October 16, 2007 14:43 - Kite Flying In Confined Spaces
Now here's something different. Just for fun, and on the spur of the moment, I thought it would be interesting to fly our MBK Skewer Diamond kite out of the back yard. Not an ideal kite flying place at all, since our back yard is tiny!
One choice was to fly along the western side of the house, between the garage and the rose bushes. The other was to try the southern side of the house, hemmed in on four sides by the verandah, clothesline, neighbor's fence and Aren's swing set. Aren is our toddler son. Despite the ridiculously cramped space, it turned out the wind direction suited this spot better. See picture below, showing our roof to the left and clothesline to the right.
The diamond was our patched-up and therefore heavier prototype 1. Better to lose this old one than the nice Number 2 we made recently. Also, with the fresh wind, it's extra weight would not be a problem.
As expected, the little diamond kite would not stay in the air long with the wind gusting and swirling around the house and fences! Aren joined me to observe. I persisted with flying the kite for a while, getting used to the following difficulties...
Despite, or maybe because of these things, I found myself having fun! It was a process of launching, quickly letting out and pulling in line to keep the kite in the air and occasionally sidestepping in a hurry when it threatened to fly over the neighbor's property or hit our own roof!
At one point I managed to let out 7 meters of line, with the little diamond high overhead. It would have been crazy to let out any more, due to the risk of it going down. A typical flight would start with me swinging the kite into the air with an underarm motion. This would get it to chest height. Then, a firm pull would pop it up above head height, timed to catch a gust coming through the yard. As it climbed strongly, I would let out line just fast enough to keep it climbing. From here, anything could happen.
If it started to loop left I would have to sidestep quickly to the right to avoid flying over our roof. It then might correct and climb straight up for a while before suddenly starting to float back down as the gust died. Time to start quickly pulling in line! Another gust might hit, sending it over the neighbor's fence to the right. Time to sidestep quickly to the left to keep it on our side of the fence. And so on, never a dull moment.
The kite did hit our roof a few times, but each time I was able to either fly it straight off the roof, or gently pull it out of the gutter. I was on the ground holding the flying line the whole time. With the sun casting longer shadows, I finally decided to go to the vacant block nearby and fly a lot higher for a change.
Since the breeze was so fresh, it was a good idea to leave the flying line attached and stuff the whole thing in a plastic bag before stowing it in the carrying compartment of the pram. Stuffed carefully mind you. Tail first, in folds, then the kite, then the reel. It felt like packing a parachute. After a short stroll to the vacant block, with Aren in the pram as well, we stopped and I removed the kite. So breezy.
The skewer diamond climbed straight up as I quickly let out line. Too breezy. The kite looped left and ended up on the ground again. A few tries later, the kite eventually got plenty of height so it was often able to correct itself just in time during the stronger gusts. Even so, it hit the grass 2 or 3 times. After one such landing I adjusted the attachment point forward, as you do in stronger flying conditions. Now it flew better, gaining a lot more height. Out went even more line, maybe out to 50 or 60 meters.
With the sun low in the sky the wind died down just enough to let kite soar back and forth at a high angle with no looping at all. The 2 meter looped freezer bag tail started to pick up the rays of the late afternoon sun, so the tail became easier to see than the kite itself.
After enjoying this for a few minutes it was time for tea, so I wound it back in and headed home.
October 22, 2007 14:29 - The Windjam Delta Just Makes It And Our Toddler Flies A Diamond Kite
We were coming home in the car after visiting the toy library for our toddler son, Aren, and we had the Windjam kite bag with us. Looking out the window though, there were 2 potential problems. One, it looked dead calm out there, and there was the possibility of some rain. However, the cloud base was not very low and it looked safe enough to fly.
This was the reserve next to the Primary School in Old Reynella. Parked on the northern edge as we do now at this field, we made our way south, past the kids' play area. My wife May and Aren stopped here for a while. I continued on to launch the delta. By this stage, there had been some movement in the tree tops so it was just a matter of getting the kite high enough.
While pulling out the Windjam delta, I noticed the recently made MBK Kids Diamond kite was also in there. Still attached to our cotton test line after its first flight a few days ago. I dropped the bag onto the grass and moved off upwind, trying to launch the delta.
The wind was strange. Periods of moderate breeze followed by dead calm, and yet it didn't really behave like thermal activity. Maybe this is what meteorologists refer to as 'variable winds'. With rain forecast for the next 3 or 4 days, maybe it was associated with a front moving through. The calm periods were just too long to start with, so I had a couple of rather short flights with the delta kite. No point in giving up though.
I just kept walking backwards upwind, coaxing the kite up and letting out line with every little gust. And sometimes quickly pulling the kite in to keep it in the air. There's always faster air up higher! Eventually the delta got to around half tree height, and from there it all got easier. Soon, there it was, around 100 meters of line out and climbing steadily on its own. Nice feeling. It took me back to my gliding days, where you might end up on the ground a couple of times with 4 minute flights. On the third attempt you might fly through a good thermal soon after launch and work it to 6000 feet and then fly around for a couple of hours.
During all this, May had decided to follow me, picking up the kite bag which I had left on the grass. She had Aren in one hand and was flying the Kid's Diamond kite with the other, as she walked. May prefers to fly on short lines, so the diamond was floating along just a few meters up its cotton line.
A few minutes later while I was looking up at the delta soaring up past a cloudy background, I heard May call to me. She was drawing my attention to Aren flying the small diamond kite on his own. Very cute, of course, he's only 20 months old! Predictably, after a minute or 2, he got bored and tossed the reel onto the grass. Off went the diamond kite slowly dragging the reel, but it was easy to retrieve.
