Kite Train Posts

These kite train posts once appeared in the site blog page, although that page is no longer present. Just scroll down and stop at any heading that appeals :-)

Kite train posts - Diamond train in flightCarbon tubes, Tyvek sails, plastic tails


Flying in the Sky With Diamonds

It was going to be titled "Five Tyvek Diamonds" but then a subtle Beatles reference seemed less boring ;-) ...
Last Saturday, with the breeze moving bushes outside and a weather station indicating gentle-gusting-into-moderate wind speeds, I selected five diamonds to fly on a 100-pound line.

Down at the large school oval, the breeze then turned out to be fairly underwhelming. It seemed more like "light wind and thermals" :-| But the diamonds would fly, right down to the middle of the light range, thanks to their light carbon-tube spars.

I have come to avoid flying trains inland, but this location was a lot closer to the seaside than most other fields at which I fly. The hope was that the air up high would be smooth enough to keep the kites behaving!

A large tractor/mower was in operation. However, the progress of the machine was slow as it steadily zigzagged the entire width of the field. I found some shade near the other end of the field and started launching kites. It was decided to do fairly generous spacing—otherwise the first one would never get up!

One by one, the diamonds went out, with the narrow wooden-dowel winder being passed through the center hole of each kite. A loop of line around the nylon fitting at the towing point provided plenty of resistance to slippage. Before long there they were—white, black, white, black, white.

The kites were all about 20 meters (65 feet) apart and flying fairly steadily while trailing Tyvek drogues. Long ribbon tails can be a disaster when flying trains inland! Even down on the beach they have occasionally fouled up if the breeze was too light. The two lowest kites did get into trouble occasionally. Due to rougher air low down, the drogues managed to flip over the flying line. It was an easy matter to walk out (bringing down the line) and flip the drogue back down.

The rest of the time, the five kites were an eye-catching sight, weaving in the bright afternoon sunlight. Under patches of high altitude cloud cover, a passenger jet appeared to pass close to the moon, trailing twin lines of vapor.

With the mower getting ever closer, I started bringing down the kites. The breeze was quite inconsistent, being light for several minutes then freshening considerably for another few minutes before dying off again. So, I had to pick my moments for unhooking the line from the fitting and freeing each kite as it reached ground level. Five kites, each spanning 1 meter (3 feet), add up to a really healthy pull when the breeze is up! And I sometimes fly up to 10 in a train.

It was a nice fly with the whole train going steep now and again, in rising air.

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.

1-Skewer Barn Doors Again

Time was tight, so I didn't make it all the way down to the beach.

The first kite in the train, which caused most of the trouble last time, had been reglued with a lot more dihedral. That was supposed to be "problem solved" but alas, it wasn't so. After a few erratic and rather short flights in the gentle-strength breeze I had had enough.

The next time the train ended up on the grass of the small reserve, I removed the errant kite and destroyed it on the spot :-| Yep, I just scrunched it up, getting a few tiny bamboo splinters in my hand in the process. Then I wrapped the remains in its own tail and stuffed it all in my pocket for later disposal. It's possible that the skewers were a bit thicker and/or heavier than in the other kites. That would explain a lot. Otherwise, it sure didn't look much different from the others.

So, with just two little but well-behaved kites on the line, things went much better.

In no time, I had the pair of 1-Skewer Barn Doors floating around on about 20 meters (60 feet) of 20-pound line. The breeze was gusty and thermally active, so the movement of the kites was quite unpredictable. However, they stayed in the air long enough to get some decent video footage—which was the whole aim of the exercise.

1-Skewer Barn Door Train

You might have noticed that there is no good video footage of the 1-Skewer Barn Door on this site, so.

The three little 29 cm (11 1.2 in.) span kites had been spotted languishing on a shelf out in the shed. The sails were badly UV damaged, all split and falling off. Hence new sails were fitted, in orange, light blue, and dark blue—those being the colors available from the scrap plastic heap :-)

Also, the dihedral joints were reset and glued at a more generous angle. Each kite had a single attachment point, but also a short line out the back ready for the kite-to-kite connection of a train.

Outside, the breeze was ample, gusting well into the moderate range. Down at the reserve, the wind seemed even more extreme. It wasn't long before I pulled out the spare-tails bag and doubled the amount of tail plastic on each kite! Even so, the three small barn-doors gyrated all over the place in an erratic display.

