Kite Phrase - Thermaling Out

by Gary Crenshaw
(Hampton, GA, USA)

I spend some time around some of the 'older than me' guys that still build and fly the free flight model airplanes, you know, the ones from the twenty's and thirty's before control line and radio control was even thought of. Most was rubber band powered and some were hand launch gliders but either one was capable of what they refer to as THERMALING OUT. This means when the model aircraft got caught in a thermal and continued to rise until out of site never to be seen again. Several months of hard work building the model can vanish in a few short minutes when this happens.

I recently wrote a short story entitled Perfect Flight that made reference to a kite that seemed to ride the thermals like a glider. I have been flying kites for many years but have never heard the term used with kite flying. I will even step a little farther out on a limb and descibe exactly what I consider conditions that describe a true kite thermal out. Here goes, when a kite flys directly overhead or close to it and maintains altitude without the assistance of line tension and then turns and faces the opposite direction while flying a big circle overhead.

This is what I call a kite 'Thermaling Out'. Now the main difference between kite fliers and free flight model airplane fliers is kite fliers have strings attatched. In other words, we can thermal out and still take our toys back home. What a deal!

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Circles, Figure 8s
by: Tim Parish

I've had flights where the kite has described a figure eight or 2. Other times it just wanders here and there, unsure of which way is 'up'. Pretty similar to your definition of the 'perfect flight'. It must be pretty puzzling to onlookers!

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Wind Speeds


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

Light breeze
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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