Perhaps you have seen some truly giant kites at a festival. Whether it's a super long Dragon kite or a huge inflatable show kite, they certainly are attention-grabbers!
It's all pretty relative. I started making a range of tiny kites from bamboo BBQ skewers, some years ago. Then I doubled the spans by using 2 skewers butted together, for another series of kites. These had spans of 58cm (2 feet).
Later, I doubled the spans yet again, to 1.2 meters (4 feet) using 5mm Tasmanian Oak dowels. By now I felt the kites were quite impressive in size! The designs in these various sizes were (and still are) available free from this website.
Finally, the time seemed right to come out with ... you guessed it ... 2-Dowel kites with the spans doubled yet again to 2.4 meters (8 feet). This is closer to most people's idea of a 'big' single-liner for personal recreation.
The photo up there shows probably the biggest inflatable kite we have personally seen at a festival. Very appropriately, it is based on the Blue Whale, the largest mammal on the planet.This Large Whale Parafoil on Amazon doesn't have any reviews up there, at this writing. But if it flies at all, this 2 meter long (8 feet) design is surely not bad for the price!
For the rest of this page, I have decided to seek out and share some details on 3 exceptional kites in particular. Each of these is truly large in its own way...
There are 3 of these in existence in 2009, as far as I know. Unless some millionaire somewhere has put another 1 or 2 on order! All these giant kites are identical, apart from the decorative work. All have flown at least once at an international kite festival. The picture on the left is of the Mega-Moon which was made for a Japanese owner. Thanks is due to the people at GombergKites.com for that photo.
Airborne, one of these kites appears much like a giant mattress, sedately floating at a modest height off the ground. The construction concept does not look complex from a distance, with the kite looking similar to a flat parafoil with all the internal cell divisions missing. Instead, the bridle lines go right through and anchor the upper surface to the lower surface. Despite the apparent simplicity, I'm sure it's a different story when you get up close to have a look!
With a surface area of about 900 square meters (10,000 square feet) each, and a sizable gap between the top and bottom surfaces, I would say that these giant kites also take the record for sheer volume as well!
On the topic of figures, here's a few...
All three Mega Kites, the American Mega Flag, Japanese Mega Moon and Kuwait's Al-Farsi Mega Kite have flown at the same time on at least one occasion. Despite the great size, these kites only require modest wind strengths of around 12 kph and up to fly successfully.
Previously, the honor of being 'The World's Longest Kite' probably went to one of the many massive Dragon kites which have been made in China for centuries.
However, since June 2008, another incredible kite has taken out the title.
The Chinese specialize in the centipede style, where a large number of smaller kites are strung together to form a long 'tail'. This Bee kite might just as easily fall into the 'kite train' category though, since from the pictures I saw, the kites are connected with just the one flying line. See how this amazing creation floats away into the distance, in that photo! Thanks to the people at china.org.cn for that picture.
The individual small kites each represent a bee, being a somewhat stylized design with yellow body and 2 green 'wings'.
Anyway, those details aside, this flying creation is immensely long. No less than 3,500 meters! That's 3.5 kilometers (about 2 miles). That's probably further than some people travel in their car to the local shops haha!
Again, some figures...
The construction and flight of this kite were part of the Chinese celebrations at hosting the 2008 Olympics. In fact, the first 26 kites on the line represent the 26 ethnic groups in Yunnan Province, where the successful second flight occurred. The remaining 2,008 kites represent the year of the Games in Beijing.
To me, the most interesting thing about these kites is that the entire huge sail is made from hand-made Japanese paper! For one thing, that would seem to be a pretty delicate material for such a huge kite. Mind you, for it's thickness, this type of paper is supposed to be very strong.
Also, can you imagine the man-hours required to just make enough paper for one of these massive bowed kites! The picture up there was obtained from sagami-oodako.com, with permission. On the topic of 'massive', is it any wonder they weigh as much as they do... See the list of figures further down.
Traditionally, a large kite is flown each year at the Sagami Giant Kite Festival. This event is held on May 4th and 5th in Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.
Do you think that your local kite festival has a fairly long history? It probably pales in comparison to the Sagami festival. This event is a tradition that has been held since the Tenpou period (around 1830!) in the Edo era. I wonder if anyone has added up the total number of square meters of paper used in the sails of these giant kites over those years...
Here's some figures for the largest example, named 'Shindo'...
In 2001, a Shindo set a duration record for these traditional giant kites. The mammoth structure stayed airborne for no less than 6 hours and 7 minutes. That would add up to a lot of tired arms, unless the flying crew changed shifts a few times!
Another impressive view of one of these giant kites...
Photo courtesy of Kazunori Matsuo.