Just to make things even more interesting, there was also a fair amount of thermal activity. This lofted all three kites way up from time to time. This happened even if one of them was upside down and trying to pull the others down :-)

The lowest kite on the line still didn't seem to have enough dihedral and frequently flipped its tail over the line. Several attempts were made at getting some video footage, but it might take a trip to the beach to get some better closeup action in smoother wind. However, one short video did turn out OK, showing the three kites hovering near the ground before climbing away and becoming mere specks in the sky.

So, it was a trip down memory lane seeing the three barn-doors aloft together.

Black and White Animals

With the newsletter deadline approaching, it was decided to pop out with something a little more photogenic than clear-plastic indoor kites.

Unfortunately, cloud cover was pretty solid today so I might have to try again tomorrow. Or the next day, when more sunlight is forecast. But it turned out to be a reasonable series of flights for the Animal Train of three diamonds.

First up was the cow-hide diamond, which is always flown at the top of the stack. Since the patterning is broad, this looks good from a distance. The cow kite has more tail on it too, to help steady the kites from the top. Perhaps the dampness of the grass got onto the sail and tail plastic, since the kite was most reluctant to get away in the light gusty breeze. After a couple of attempts, I got serious and moved out toward the center of the field. Then the kite ended up on 60 meters (200 feet) of line—just to stay up!

The weight of damp 100-pound Dacron wasn't helping. But another two kites were about to go on, which would triple the lifting power.

The zebra-hide diamond was next and I simply passed the winder through the hole in the sail before walking out toward the flying kite. About 10 meters (30 feet) from the end, I secured the zebra kite and went back toward the winder before launching the two kites at once, from their face-down positions on the grass. Above 100 feet, the air smoothed out somewhat and had ample strength to keep plenty of tension in the line.

In a similar way, the third kite—the spotted dalmatian diamond—was added. After waiting for a good gust to come through, it was straightforward to get the three kites climbing. On about 75 meters (250 feet) the black-and-white train flew reliably for the next 20 minutes or so. Eventually, a couple of tails caught the flying line, as the kites swooped around in deep lulls and suddenly started climbing again in the gusts.

By walking toward the kites I managed to get two of them down. However, the cow kite kept flying, anchored by an upside-down kite on the ground! A few minutes later I had them all back in the car and that was that.

Animal Train Trials

It's always a trial, flying kite trains inland ;-)

Anyway, it was decided that the 3-diamond Animal Train was worth a shot since wind speeds appeared ideal. However, on arrival at the field, it was "light winds and thermals"—and I mean light!

So, the first 30 minutes were pretty forgettable. There was much fiddling around with downed kites and tails wrapping the line or getting snagged in thistles. Grr :-( It was the usual low-wind kite-train mayhem :-|

Eventually, a prolonged puff of thermal-induced breeze caught up the three kites. I was able to let out perhaps 60 meters (200 feet) of line.

Although most of the sky was blue, the distant backdrop was amazing; magnificent cumulonimbus clouds were building up over and behind the range of hills on the horizon.

Half a dozen pelicans soared past, downwind and much higher than the kites. The birds were in a line, like one side of the classic V-formation favored by ducks!

The high flight of swaying black-and-white diamond kites was brought to an end when the middle kite wrapped its tail around the line during a lull. In a sorry kite-train cascade, the number one kite and then the number three kite also got into trouble soon after, bringing down the whole line.

After a short period trying to relaunch, I gave up, packed up, and went home. Maybe it'll fare better at the beach next time.

Influential Rain Clouds

The crazy winds and rain of the last three days had duly ceased, as foreseen by the weather forecasters.

Today's flying was prearranged with another local kite-club member, Mark. Such was the strength of some of the gusts around our house in the morning, that I stowed the Multi-Dowel Box in the car. This was just in case the breeze was too much for the five Tyvek-and-carbon diamonds I had also packed. On arrival at the reserve, the gusts were indeed pretty healthy. But it was nothing that the diamonds couldn't cope with, so out they came.

Soon after the diamonds made it to around 200 feet, Mark arrived and started to launch a large yellow parafoil. But the air was tricky. After a promising gust pushed through the trees and boosted the kite up, rough patches would collapse the kite. At one point the kite went charging off to the side, parallel with the ground. Fortunately, the flying line was just short enough to miss my diamond train's line!