It was interesting to see how well our little homemade diamond kite was coping in the light wind. It might be a better light wind kite than the commercially-made nylon and fiberglass delta kite! Bamboo and freezer bags are so lightweight. With tea time approaching we packed up the diamond and took a few minutes to pull down the delta. A short but enjoyable outing.
October 25, 2007 14:12 - Barn Door Kite Drama - Deadline Approaches!
Yesterday I finished making the latest kite, the MBK Skewer Barn Door. Left it a bit late, with the newsletter due out on Friday! So I had to squeeze in a test flight to make sure it actually flew. Fortunately, there was a bit of wind about. With Aren in the pram, and his Kids Diamond kite packed too, we headed off to the Old Reynella reserve near our place.
The real reason for taking the diamond kite was to have something to fly if there was any trouble with the barn door kite! Well, I wasted no time launching the barn door. Horror of horrors, it barely climbed and insisted on looping slowly into the ground, firstly in one direction and then the other. There was a glimmer of hope at one point when it remained upright for a few seconds during a lull, before keeling over and falling into the arms of it's best friend, the ground. They just didn't want to be separated. :-(
Having enough of that, I pulled out and launched the Kids Diamond. It promptly looped around and sat on the ground too. Mmm. One or 2 tries later, the little kite was well up, but it kept getting hit by gust strengths it couldn't handle. Always looping to the left, and often looping many times before recovering quite close to the ground. I resolved to add some weight to the right tip after we got home, to extend its wind range a little.
Eventually, aided by a few lulls, it clawed its way to 10 or 15 meters up. Perhaps it was still in tree turbulence at that height, since some of the gusts hit like hammer blows. Well, ok, small rubber mallet blows ;-) Now it was getting chilly, which didn't stop Aren from tearing his socks off and tossing them on the ground...
Time to go home and freak out a little about tweaking that barn door kite to make it a good flier. And amend the construction write up, with photos, before Friday morning! Somewhat to my wife's annoyance, I spent much of Wednesday night fiddling with the barn door and attempting to fly it out of the back yard in the cold and dark... This thing's got to fly! Nothing stops that newsletter getting out on time.
October 26, 2007 00:37 - Barn Door Kite Triumph, And Aren Spots Downed Diamond Kite
With some changes made to the MBK Skewer Barn Door kite, and the wind gusting around outside, it was time to test out the adjustments I had made. Like yesterday, I took along the Kids Diamond kite too, just in case! As soon as we arrived in the Old Reynella reserve, I double checked the wind direction with a few bits of grass thrown in the air.
Out came the diamond, and again the weather was really too windy for it. Plenty of looping and re-launching going on, despite the extra weight added to the right hand tip. However, by persisting for a while, it was actually a fun exercise to get better at letting out line just fast enough to keep the kite upright.
Of course, with all 33 meters of line off my little reel, all it took was another strong gust to make the kite loop continuously, all the way to the ground! Also fun was dragging the kite across the grass until the wind caught it, and then some fancy line work to prevent it from looping as it climbed away. I still need some practice at letting out line suddenly in the middle of a loop so the kite stops dead, pointing straight up, before climbing away.
Eventually I decided to give the barn door kite a go, so I hitched the diamond to the brake lever on one of the pram wheels. Aren had fun holding the line from time to time, sometimes even expertly pulling in line hand over hand! The barn door kite actually flew this time, although needing a good puff of wind through the trees and bushes to get it up. Line angle seemed pretty modest, but it might do better after a bit more adjustment and in a smoother breeze. It seemed reasonably stable but it could still do with more tail. Might try the 4 meter one next time! It will be interesting to get it up on a long line in smoother wind.
This design has a lot of sail area near the top of the kite, and the sides near the bottom tend to fold back in flight, reducing their effective area. Hence the attachment point of the flying line is way way forward, compared to say a diamond shape kite.
Seeing that the barn door was flying ok, I walked over to a nearby bush and put a couple of turns of flying line around a small branch and left it there. The cotton test line is probably down to just 12 meters or so now, since I keep pinching lengths to use for bridles and so on! From time to time it sank back to the ground and I would have to re-launch it. One time it actually managed to re-launch itself! For a while I went back and forth, relaunching both kites as required. The diamond because of too much wind higher up, and the barn door due to too little breeze down low. Being close to and downwind of trees and bushes didn't help at all, either.
A couple of times while fiddling with the barn door kite, I heard a loud 'EH!' from Aren. A little finger then pointed in the general direction of his Kids Diamond kite which had just hit the ground. :-) And on that smile-inducing note, I'll sign off for today!
October 29, 2007 21:29 - Barn Door Kite Flies During Severe Weather Alert
The weather was getting wild outside, although there was no rain or lightning. Just a stiff gusty breeze, and a bit chilly. Just for fun, and on the spur of the moment really, I headed outside into the back yard with the MBK Barn Door kite. For extra stability I had attached a triple tail. Three looped tails, each just over 2 meters long.
Within half a minute, the bridle, tail and flying line had hopelessly tangled into each other. This was because of the unpredictable swirls of air coming around the walls of the house. About 15 minutes later, after going inside the verandah and patiently untangling everything, I came outside for some more punishment. :-)
This time I managed to get the little barn door kite in the air, and quickly let some line out. The kite managed the weather surprisingly well, considering some of the gusts must have been over 30 kph! In fact, although I didn't know it at the time, there was a current Severe Weather Alert for Adelaide.
Out of all the rather short flights, the best was when I managed to get most of the cotton line out before the kite hit anything. For a very satisfying few seconds, it flew at about twice the height of our house roof during a slight lull in the gale. At other times, it raced left and right while struggling to right itself. All in all, there were many eventful moments...
Through all this, that little bamboo stick holding the bow in the cross spar stayed put. It didn't budge, despite all the trauma! Amazing.