TAMPA (FOX 13) - At Busch Gardens, when they build a new roller coaster like Cobra's Curse, they don't just flip a switch and turn it on.
"We usually test the ride for one to two months," Mark Rose explained. "Our guests expect complete safety."
Rose has tested more than a few roller coasters. Years ago, the problem used to be how to simulate people on board while they tested. Engineers used to use sand or steel, but a new rider emerged in 1993, when Kumba came together.
"Here are our water dummies," Rose demonstrated. "This one is Phil, and this one has yet to be named. But we fill them up with water at the top and they weigh about 170 pounds."
Phil can be filled or Phil can be emptied to simulate different weight combinations in the cars.
Phil and friends have been riding the highly anticipated new ride over and over, helping tweak the experience and fine-tune the ride. If fact, a planned preview of the coaster scheduled for this week has been indefinitely delayed while testing continues. But whenever Cobra's Curse opens, Phil will be forgotten by everyone but Rose.
"They never complain, they never get sick, they never take a break," he laughed. "They're our best employees."