Other attempts were made, but the air was just too volatile to keep the big parafoil fully inflated.

Meanwhile, lulls were causing trouble with the train, allowing the drogues to occasionally wrap around the flying line. This would force me to take down the train, fix the situation, and then get the five kites away again. Tedious. I never seem to learn; thermic conditions and kite trains don't mix, no matter how bomb-proof you think you've made it! All the same, drogues are vastly less trouble on a train than conventional tails.

A large dark cloud that was initially overhead headed off downwind. As it departed, wind speeds started to moderate too. By the time the five-kite diamond train had been up for half an hour or so, the average breeze strength was much reduced. As the sky went blue overhead, it became a real exercise in light-wind flying.

By this stage, Mark was having some success with a big fiberglass-and-ripstop delta. Even that kite ended up on the grass several times. In between thermal gusts ruffling the treetops, there was now almost nothing to fly in.

Finally, I decided to call it a day and go home for lunch. At least the train had spent quite a few glorious minutes flying high and stable over the field—a spectacle for all the car drivers passing the field on South Road.

As we packed up, more clouds started to form, filling in the blue areas of sky. And the trees started to wave.

Animal Train Experiment

The day started off windy but was forecast to moderate right down to light winds by the evening.

With thoughts of a new long diamond-train for the next Adelaide Kite Festival, my aim today was to experiment a bit with the attachment method.

The Multi-Fly Diamonds have fittings which allow them to be added and removed from the line in an ad-hoc manner. That is, without passing the winder through the middle. However, in practice, the kites tend to be added and removed in order and perhaps a straight-through approach would still prove practical.

At a nearby school oval someone already had a diamond kite in the air! The breeze was inconsistent low down which thwarted efforts to put up my train (kite by kite) with only a few meters in between. So, I went with "far apart" spacing instead.

Threading the line through the fitting was fiddly at first while other kites were up. But it's the kind of thing that would very quickly get easier with a bit of practice. As well as that, the kites were definitely easier to handle during the attachment process than the originally designed method—even though the winder was now being passed right through the central hole in the kite sail.

The guy with the other kite came round and made a few comments. Apparently he and his very young boy had been inspired by the last Adelaide Kite Festival and had gone out and bought a $5 diamond.

The three-kite Animal Train flew high in the late-afternoon sunshine, weaving and being pushed close to looping once in a while by stiffer gusts aloft.

After taking some video footage and enjoying the show for a few minutes, I started bringing the kites down.

Again, it was a little tricky at first, getting the line out from the slots in the fitting while flying the remaining kites from one hand. But it looks promising. Another try down at the beach in smoother wind should be interesting. And then it might be time to try the technique on the hard-pulling nine-kite train!

Sadly, on leaving the oval, I noticed the $5 diamond dangling forlornly from an enormous tree near the perimeter, high up.

Two Outa Three Ain't Bad

After rain, excessive wind, and general winter dreariness, conditions finally improved near the end of the day.

Down at Knox Park (a large square field in the next suburb), a lone kite flyer was enjoying the antics of his attractive big diamond. The kite, with a long dark tail, was swirling around in moderate wind-speeds up above 300 feet. Nice!

We didn't waste any time getting out my Animal Train—consisting of cow, zebra, and dalmatian diamond kites. All these were suitably painted up in black acrylic over soft white Tyvek. We flew this train at the Adelaide International Kite Festival back in April.

Damp sails and damp 100-pound Dacron line contributed to some difficulties in getting the zebra kite airborne. Eventually, up it went, after launching on a long line from the middle of the field. Above 100 feet there was ample breeze!

Initially a second kite was added a long distance from the zebra. It was taking ages to get the second kite high enough to grab some air, so I ended up grounding it and shifting it a lot closer to the zebra diamond. This had the desired effect and soon both kites were cavorting about the sky, pulling most of the sag out of the line. In fact, the zebra diamond on top was getting a bit too much wind speed and was being forced into loops to the left from time to time.

I didn't bother with a third kite, hence the title of this post!

For a few minutes we just watched, as the setting sun gave an eerie yellow sheen to the Tyvek sails curving around in the fast-moving cold air. All else was darkening; just the kites and a bank of distant cloud were being lit up in slowly fading sunlight.

It wasn't a bad little outing—quite spontaneous, and we just got back in time for tea, headlights gleaming.


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.