some historical documents. It was then that a powerful thunderstorm hit the area. We waited for almost an hour, in hopes the storm would clear and the Butterfly could be opened for rides. Luckily, it did.
An Unusual Scooter
Although we could not find any documentation, locals say the Flying Scooter has been at the park since the 70s, possibly longer. But this is not your ordinary 8-tub portable Flying Scooter. Some aftermarket adjustments have been made – some old, some new.
Start with the drive mechanism. We know that some very early models were tire driven around a metal rim at the top of the structure (like Lake Compounce’s park model until 2007) or at the base of the structure (like Seabreeze’s portable model). But most models are powered by a motor connected to a self-contained gearbox in the center of the scooter structure. This one however, has an aftermarket chain mechanism that bypasses the standard gearbox and is rotated by the drive axle of an old truck. The new mechanism also uses the truck’s drum braking system to quickly slow the ride at the end of the cycle. We weren’t entirely surprised by this, as we had seen something similar in the schematics for building your own knock-off Flying Scooter that were sold by A.K. Brill during the 1950s.
Next, check out how the tub connects to the cables. With most scooters both cables are attached directly to the top of the tub structure at separate connection points, one in front of the other. One reason, presumably, is as a backup should one cable connection fail. That design also makes it more difficult for the tub to twist sideways. With the Butterfly’s connection, both cables are not only connected to the same double eye hook, but the connection to the tub is on a swivel – allowing one to completely rotate the tub without twisting the cables. When we asked Alvin G. Bisch if he believed it was his father’s design, he highly doubted it.
Finally, the material coving each tub’s wing is an object of pride by the park’s staff. Via phone, Funland Manager Travis Young explained to us that the park recently reupholstered all the wings using a heavy-duty tarp material strung across the original internal metal structure. The tarps were cut, sewn and affixed using Velco straps - all at a cost of about $50 per tub. The result is a lightweight wing that we can only assume will hold up for many years to come.
The big question we had, after seeing all the differences in this Flying Scooter, was….how does she fly? Well, we were pleasantly surprised when Facility Leader Scott Pennington powered up the Butterfly for some extended ride cycles. First, Jack Larimore tried the only tub missing its restrictor chain. After his cycle, he reported that it was a little harder to control because of its free-twisting ability. He soon realized that large wing movements were adding to the problem, and the restrictor chain actually helped us keep the tub from twisting and disturbing the rhythm used to create the cable slack needed to make some noise. The result – some of the best aerial acrobatics and snapping seen this side of the Elysburg or Conneaut Lake.
After analyzing the first cycles, Addicts Chris and Jack took additional rides on the scooter to perfect the process that even impressed ride operators who were allowed to take their breaks on the ride with us. We were even joined by a local, unofficial Flyer Addict, who brought his family out for a Sunday afternoon snapping session himself. He said he’d been enjoying this scooter since his youth in the 1970s. Our conclusion: For a portable model, this scooter was easier to snap than most – comparable to the portables at Stricker’s Grove or Conneaut Lake. And, because seeing is believing…we’re also editing a video to illustrate some of the action that afternoon. Look for it later in the week right here on flyeraddicts.com.
Plan Your Visit
If you’re planning a visit this summer, remember to check their website at http://www.nlrpr.org/parks/funland.php or give them a call at 501-753-7307. For 2011, hours appear to be Saturdays from 10a.m.-7p.m and Sundays 1p.m.-6p.m. The Butterfly (and other adult rides) require 2 tickets, or $2.00 per ride. Click over to Google Maps for directions on your roadtrip. Tell them you’re a Flyer Addict!