Our Kite Duration Record

When, Where, What, and How

This kite duration record page has a similar format to our kite-flying log. The comments are like other flight reports on this site..

Date: Mon 1 Oct 2007
Location: Old Reynella (reserve next to school)
Weather: very light breeze, thermals, blue sky
Kite: Windjam kite
Duration: 50 minutes, +/- 2 minutes

Comments: It was a public holiday, so after a few hours work on this website in the morning, we headed off to our latest favorite kite flying park. Hearing just a bit of a rustle in the bushes around the house was enough, since most of our kites are good in light breezes.

There seemed to be thermals popping everywhere, judging by the gusts disturbing the highest treetops in cycles. This was perfect for the Windjam delta! Well, it took quite a few attempts before a good gust got it to treetop height. Once there, it climbed strongly in the light but steadier breeze higher up. May started the stopwatch on her mobile phone, since this was a perfect opportunity to break our kite-duration record!

The delta went straight up to around 300 feet or so. It has a distinctly different feel to my skewer kites, due to the flexibility of its fiberglass spars. They are free-floating too, not being solidly attached to the nose. If you give it a good pull, it absorbs the tension for a second or so before accelerating upwards.

After a while, I got a bit bored with a mere 300 feet, so out went some more line. We don't have measurement tags on this line yet, so we don't know for sure how high the kite was. So there was no setting a height record on this occasion. However, with roughly half the line out, I think the Windjam delta was pushing close to the erm ... legal limit of 400 feet above ground. Yes, it's got to that. To set altitude records from now on is going to require some arrangements with CASA, the air-safety authority. On that point, we did notice three aircraft which flew overhead or close by. Two light aircraft and one jet, all under 3000 feet by my estimation!

After 25 minutes elapsed time since we started the stopwatch, it was time to start reeling in. The idea was, we would take ages to get the kite down, and the duration record would be broken by the time we did this. With Aren strapped into his pram, I pulled in the 8 kg (18  lb.) monofilament line hand over hand while May wound it onto the reel. Doing things like this has two advantages. It's fairly fast, and the line gets wound onto the reel with low tension. Remember the last time I reeled the Windjam delta in by myself and it crushed the plastic reel?

It turned out we were winding in too fast. In order to set our duration record, we needed to pause for a while. May had some fun flying the kite at around 200 feet or so. After that, we just wound the line around the pram handle a few times with the reel sitting in the plastic tray. It held fine. This reminded me of a mathematical formula I once came across. In a nutshell, the frictional resistance of a line or rope wound around a cylinder increases extremely rapidly with the number of winds. So just a few loops will hold something, like a kite, quite firmly. Anyway, enough of the applied mathematics ;-)

We eventually starting winding in again, this time with May pulling down the kite and me winding the line onto the reel. Aren "helped" May with the pull-down from time to time :-) As the kite got down to about twice treetop height, we began to hear the fluttering of the tails. Down below treetop height, there was very little air movement, so it bobbed and glided around until it gently settled on the grass about 15 meters away. That was 50 minutes of air time—a new duration record!

On this site, there's more kite-making info than you can poke a stick at :-)  Want to know the most convenient way of using it all?

The Big MBK E-book Bundle is a collection of downloads—printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for many kites large and small.

Every kite in every MBK series.

Date: Fri 17 Aug 2007
Location: Old Reynella (vacant block)
Weather: Cold, light to moderate breeze, variable
Kite: MBK Skewer Sled prototype 1
Duration: 38 minutes, +/- 1 minute

Comments: It was getting a bit late, but there was some breeze, so I decided to quickly repair the sled kite and head off. I went past the reserve, but it looked risky with kids playing and kicking a football, so I headed back up the hill to the vacant block. Pretty soon I had the kite out and hooked onto the fishing line. There were no problems launching with the fresh breeze. It was a bit too fresh, as I discovered a tendency for the kite to hang left. Sure enough, each gust would send it looping left and losing height.

