Astro Jet / Rocket Jets / Astro Orbiter

BACKSTORY (April 2, 1956–Current): Manufactured by the Klaus Company Bavaria, the Astro Jets “flew” in a 50' circle reaching heights upwards of 36'. The attraction stood between the Submarine Voyage and Flight to the Moon. From the April 1956 Disneyland News:


Ceremony Marks Opening of First Major New Ride

Disneyland's first major new ride—the Astro Jet—was opened Monday, April 2 with a fanfare and ceremony that included participation by members of the three flying arms of the United States military services.

Personnel from the El Toro Marine Air Station, the 11th Naval District Headquarters in San Diego and the Army Air Force Base at Long Beach qwere on hand to make the first "official" flight in the Astro Jet.

The day's activities got under way promptly at 11:15 a.m. with the arrival of the jet pilots in Tomorrowland at the wheels of Autopia Cars following a Parade down Disneyland's Main Street.

Director of Customer Relations Jack Sayers introduced the aces, many of them flight veterans with hundreds of hours of jet flying time to their credit.

Soloing with the flyers were youngsters from the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, visitors to Disneyland that day.

Also on hand and lending color to the ceremony were Disneyland's Space Man, K-7, and the futuristically clad Space Girl. The Disneyland Band, under the direction of Vesey Walker,provided appropriate musical background.

Following the dedication flight by the jet aces the assembled crowd was treated to an exhibition of precision flying given by the Disneyland Air Force, composed of volunteers recruited from various departments and leasee employees, under Group Captain John Miller.

A special luncheon honoring the participants was held in the Red Wagon Inn following the special event.

Airmen who took part in the ceremony included Navy Pilots Lieutenant JG Jerry J. Jester and Lieutenant JG Charles Steele from the 11th Naval District in San Diego; Marine Pilots Captain Charles Hiatt and Major Richard Rainforth; Air Force pilots Captain Morris Eliasof and Lieutenant Edward Williams.

Youngsters who flew with the jet aces were: Glen Sherman, Jimmy Murray, Billy Krauch and Timothy Devlin of Los Angeles and Michael Loudon and Eric Burr of Orange County.

The Astro Jet is an advanced version of the Roto Jet, and the only ride of this type now operating in the United States. It carries 12 jet-like gondolas that are attached to a central tower by 20-foot metal booms. When the ride is operating the central tower spins and raises the entire unit into the air.

It was invented, developed and is manufactured by the Klaus Company of Memmigen, Bavaria.

In 1964, United Airlines (a new sponsor for “The Enchanted Tiki Room”) disputed the name “Astro Jets” was free advertising for American Airlines’ coast-to-coast jet-airline service, so the name was changed to Tomorrowland Jets on August 7. The attraction closed September of 1966 to make room for the new Tomorrowland, reopening in August 1967 as the Rocket Jets. This version was located on top of the new PeopleMover platform and was accessible from ground level via an elevator. The focal point was its replica Saturn V/NASA-themed rocket in the center. Rocket Jets lifted guests 70' above ground. This version remained open until 1997, when it closed for renovations with the rest of Tomorrowland. The new form of the attraction opened one year later as Astro Orbitor. The Astro Orbitor was planned to be placed where the Rocket Jets were, but weighed too much for the current building. Instead, it was moved to the Tomorrowland entrance and placed on groundlevel, thus making the ride the new focal point as guests step from the main plaza of Disneyland into Tomorrowland. The top Rocket Jets mechanism was dismantled and a kinetic satellite-themed sculpture known as Observatron was built out of the ride’s skeletal structure.




Cox Pilot and the Astro Jets

Daveland Cox Pilot Header PhotoJune 1963 Astro Jet photoSounds of The Astro Jets: “Please tear out your C coupon, and hand it to the operator. To make your jet go up, push up on the handle. To make your jet go down, push down on the handle. Please remain seated at all times. And, away we go! Pshshshsh!” Then, “Please remain seated until your jet comes to a complete stop.” (Yes! It was a C coupon then (same as Dumbo), but later upgraded to D when the new Rocket Jets were put in.) All day long and into the night. Our Flight Circle was right next to it. In fact, for the New Year’s Eve Party, each cast member had to volunteer 2 hours of ride operation as your pass to attend. I ran the Jets. It was worth it! Tidbit: It’s well known that The Jets were built by a German company. But few remember that its base was a Panzer tank turret.

FROM JUNE 1963: The guy in the center flying the plane is Bart Klapinski and the announcer is me (with one hand behind the back . . . they used to rib me about the “military” stance.) Since it is a two man crew, I would assume it's a week day. Note the lights on at Hobbyland and the “next-show” clock reading that the time was the 4:30 show (we changed the clock AFTER the show). What fools we were thinking that all that fun would go on forever. (Very few aircraft scattered to the left, so I would guess that it was early in the show). The angle is from the Skyway.

In July 1963 I went off for basic training in the Naval Air Reserve for three months to Memphis, and then to Los Alamitos Naval Air Station (now the Air National Guard base). By the first part of the following year, the Circle was running a minimal schedule (Wed thru Sun, 12:00 to 5:00) in the winter. I went back to college part time in the AM and worked at the Circle in the afternoons. By the summer of '64 we were back to full time again (10 hours a day, 4 days a week). We had about 10 guys working there, some of which I do not remember the names because they seemed to come and go. Five of us were the main backbone group (Keith Palmer, George Molitor, Bart Klapinski, Don Hatcher, and myself).