First impressions- entering the compound
Upon arrival at the center, the visitor center building do look alot bigger in person than what I initially know of during visits when it was under construction. Thick strong industrial guiders “guywires” can be seen arching the wheel super structure on each of it surrounding 4 corners. Each mated to a large embedded concrete block into the ground.
Situated near the bay area, any visitor who wanders out of the perimeter will be greeted by a magnificent sea view of the windy bay area. This area is flanked by outdoor dining areas lining the sea side broadwalk from the restaurants from the building tenants themselves. There is an outdoor open amphitheater allowing concerts and events to be held by the bayside, overlook the Sand resort over the Marina bay.
The wheel maintains largely an open concept design, with large open retail areas spanning the 1st and second floors. There are about 25 retail and F&B outlets in the flyer terminal itself. At the front of the terminal entrance, you will be greeted by Popeye Chicken & Biscuits/Robert’s Coffee fast food restaurant, which take a setting very similar to the typical American fast food joint. The first floor is mostly occupied by F&B outlets offering food ranging from western, Japanese to Chinese seafood as well. Boutique and gift stores such as Sunglass Hut and NANKAI line the 2nd floor retails spaces.
The ticketing center is situated on the ground floor, with escalators lined by the sides leading to the boarding entrances of the flyer on the 2nd floor. The center of the ring-like terminal building is where the flyer wheel physically sits, large and moving silently like a gentle giant, but otherwise a large looming presence to behold within the terminal building itself.
Directly below the wheel is Yakult garden. It’s simply just a small man made park with water features and catered for kids to run around with playgrounds around. Nevertheless this small little park is quite a pleasant walk through, with rather nice coloured lighting at night.
Boarding the wheel
The entrance of the flyer starts on the 2nd floor where most will access by the escalators from the ground level ticketing booth, it takes approximately 20 minutes to go through the series of waiting areas before finally boarding your flight, so it pays to make plans and arrive early to make way for these. You will eventually make you way to the final boarding area on the third floor. Lifts are available for disabled or wheelchair bound guests. Likewise, you will be briefed about what to expect by the staff at the front waiting area after verifying your tickets or boarding passes. Every visitor is then screened and security checked through scanners and personal belongings, through X-rays before entering the next waiting area. Cameras and video cameras are of course allowed on board.a complete rotation of the wheel takes approximately 30 minutes. Initially rotating in a counter-clockwise direction when viewed from Marina Centre, its direction was changed on 4 August 2008 under the advice of Feng shui masters.
There are a total of about 3 waiting areas in all, one the gathering area for security screening and the ticket scanning area, the on board ride photo area and eventually the segmentation holding area into capsule-sized groups of 20 for the final boarding. Generally the wait for each part won’t go beyond 5 minutes and is rather smooth flowing even on weekends on my visit. Between each waiting areas are usually long but otherwise clear connecting walkways leading you ahead. Well marked signs and marshals always point the way ahead, so it’s hard getting lost here.
Like it or not, even before any visitor who get a ride on the actual flyer gets to go on a ride on a virtual one first. Cheesingly called “GR8 Moments”, it’s simply a prop capsule of the flyer where you can get your group photo taken behind a green screen where a consistent background of the Singapore skyline will be superimposed and printed with your cutout- Just like a roller coaster on ride photo, only that it’s somewhat not taken on the actual ride itself. You can purchase this “on-ride” photo at the gift shop after your flight.
After all that, you will finally make your way to the uppermost floor of the terminal building, where you can finally see the unobstructed views of the flyer in it’s glory. The wheel maintains a floating boarding concept, where guests can only enter the wheel after crossing a linking bridge from the terminal building to the wheel superstructure at the center of the building. Just like an aero bridge linking aircraft to building, you will be greeted by the rush of warm air after leaving the air-conditioned comfort of the terminal building, here the area is relatively open, but otherwise still sheltered from the elements such as rain.
There, you will be greeted and guided by the friendly staff to your capsule. Long continuous rubber flooring line the boarding area, ensuring good footing even when wet. The wheel rotates continuously without stopping, so you have to board the capsule while it’s moving. Do not worry about not getting on- the doors are wide and the capsule move at about an approximate lateral speed of 2-3 seconds per meter, your capsule group of 20 people would have completed boarding even before the capsule traveled half of the available boarding area. If need be, the staff there will provide any special assistance if you have any problems boarding your flight.
Do not worry of falling off the platform, though trapeze nets are lined throughout the bottom of the platform beckons to be bounced on. It takes a keen eye to notice the myriad of details on the boarding platform, this area is also where the wheel control area is decked out, lined with server racks and computer monitors monitoring the feed from each every capsule. Silently humming at the top of the platform are 12 mounted heavy duty high torque motors from Mitsubishi – Takenaka Consortium, though only 2 are required to keep the wheel spinning continuously, talking about redundancy backup!
Once all on board, the staff will close the capsule doors, which can only be opened and unlocked from the outside. So once you are in, there is no turning back for the next 30 minutes till the end of the flight. There are no emergency supplies the least and only an intercom button if you need to contact the staff in-flight if any problem arise.
Since the outrage and flyer breakdown on 23rd December 2008, every capsule now comes equipped with emergency food and water supplies, urinal bags and portable commodes.
We are on board the wheel now, lets check out the sights!
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