After bringing the kite in, I tied a couple of extra knots into the right-hand bridle line, with the free end of cotton from the knot. This little trick shortens the line just a fraction. Sure enough, the kite took off straight as a die on the next launch. Actually, there was still a small tendency to hang left with the stronger gusts, but it was very much better than before. With the take-off time noted, this was a real chance to break our duration record!

Soon, 50 meters (160 feet) of line was out. I had to stand in just the right spot to avoid any danger of a tree landing. This vacant block is quite a small spot to fly a kite! A few people walked past and didn't seem to notice the kite. The light nylon line must be nearly invisible from a distance—not to mention the kite itself, if you happen to be right under it!

Gentle thermal activity was still around, as I discovered when the little sled soared up to a 55 or 60-degree angle from the horizontal. It can't make that angle in a steady breeze. Earlier in the day, five pelicans in a V-formation soared over our house and then on into the distance, without a lot of flapping! Great soaring birds they are.

A lightweight swivel would be handy to have on the line. The monofilament line is always very twisted from being wound onto the reel, and this has the effect of twisting up the sled's bridle lines in flight. This effectively shortens the bridle, so the side flaps tend to collapse inward occasionally! It's only a minor problem.

I saw a bird flying quickly toward us at about 10 meters (33 feet) up. It only spotted the line when about 5 meters away from it, hastily changing course to avoid a collision!

With the sun setting, the freezer-bag plastic actually started to glisten. Particularly the tails, as they made a silvery glittery dance in the dying evening breeze. Ahem, excuse me while I wax lyrical ;-)

Getting more down-to-earth now, I put Aren's socks on for the sixth time, as he insisted on pulling them off in the cold evening air! Also, my duration attempt was in danger of being cut short as I struggled to keep the little fellow entertained while the kite moved around in the wind shifts and gusts.

Toward the end of the flight, the breeze smoothed out then finally died altogether. While winding the line onto the reel as quickly as I could, the kite touched down when it was still 10 or 15 meters (50 feet) out.

Date: Wed 23 May 2007
Location: Old Reynella (reserve)
Weather: Moderate breeze, gusty, sunny patches
Kite(s): Modified Baby Sled
Duration: 18 minutes, +/- 30 seconds

Comments: The weather was windy due to a cold front on its way through. Windy periods cycled every few minutes but on average was enough to keep the kite in the air for many minutes at a time. Despite being several tree-lengths downwind of the nearest trees, the northwesterly air was rough as guts. Despite the long central tail, the modified sled looped a few times and even decided to do a couple of beautifully accurate vertical dives to within a meter of the ground! That's not what you want when setting a duration record. Dead spots sometimes caused the kite to fold and basically fall out of the sky. Mixed in with all this mayhem was a bit of thermic activity. The kite sometimes zoomed skyward with light pull, at other times staying low while straining hard in a really stiff but downward-drifting gust. In order to keep it in the air, I was continually letting out line when there was tension and bringing it in hand-over-hand when it went slack. That's a bit like fishing for marlin I believe. I had a few more tries after the record flight. I let it land and reeled it in when Aren's squeals signalled his tiredness with the whole affair.

Date: Sat 24 Mar 2007
Location: Semaphore Beach (adjacent reserve)
Weather: Cloudy, strong breeze
Kite(s): Baby Sled
Duration: roughly half a minute

Comments: This is just an excuse to get this page started, basically :-) This was when we had just bought the Baby Sled and my wife flew it in the park on our way back to the car. The breeze was so strong, the little sled flew in circles most of the time. Occasionally it would straighten just long enough to get up to a 30-degree angle or so on its short cotton line. We will break this record the next time we go out.


The story or stories above document actual flying experiences. My write-ups are definitely "warts and all" since things don't always go totally as planned. However, half the fun of kiting is anticipating the perfect flight. When it happens, it's magic!


As mentioned earlier, there's more kite-making info here than you can poke a stick at :-)

Want to know the most convenient way of using it all?

The Big MBK E-book Bundle is a collection of downloads—printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for many kites large and small.

Every kite in every MBK series.