Oh yes! All sorts of unexpected things can happen when you're kite
flying with a single liner. Have a browse down this page, and see if you
can relate to any of the situations described.
If you are flying for the first time, here's a chance to be more prepared than most people. I usually manage to go out flying several times a week, occasionally with other members of my family. Or the local kite club.
The best performers are our biggest kites, which are from
the MBK Dowel Series. And more recently, the 2-Dowel Series like the huge Sled down there in the photo.
How To instructions for all these can be found in the various e-books on this site. Or you can just get the whole lot at once...
The Big MBK Book Bundle is a collection of PDF downloads which contain printable step-by-step instructions. For practically every kite I have ever designed!
Anyone can make the MBK designs, and
they are super-cheap! My best kite is usually the last one I have made,
OK, here's a whole list of kite flying issues. We hope you find some help in there...
Avoiding Trees And Other Obstacles
This might seem a strange topic at first, since you can't steer
most single-line kites. However, it happens all the time - kites get
caught in trees! Not everyone has easy access to wide open spaces which
are perfect for kite flying.
Instead, many of us spend a lot of time in rather small parks
since that's more convenient. The first thing I do when walking into a
park or reserve is to test the wind direction and head for the area
which will give the kite the most room.
You don't need a weather-vane. Just toss up some dry leaves or a
few blades of grass to get a rough idea of the wind direction. Once the
kite is up, it will tell you exactly where the wind is coming
from. You might find you have to move again, to give the kite the most
Despite having enough room in the general wind direction, you
might find your kite flying far over to the left or right. Here's a few
reasons, from most likely to least likely:
- a thermal is passing through
- the wind strength has crept up and the kite has become less stable
- the general wind direction has changed
- something has failed on the kite
So, if the kite is heading over some trees with not a lot of height to spare, you need to act quickly!
You can't assume that the kite will be fine and eventually return to
center. It probably will, but then I've been caught out more than once!
It's best to scoot across in the opposite direction, encouraging the
kite to center itself and fly away from danger.
Another situation is where the kite is heading over some
obstacles, but it is quite high. Even if it looped continuously, you
might still have a quarter or half a minute before the line snags the
obstacles below. In this case, it pays to just keep an eye on things. If
anything starts to go wrong, you have time to wind in line so the kite
ends up upwind of those kite-eaters below!
For example, if the wind dies suddenly, it's easy. Just reel in
line to keep the kite in the air and also to keep it away from the
obstacles. If the wind picks up and the kite starts to loop, it's
trickier. Winding in will make the looping worse, but you have no
choice. Just get the thing out of trouble! Often, the situation improves
as the kite gets lower, since the wind is usually slower near the
ground. If you are brave, you can actually stop winding in for just a
moment to see if the kite responds and climbs again.
Last Second Saves, Low-Speed Impacts
Sounds dramatic hey? This kite flying situation usually occurs when
the wind is really a bit too strong. Most of the time it's OK, but then a
stronger gust comes along... There goes the kite, looping and diving.
Oops, now it's heading directly for the ground, and fast! Don't panic. One of 3 things can happen, if you know what to do. The kite will either...
- recover by itself, in the slower air near the ground, or
- recover with a little help from the flier, or
- hit the ground softly, with no damage done - with a little help from the flier!
Those last 2 points involve the flier, that's you, thrusting
the reel or winder at the kite. You don't have time to let line out, you
just shove the reel or winder at the kite, without letting go.
You can take a step or 2 towards the kite too, which will make this
action even more effective. The idea is to suddenly take all the tension out of the flying line. Kites just flutter and float if left to themselves for just half a second or so.
Bringing Down A Kite Quickly
A huge sled can be a handful
A huge sled can be a handful
This is sometimes necessary when weather conditions are not good, but
you decide to go kite flying anyway. However, with the first few spots
of rain, there are no excuses. The kite has to come down quick, or you
are in danger of operating a very long lightning rod! In these
circumstances, just throw the kite reel on the ground and take in line
hand over hand as fast as you can.
Alternatively, if the kite is large and pulling strongly, it
might make more sense to just walk quickly downwind. Bring down the line
as you go, hand over hand, with the reel on the ground behind you. More likely, the line will have been secured to an anchor point, like a railing or sand bag.
The sled in the photo is such a kite! I have occasionally referred to it as 'The Horse'... Because it pulls like one :-o
the kite is on the ground, you can take your time winding all the line
back onto the reel. Of course weather isn't the only possible reason for
needing to take action. Maybe the sun is about to go down and the
mosquitoes are starting to bite with a vengeance!
