Need a hand with knowing how to fly a kite? We've seen plenty of struggling kite fliers from time to time! On the beach, at the park, near a kite festival in full swing. Can you relate to this? If so, the information here should be very helpful.
This page is all based on our own flying experiences with single-liners such as Diamonds, Deltas and Rokkakus. Each type has its quirks, but the basics apply to them all. The emphasis is on flat or bowed kites with solid spars, but you should find plenty of info here that applies to Parafoils and Sleds as well.
A note about flying shop-bought kites...
If the weather and location are good, and the kite is a simple, proven design like a Diamond or Delta, there shouldn't be much problem. The manufacturer should have pre-set the bridle to give immediate success in most weather conditions.
These kites are generally quite accurately made. Most have a good wind range, meaning they fly in fairly light right through to fairly fresh wind.
However, be aware that not all those fancy novelty kites are great fliers!
The principles of how to fly a kite aren't any different if it's home-made. However, a whole bunch of things can go wrong if the kite is not made carefully. Also, the smaller the kite, the more accurate you have to be!
Having said that, homemade kites can provide a lot of fun and reward. Heck, most of this website is all about making your own kite!
good conditions, once you have your kite up high, there really isn't
much to it. Just watch it do its thing. Anchor the line somewhere and
keep an eye on things from time to time, while you do something else.
Often, it gets more interesting than just turning up somewhere and holding a string. So, I've written more on the various situations that can arise when kite flying with single liners.
But, supposing there are
problems, for whatever reason. Time to check out the following tips on
how to fly a kite! Maybe someone has fiddled with that bridle
Are you flying a Sled kite? This is just a sail with 2 spars running straight up and down. You can't adjust the towing point on these, so skip this entire section...
Now, a few tips about adjustment of the towing point. This is where the flying line attaches to the kite's bridle. All single line kites, whether shop-bought or home-made, have one or more lines, keels or a combination of these which are attached directly to the kite. However simple or complex, there's just one point where the flying line attaches. In most cases, you can slide or otherwise adjust this point towards the nose or the tail of the kite.
On our MBK kites, a small length of line is attached to the rest of the bridle with a special sliding knot. Adjusting the towing point is as simple as sliding the knot one way or the other. Using a fingernail helps, if the knot is a bit tight.
What if the kite doesn't want to fly at all?
Perhaps there's simply not enough wind for flying a kite. This is likely to be the case if you can't feel the kite pulling on the line. Just wait for better conditions, and go out when there's more wind! Alternatively, you could attempt to re-live your childhood and excitedly scamper across the field, towing the kite up as you go...
Perhaps you can feel the kite pulling, and it moves left or right but just doesn't climb no matter what you do. That is the symptom of a towing point set too far back. Just shift it forward towards the nose of the kite a little, and try again. Keep adjusting by a small amount until the kite willingly climbs into the air. Learning how to fly a kite has a lot to do with understanding the towing point.
What if the kite takes off, but then just wants to loop around and dive into the ground?
Let's assume you're not trying to fly immediately downwind of your house or some other huge obstacle! Looping is usually caused by trying to fly when the wind is too strong for the kite. The first thing to try is to shift the towing point forward a little. This reduces the pressure on the kite and might be enough to keep it in the air.
If you have shifted the towing point several times without any success, it's time to add a tail. Or, if the kite already has a tail, add some more! Keep adding tail until the kite stays in the air, or you run out of tail material. If the kite is still misbehaving, pack up and wait for a less windy day!
However, if you are having some success at this point, you might even be able to shift the towing point back a fraction. This will make the kite fly even higher.
Just one more comment here. If you made it yourself, but the kite just won't fly straight despite perfect weather conditions, there is something else wrong. Go back up to that homemade kites link to find the answers. You might know how to fly a kite, but it mightn't be up to it!
What if the kite takes off and climbs, but then doesn't get very high?
In this case it sounds like there is enough wind, but the towing point has been left too far forward. Perhaps the last time it flew, it was adjusted for very windy weather! No problem, just shift the towing point back towards the tail a bit at a time until you are happy with how the kite is flying. Make small adjustments, or you could end up with the kite not flying at all!
If shifting the towing point doesn't help, then the wind is just not strong enough to carry the kite to its maximum height. The tiny amount of lift it is generating is equal to the weight of the flying line plus the weight of the kite. It's a delicate tug-of-war between the kite and the line. The weight of the line does add up, as you let more and more of it out.
I hope these tips on how to fly a kite prove useful for you!
Most people who have made their own kites have eventually experienced one that refuses to fly properly! If that's you, there are a number of tips on how to make kites fly straight that could come in handy.
Want to know how to fly a kite when the wind is gusty and the kite doesn't stay up long enough for you to let some line out? Let's assume the towing point is about right, since the kite tries to fly some of the time. The best approach here is probably to just let a helper carry the kite some distance away, while you let out the line. Then tell them to hold the kite up and let it fly out of their hand when the next gust comes through. If the helper is a kid then just be prepared for them to hold the thing upside down though! Yes, it's happened more than once to us. Not all kids know how to fly a kite.
Eventually, with some practice, you will be able to get good at hand launches. You dangle the kite from your hand, let the wind catch it and then let line slip through your fingers whenever you feel the kite pulling. If you do it right, the kite quickly gets higher.
Hand launching is a balance. Let line out too slow, and the kite is still low down when the wind dies. Let it out too quick, and the kite loses height, perhaps all the way to the ground! Climbing a kite is a process of letting out line when the tension is strong, and holding on when the tension is light.
A tip: Unless your spool or winder is designed to let out line continuously, it is easier to just pull off a fair amount of line onto the ground before attempting to get the kite flying. It's easy to slip line through your fingers when you don't have to try and unwind it at the same time!
When the tension is very light, you might even have to give the kite a hand by pulling line back in! This can be a lot of fun, when trying to keep a kite up in wind that is barely strong enough to make it fly. I can recall several times when I have brought the kite almost all the way back to my hand before managing to climb it away again up to several hundred feet in the air. When you know how to fly a kite in this way, you'll feel like an expert!
Whenever you need to lay line on the ground, try to move around a bit
so it doesn't pile up in one spot. Knowing how to fly a kite includes
avoiding nasty tangles!
Some, maybe most, people just enjoy the relaxing aspects of flying a single-line kite. Just watching it fly, perhaps enjoying the subtle artistry of color and movement. Maybe even enjoying the feel of controlling an almost-living creature on the end of the line. However, if you would like to get a little more out of your kite, why not try the following ideas. No special equipment is needed! OK, maybe a stopwatch if you want to get more serious...
Of course, with money, extra gear and more experience you can eventually try a range of even cooler things! Like...
That's about it for my somewhat long-winded speil on how to fly a kite.
Talking about being long-winded, here's some more ideas on why you might want to go fly a kite. It's quite a long page!
And just in case you want to know how a kite flies, I've done a piece on that too!
Interested in home-building? If 1 or 2 kite-making projects is never enough, consider the MBK Book Bundle which is the absolute best value I can offer. It's taken me 6 years to put it all together, so it should keep you busy for a while :-)
By the way, if you are in any way involved in teaching others to fly kites, take a look at How To Fly A Kite, by Glenn Davison. This book was prepared for the AKA (American Kite-fliers Association).
Never made a kite?
Child wants one?
Check out the...
MBK Beginner E-course
Are the e-books good?
Find out by trying...
'Simplest Dowel Kites'
(wait for cover page to appear)