December 4, 2007 21:17 - Sode Kite Goes Up Like A Rocket, Passing Kids Impressed!
With only one test flight of the new sode kite, it was time
to see what it could do in a bit more wind. To avoid embarrassment, I
took our trusty original Barn Door kite as well. Just in case the sode
was a flop! Pushing Aren in his pram, we set out for the usual spot, the
Old Reynella reserve.
On arriving, I pulled out the barn door kite first. It took
several tries to launch in the tricky thermic conditions. The breeze was
varying from almost calm to quite fresh, and this little barn door is
not a light wind kite. Eventually, up it went, way above tree height and
into clear air. No problems once it got that high. I immediately had to
shift sideways quite a bit due to the wind direction which had the kite
rather too close to some tall trees.
We soon had the flying line wound several times around a
small tree trunk, which allowed the reel to just lie on the dirt. No
need for any knot, it's a trick we use all the time. Just over 50 meters
of line was out. A few kids wandered through, glancing at the kite
which was hovering at about 35-45 degrees of line angle most of the
Now it was time to try the sode! At first, it just looped
uncontrollably, not gaining any height. Ok, lucky I brought some more
tail, just in case. After adding another 2 meters to the 1 meter already
attached, the little kite eagerly wiggled and weaved upwards, pulling
furiously. I let line out as quickly as I could from the simple wooden
winder, and soon the sode kite was way up there. To keep it separated
from the barn door already in the air, I walked across to the nearby
basketball hoop pole. A half dozen or so winds did the trick, with the
winder lying at the foot of the pole. Almost 50 meters of line was out,
with a few turns left on the winder.
With both kites doing well, it was time to entertain my young son for a while on the play equipment.
The barn door kite was on 3kg (7 pound) fishing line, which
was rather hard to see in the air. The sode was on 9kg (20 pound)
Dacron, which was much easier to see against the sky. During the gusts
there was very little slack in the line.
The sode kite was a delight to watch with its high-angle
flying! In fact, this kite seemed to fly at the best angle of any MBK
kite so far, comparable to or better than the MBK Delta. It had it's own
characteristic snake-like motion, tracing out long ripples in its 3
meter tail. Sometimes the wind strength would get the better of it, and
it would loop in a wide arc, or dive many meters before recovering.
Occasionally the kite would claw its way up to 70-80 degrees in rising
air before settling back down again.
The wind started to die a little, so I pulled the barn door
kite and packed it away under the pram. A few minutes later, the sode
kite came to rest on the grass. After walking over to where the flying
line was anchored, I re-launched it when the next gust came through.
Immediately, it went back up to a high angle. A while later, some kids
rode past on their bikes. One of them looked up at the kite far above
and seemed most impressed! Maybe it was the high angle, but one thing's
for sure - I bet he'd never seen a sode kite before.
I let Aren fly the sode for a while, before pulling it down.
He even managed to pull in 1/2 meter or so by himself, while I wound
line onto the winder. I think this will be great light wind kite,
particularly if I use less glue and fly with a shorter tail when weather
December 15, 2007 21:35 - Barn Door Kite 2 Struggles In Port Vincent Gale
Port Vincent? Yes, we all went on a short holiday to this
small town on the Eastern side of Yorke Peninsula. Three MBK kites made
the trip with us - Diamond No.2, Barn Door No. 2 and the Sode. The day
after we got there, we took the barn door kite with us to a small open
area which led onto a man-made spit into the Gulf. After quite some
trouble untangling the flying line from the tail, we got the kite in the
air. Made a mental note to wrap tails and secure them with a rubber
band as part of the packing-away process in future! The learning never
It turned out to be a fairly miserable affair, with the kite
refusing to stay up for a decent length of time. The wind was fairly
constant, blowing off the sea, but quite strong. The wind strength was
the main problem, forcing the kite to make large loops into the ground.
There was also a bit of rotor turbulence near the ground, since we were
on a little plateau a meter or 2 above the beach sand. This had the
effect of blowing back in the opposite direction to the prevailing wind.
If the kite got too low over a certain area of ground it just got
knocked out of the air.
Just to keep things challenging, the bamboo stick keeping the
bow in the cross spar fell out a few times, forcing us to search for it
in the grass after each hard landing. Eventually, it got lost in the
sand. However, the wind was so strong that, would you believe it, the
cross spar bent enough under air pressure to keep the kite nearly as
stable as it was before! Understandable with a diamond kite, but these
barn door kites are more rigid with their 3-point bridles.
