Brennan's Blustery Hot Air Balloon Box Kite

by Craig E.
(Lebanon, OR, USA)

Just some in flight pics

Just some in flight pics

Just some in flight pics
Raindrops are visible
the view from 175 feet
Close up pics before going to the field

I've often wondered what is so alluring about building and flying kites. For me, a big part of it is the "creation" or "process" if you will.

There's something cool about building a kite from scratch particularly a more complex one. I savor the feeling I get when MY kite that I built with my own hands and mind is doing it's job without flaw. This is, of course a rarity since most outings end with some exciting event.

In the beginning of 2011, I built a rhomboid box kite as my first project. I had the opportunity to attempt a flight at the coast in moderate winds. This went with some success along with some failure.

To be more specific, my newspaper sails failed causing the kite to fall from a few hundred feet. I replaced the sails with brown paper and tried to fly it a few times but never succeeded. It was just obese for a kite.

Earlier this week, I was cleaning the garage when I saw the box kite sitting in my collection. I pulled it out and set out to restore it to flying condition. As of this spring, I had been using this kite as a donor for other kites. The kite would need new sails along with a number of replacement spars.

Progress was fast and easy with the sails and spars. I was finished in just a couple of hours. Of course, it is not a light wind kite, so I was not planning on flying it in the near future. It needs a steady wind of at least 8 mph to fly good. If you fly when the wind is inconsistent, then the kite will spend half the flight falling when the wind slows because it has a higher sail loading.

Another plus to building and flying kites is the growing interest and involvement with my 3 year old son, Brennan. I have been trying to involve him on an age-appropriate level for some time now.

One of my ideas was to build a barn door kite and alter it to look like a hot air balloon since Brennan is totally hooked on hot air balloons after going up in one last summer. This never happened because I was too busy flying kites with Brennan!

Ever since my success with the MBK Delta, he has been very interested in kites. It's quite a blessing to have him as a "Co-Pilot." I flew front seat with my dad when I was a kid and young adult so I know the relational value of father-son quality time. I felt and was treated as a valuable part of the flight crew every time I spotted traffic, or contributed to the flight.

I don't mean to stray from kites too much, but I've come to realize that it's a good, wholesome activity that involves young and old members. Since I was not finished with the Barn Door/hot air balloon kite, I chose to draw a hot air balloon on one of the lower sails of my box kite. This was much to Brennan's delight.

Back to the flying already! There is definitely something serious about heavy weather kite flying. I think it alters the stigma that all kites are "toys." I often struggle with that when I tell someone that I fly kites. I think many people picture a kid running with an overly generic "diamond kite". While this is an exaggeration, I can be a bit cynical. This kite is certainly not a toy, nor is it mindless to fly!

I guess I shouldn't fly when half the sky is blue and the other half is dark gray, but it was windy enough for my new and improved Rhomboid Box Kite. The temptation to fly was simply too much, so off we went. I knew that there was some pretty severe weather coming soon, in fact, I almost stayed home.

I obviously took my chances and headed west toward the park. When we got there, I checked my telltale fir tree and it was swaying quite a lot. I nearly always fly at the same park, so I keep my eye on the tallest tree to see what the wind is like at altitude. It's quite reliable.

As I set up the framework, the wind started blowing harder, but there were no big gusts that the kite's 1/4" frame could not handle. We carried the kite out from behind the family sedan that I use a as wind shelter and it began to fly already. The bridle setting was close enough for today's conditions so I hooked it on and let out 20 feet of line. I noticed a bit of instability, but chose not to attach tails. Brennan loved the yellow tails that I hooked onto my MBK Rokkaku. Actually, he loved them till they tore off in the wind.

Stability is not really an issue with this box kite although I would like to see a bit less "dodging" from side to side. I think that's either a tow-point issue, or simply inconsistent winds while the kite leaves ground effect.

Once it was up to 100 feet or so, it was much more stable so I went ahead and took my pics. Video was no good because the kite is 98% clear. My little camera does not like to focus on something that it can't really see. Either way, I got about 10 seconds of video just so I could watch it and evaluate it's stability. The rain started, so away went my camera. You can see a few drops on the lens in the pics.

After 10 minutes or so, I let out the rest of my line until the kite was at 175 feet or so. I still have not untangled the other 300 + feet of my line after last week's lost & found kite incident. 175 feet was more than enough line to provide sufficient altitude for this scenario. At this altitude, the kite would fly rock solid for a few minutes. I did notice that sometimes it would pull very little.

It went through a few tumbles in it's 20 minutes aloft, but nothing that brought it to the ground. As always in windy condition such as these, the kite looked as if it was being overpowered, so I took in some line that could be let out again in case of a strong gust.

After a while, I noticed that the kite did not want to come down easily. This was new to me. Although I have heard of kites not wanting to come down, I have rarely been in a situation where I felt I might lose the kite if I tried to bring it down. Facing my fears was short lived as I began turning my reel slooooooowly in an attempt to keep bring the kite down without increasing apparent wind speed and possibly breaking my newish kite's frame. Each turn takes in at least two feet of line, so I have to be very careful in high winds.

Finally, the lower sails came loose again, but this was good because it cut the sail area down by about 30%. I had cut some corners while attaching the sails a few days earlier. That mistake is now fixed.

Moments later the wind forced the kite down to the grass as Brennan said "It's landing?" I took this as an opportunity to roll in as much line as I could before it bolted back into the sky again. Once I knew it was in ground effect, I coaxed it back into the air while I rolled up the last few feet of line.

Overall, it was a success seeing as how that kite flew for a good amount of time after being grounded for over two years. Also, the flight was a much needed change from the relaxing light wind kite experience. I really enjoyed that flight and the quality time spent with Brennan, but my next project is the MBK Barn Door Kite. This one will be a couple weeks before test flights.

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Great story
by: Tim Parish

Good stuff - and your comments regarding Brennan remind me of my Aren at a similar age. Often tricked him into doing a spot of kite-piloting while Dad fired off stills and video ... of Aren that is, as well as the kite! (check out the Single Line | Kids Kites pages over there on the left....)


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Wind Speeds


Light air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2    

Gentle breeze
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3    

Moderate breeze
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4    

Fresh breeze
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5    

Strong breeze
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7