Kite Flying Well Above Tree Height
Always a good idea when kite flying in a park, provided the line is not actually near
any trees. This goes for other obstacles as well, such as houses and
other buildings. The air is much smoother up there, and your kite will
behave much more predictably. About the only spot where this doesn't
apply is on a wide smooth beach with the sea breeze coming in off the
Towing Up To Find Faster Air
Just another 2KPH...
Just another 2KPH...
Want to know a little kite flying trick that occasionally comes in
handy in very light conditions?
This is worth trying if the breeze won't
quite support the kite at ground level. You've tried time and
time again to get the thing in the air, but it keeps on sadly sinking
back to earth after a promising hover or 2. All you need is just one
more knot or so of wind speed!
Because air gets slowed down near the ground, chances are that
you will find that tiny extra bit of wind up higher. Let out plenty of
line, at least 50 meters (150 feet) and drag the kite into the air. Pull
in line just fast enough to keep it climbing until it reaches a good
If you have room, you could jog along instead, towing the
kite on a fixed length of line. You might be surprised to find that the
kite has no trouble staying up now!
Oh yeah, make use of that rising air! Single line kites often get
caught up in thermals, which float them up to very high line angles for a
short while. However, it's fun to recognize what's happening and make
more use of it. Some kite pilots have the opportunity to fly very high
in places where air traffic regulations aren't as strict as they are
here in Australia. Large Delta kites are commonly used to explore
Even limited to 100 meters (330 feet) above ground, as I am, it's always a
pleasure to occasionally bump into a thermal while kite flying. It's a
buzz to let the string slip through my fingers just fast enough to climb
the kite almost vertically until there is no more line to let out!
There are some kite pilots who actively search the sky for thermals by
maneuvering their kite. Single-liners aren't directly steerable, but
there are some ways of helping them drift this way or that.
Pulling a bit of extra tension into the line will help a Delta
accelerate in the direction it happens to be pointing, for example.
It might seem a slightly boring thing to consider, but it's
definitely a part of kite flying with single liners! Sort of like
leaving the kite on auto-pilot. I'll share a little trick of the trade
with you. It's almost never necessary to actually tie a knot when
anchoring a kite. All you have to do is find a roughly cylindrical
object, for example a small tree branch, a pram handle or a railing of
some sort. Then, put at least 5 wraps of line around the object and you
should find there is no tendency to slip!
Just leave the reel or winder on the ground. Friction is the key,
and the kite can pull as much as it likes, for as long as it likes. If
you happen to find a pole that is very slippery, another 2 or 3 wraps
will do the trick.
It's hard to find cylindrical objects on a beach of course,
unless you happen to dig something up. A weighty rock can be handy if
you can find one nearby. You can put a few turns of line around it, to
hold the kite. Another approach is to bring along a stake, which can be
hammered into the sand, before you wrap the line around it. Actually,
using a stake is sometimes the only option when you are kite flying in a large open area.
Another handy idea when kite flying at the beach is the sand anchor.
This is just a bag or bags which can be filled with sand after you
arrive. No winding here, you just lodge the reel under a bag that is
heavy enough to do the job. A great option, since the bags weigh
practically nothing and are easy to transport in your pocket or
carry-bag, depending on how big they need to be.
The kites in the photo below were anchored to a pier, while others were tied to vehicles parked on the sand.
The kite that drops lollies (candy) for the kids, at the annual festival
Winding In Without Tension
A must unless the kite is hardly pulling at all due to weather
or the size of the kite. To be convenient, this requires 2 people. One
to pull down the kite, and the other to wind on line off the ground.
This way, the line goes onto the reel with very little tension, and the
reel will live to fly another day! Don't try struggling to bring down a
hard-pulling kite while winding onto a plastic reel loop by loop. The
reel might be totally crushed by the experience! ;-) I once got caught out this way, while kite flying with just an average sized Delta. Despite trying to wind on with reduced tension. Even a small amount adds up with each loop.
If a second person is not available, it's still do-able but not
quite so convenient. You have to lay out line as you pull down the kite.
Not in one great heap, since that is a recipe for an enormous tangle!
Just lay it out in a regular pattern. Alternatively, just walk out
towards the kite, pulling it down as you go. After the kite is down,
walk back to the reel and wind on all the line as you approach the kite a
second time. Hey, it's good exercise! The older you get, the more you need it I'm finding...
Hope you found some useful kite flying tips in there somewhere! As they say, Good Winds...
And do check out The Big MBK Book Bundle. It'll keep you busy building and flying for years to come!