Determined to get some flying time in, I attached the plastic
carry bag to the end of the tail, but it still was not enough. Then I
realized a major difference between the refurbished barn door no. 1 and
this one... Barn door no. 1 had tape reinforcing its leading edges,
preventing stretch and holding the edges straighter. It had worked
wonders on the kite's flying qualities, so why didn't I do the same for
no. 2? It will be done now!
The flying session ended when the slip knot of the bottom
bridle line pulled through. From now on we'll have to knot the end of
the line twice to ensure these slip knots don't pull through, even when
stressed to the max.
December 16, 2007 20:14 - Sode Kite And Pelicans Over Port Vincent Beach
On another day of our Port Vincent holiday, we set up one of
those nifty collapsible shelters on the sand. The breeze was light to
moderate, perfect for the MBK Sode kite with plenty of tail. With part
of the sode's long tail dragging on the sand, it was a little unstable
while trying to launch. Soon, however, it climbed away. Weaving from
side to side as it went. After letting out 20 meters or so, I handed the
winder to May, my wife. 'Ooh' she exclaimed, feeling the slightly
heftier tug of the sode, as compared to all the other MBK kites. This
kite does have more sail area than the others, and in fact is 1 and 3/8
skewer lengths long. It's rectangular 'wing' is a full skewer length
I noticed a football-sized rock not far away, so brought it
over to act as an anchor point for the kite. With the kite's plastic
carry bag wrapped around it, there weren't any sharp edges to damage the
flying line. Taking the winder back from May, I let out the rest of the
50 meters of Dacron line except for the last few loops. With 4 or 5
turns around one end of the rock, the tension was sufficient to leave
the winder on the sand.
This was our first kite flying session from the sand on a
beach. I was a bit surprised to find the breeze so variable, both in
strength and direction. Wasn't beach air supposed to be beautifully
smooth and constant? Actually, the breeze wasn't as gusty as further
inland, in that the wind strength changes were more gradual. A few
times, the little sode kite threatened to sink below tree-top height.
Once, it even drifted straight down fully stalled, before soaring up
again to a high angle when the wind speed picked up. Most surprising of
all were the changes in wind direction. Over a full 90 degrees! This
prompted me to shift the rock around a little to ensure the line didn't
The days were getting warmer, so I guess all the variability
was caused by small thermals popping off the warm sand. However, all the
pelicans that flew past made no attempt to soar, so I wonder. These
birds can just about gain height circling over a hot cup of coffee...
December 21, 2007 14:58 - Delta Stunt Kite Limps Skyward With L-Plate Pilot
Something quite different to report today. The MBK crew try
out their very first delta stunt kite! Yes, my wife, May, bought me a
$10 stunter from a local shop. Nylon sail, fiberglass spars and hefty
braided flying line of unknown type.
My only flying experience anything like this would probably
be flying control-line (U-control) model aircraft in the 1970s! So it
was going to be interesting. We all piled into the car for the short
trip to the reserve near the school, in Old Reynella. Why this reserve,
instead of the usual one? Basically because of all the wide open space.
Stunt kites spend a lot of time at low level, so you don't need those
up-wind trees and bushes messing with the air the kite is trying to fly
We arrived and walked over to the open area, where there seemed to be a bit of breeze blowing. So far, so good.
I laid the kite on its back and assembled it, slipping in the
cross spar and clipping in the stand-offs. I had tied the flying lines
to their rings while still at home.
Walking backwards, I let both reels unwind, using a finger from
each hand as axles! All 50 meters, so I would have a bit of time to
react, when the kite got in the air.
Firstly, with a bit of breeze on my back, I attempted to
ground launch off the grass as I am so fond of doing with single line
kites. This just didn't work, with the stunt kite's nose staying firmly
in the grass. So it was time to recruit the wife ;-) May dutifully held
the kite up, after which I pulled it into the air from out of her hands.
The wind at this time was wavering from almost calm to
somewhere in the 2 Bft range. I'll get around to explaining the Beaufort
Scale on this site at some later stage, but 2 Bft is when the bottom
edge of a flag tends to stay straight out from the pole. On trees, small
branches start to move around.
So what happened... The kite climbed just a little before it
started to rotate to the right. I corrected a few times, but it ended up
on the ground soon after. My fault, since I had no idea just how
responsive the kite would be.
Then followed a few more short flights, where my wife learnt
that throwing the kite into the air just makes things harder for the
pilot! These flights ended with...
- the nose pitching up and down, before settling on the ground
- the kite entering a total stall, then spinning to the ground
- looping into the ground after almost entering a tail slide, and lurching up again
Finally, we had a smooth launch into a decent gust of
wind! This time I tied to hold equal tension on both lines, letting the
kite climb away, straight up. Cautiously, I tried turning each way,
managing to cover some ground to each side of the center line. The
stunter proved difficult to keep in the air when there was hardly any
tension in the lines. Huge movements were required to get any turning
response from the kite.
We had fun for a while, with myself flying and my wife taking
pictures. I was just trying to keep the kite in the air most of the
time. The wind kept dropping, leading to a semi-stalled kite and loss of
control. The control feel changed a lot with wind speed and how far
off-center the kite was, so it was a struggle.
Flying this kite should be a lot easier when the wind is
constantly in the 2 Bft range, or above. Also, it could be that more
expensive stunt kites are easier to control! From what I read they are
definitely more precise through the air. One big factor is the stretch
in the lines. The braided lines of our cheapie behave a bit like rubber
bands with 50 meters let out!
Never-the-less, which is My Best Kite? This delta stunt kite
for now! Although, if I had to pick from the MBK range, it would have to
be the efficient little Sode...
December 24, 2007 16:26 - New Rokkaku Kite - Brief But Satisfying First Flight
Only a few days to go before the newsletter, so I quickly
finished off the MBK Rokkaku kite and associated website pages. Outside,
the weather was blustery with almost 100% cloud cover, but I had faith
in the 4 point bridle on this kite! Actually, it's the first 4 point
bridle of any MBK kite so far. The Barn Door has 3, and all the others
All 3 of us went out, and we parked the pram on the south
side of the Old Reynella reserve. I carefully removed the kite from its
bag, stuffing back the lengths of tail that were there just in case the
kite needed them. But no, the little Rok rose up and quickly
demonstrated that it had plenty of stability of its own. The bow in the
top cross spar was about a finger width, with 2 finger widths on the
bottom cross spar. That's measuring from the tightened string to the
This was very pleasing. Never in my whole life have I made
and flown a flat-style kite with no tail! I justed watched it for a few
moments, amazed. Then I let another 5 or 10 meters of line out, to see
what it would do higher up in smoother air. Unfortunately, this is when
the sail decided to let go on one side, and shift towards the middle.
Out of balance like this, the kite just did tight loops into the ground.
So that was that, since we hadn't brought any tape with us this time.
After spending some time with my wife May and our little boy
Aren on the play equipment, we returned home. You'll be glad to know I
fixed the Rok and updated the construction info accordingly! We'll have a
much better flying session with it next time.
December 26, 2007 20:33 - Rok Dies, Diamond Rocks - Let Me Explain...
Just having a bit of fun there, with the title! In a
nutshell, the new MBK Rok failed again due to sail slippage. It's easily
solved though, and I'll be building another one and posting updates to
the construction notes ASAP. This time, I'll use the same sail-fastening
method that every other MBK kite uses. The only minor downside is that
the little lugs that let you attach and tighten the bow strings on the
cross spars will have to be shifted in towards the center of the kite.
They will poke into the sail somewhat and make adjusting the bow a
little more fiddly. But at least the sail should remain nice and tight!
That's vital for these small kites, it makes so much difference.
And Diamond Rocks? Well, we brought the MBK Diamond number 2
just in case... Such a reliable little kite, it just took to the air
with no problems. Within minute or so it was sitting up there with 50
meters of line let out. It really ermm Rocked. We left it up for 40
minutes or so, attached to the pram handle, while we entertained our
toddler, Aren, on the play equipment. This was down at the Old Reynella
reserve at which we often fly. The kite sat between 40 to 50 degrees in
the air most of the time, which is very respectable for a small diamond.
Once or twice some rising air boosted it to a good 60 degrees or so,
pulling the 20 pound flying line almost straight.
This diamond kite has its own distinctive flight pattern. It
rocks quickly but gently around the axis of its vertical spar. Sorry to
get mathematical on you, but saying 'wiggles its wing tips' could mean
several things... As well as that, it swishes its tail every few seconds
like an angry pet cat. Not so mathematical that time huh? With even
more wind speed, it might dive a long way to the left or right, before
correcting and finding its way back to center.
With just an hour or 2 to sundown, the tail started to glow.
It seemed to just glow rather than shimmer and shake, maybe because it's
had quite a bit of flying and has more twist and stretch in it now.
Hence it just lays out straight in the air, except when the kite moves
It was a bit disappointing about the Rok kite, but never
mind. Watch this space for some more successful flights with the next