I trust there is plenty in here to educate, inform and often entertain!
These short flight reports once appeared as posts in the site blog page, although that page is no longer present on this site. Below, the latest posts come first. Just scroll
down and stop at any heading that appeals :-)
Barge-like Diamond Drifts
... anywhere but UP unfortunately, most of the time.
However, all was not lost. Despite the only wind being the occasional hefty thermal gust, that was enough to get in some large-kite line-working practice. That's putting a positive spin on it, since it would have been a relief to see the thing hang up there for even a couple of minutes without all the constant effort :-|
There were some interesting moments, as the big colorful diamond floated face-down over some trees, maintaining height in some rising air. It's possible that the lift was a combination of thermal lift and weak ridge effect caused by the airflow getting over the trees from ground level.
As is my custom, I attempted to launch on a short line first, regardless of the odds :-) Then, when that didn't work, much more line was laid out for a long-line launch.
This big barge-like diamond kite is quite straightforward to launch off a face-down position on the grass. Ample bow is drawn into the fiberglass horizontal spar which soon catches any breeze, if the kite is even slightly sideways to the wind direction. Pulling on the line also tends to get the kite side-on until a little height is gained and stability takes over.
During launch attempts the kite often made large excursions across the field, responding to thermal wind-shifts.
A few brief shallow climb outs were made during gusts. So at one point a decent amount of line was out—perhaps 60 meters (200 feet) or more.
There was plenty of rapid pulling-in and letting out to take advantage every time a little extra tension was felt in the line.
Short tail-slides were sometime unavoidable and this caused the elaborate tail to hang up on the bow string at one point. In light but sustainable conditions, the kite would probably continue to fly like that. But I brought the kite down, and then the tail dropped free by itself.
A sweaty and finger-callous-building exercise it was.
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.
Club Kite Climbs High
With the newsletter coming out on Thursday, I realized there were no decent photos ready to publish!
So, it was decided to fly a large sparred club kite in today's brilliant sunshine. The colorful craft was an Asian-inspired design with ripstop nylon sail and fiberglass tube spars. The kite is good and strong, yet it's an excellent flier in the gentle wind range.
This afternoon there was thermic air with little wind at ground level. However, up higher there was plenty of gentle-strength breeze, interspersed with patches of rising and sinking air. It took a few attempts to get the big kite away on a 200 pound braided Dacron line. Yes, the line was wound onto the plastic-coated metal garden hose holder from early MBK days!
Below 100 feet it was necessary to wait for a gust. And even higher up, the kite would occasionally start to sink out slowly. During climbs, the kite made a spectacular sight with its five sets of multi-colored streamer tails hanging from the sail and a substantial length of nose-to-tail flat diamonds forming a main tail. The main tail trailed on a Y bridle from two points on the sail's trailing edge.
For a while I just watched the big kite do its thing on 90 meters (300 feet) of line. It wasn't long before a thermal started to form right overhead. Wispy shreds of whiteness quickly thickened into a newborn cloud. The kite rose underneath, straining against the massive bubble of rising air. Eventually, the kite dropped out of the lift region and found its way further downwind, on correspondingly lower line angles.
Why stop at 90 meters I have always said :-) So out went another 30 meters! Again, it wasn't long before the large kite found its way to 80 degrees or more of line angle. And hence, it was right to the limits of local Civil Aviation legality. The altitude limit is 400 feet here in Australia for anything such as kites, drones, and RC models.
On a couple of occasions the kite sank down below 100 feet and required some help to find height again.
Finally, while winding in, the kite curved over into a nose-down attitude while on a slack line. Annoyingly, I ran out of loose line to let the kite recover and it maintained its vertical dive into the soft ground :-| Thud. No damage done, not even to my ego since no one was around ;-)
It wasn't a bad outing, happening as it did in some gorgeous sunshine that has been in short supply lately.
Yesterday was sunny, with gusty and occasionally fresh winds.
The flying session didn't start well, with the Dowel Tetrahedral failing to find nearly enough breeze to stay up. And this was out in the middle of a giant square field. Earlier, I had checked online, where gust strengths were being recorded in the high 30s just a few kilometers away. But over the field, the average breeze strength was just too low, despite the tree tops waving mightily from time to time.
Down at the beach the breeze had become even more disappointing, with my hand-held meter recording the air at just 10 kph gusting to 15 kph. So I traveled all the way back home and picked up the large ripstop and fiberglass Patchwork Diamond, a club kite.
In a field much closer to home, there turned out to be no shortage of wind.
The diamond can launch in 15 kph or so. Due to its fiberglass spars, the kite is quite tolerant of fresh wind as well. Even so, it was an up-and-down affair. On just 30 m (100 ft.), I managed to snap a number of still shots, one of which will feature in the upcoming newsletter.
With the photography out of the way, just over 60 m (200 ft.) of the 200 pound braided Dacron went out and was secured around a sign post. The big kite appeared to struggle somewhat in the gusts, which were strong enough to flex the vertical spar alarmingly at times! For the first time since I've been flying it, the kite encountered brief periods of fast air that were enough to force it into loops. One of these ended with a heavy nose-contact with the ground. No damage was apparent. A dowel kite would not have been so fortunate I think!
Clearly, the towing point was too far aft for the conditions. However, the bowed and perfectly square shape seems to require an unusually forward towing point, compared to most diamond kites. Perhaps the weight of the long fancy multi-part tail was contributing to that. Many small fiberglass spars are included in the tail, which consists of a couple of banners plus several flat diamond shapes connected nose to tail.
Some of the gusts were getting ridiculous, so after the kite was forced to the ground, I decided to quit while ahead :-)
Bali Bird Buoyed
...by big patches of warm rising air. When I left home, the weather station was indicating 11 kph gusting to 17 kph. The same numbers turned up when I returned, except for a slight change in direction.
The loop knot in the bridle line that I had recently failed to untie continued to resist my efforts. And that was despite the use of pinhole specs and a pin. However, the bridle lines were expertly fastened to their little rings with a secure but easy-to-loosen type of knot. So it was a simple matter to loosen the rear bridle line off its ring, shift a couple of centimeters of line through and then retighten. Problem solved!
Out at the field it was clear that getting a high flight might not be easy. Every minute or two, trees would start to ruffle nearby, indicating a possible window to launch. However, the puffs of breeze were very localized, and many launch attempts were made into very little breeze. All the gyrations of the Bali Eagle must have looked like something you would see at an indoor kite festival! At various times the yellow bird was sitting back, being pulled in, being let out, or just gliding around. Oh well, it was skill building I guess.
A very small bird briefly joined in the fun, flitting around the kite at close quarters.
I noticed that the bamboo slivers would usually slip a little out of position if the kite ever landed. Hence more attention was paid to keeping the kite off the ground. Glide and catch! Or after a pull-in, I would just let it hang, clear of the ground until the next launch attempt.
Every few cycles, the gusts would be much stronger and long lasting, and the colorful Bali kite would readily pull out line to 60 m (200 ft.) and beyond. So a couple of half-decent high flights were achieved after all, in these monster thermals. The 20 pound line would pull nearly flat with the sail and swallow tail fluttering.
I think this kite will draw attention from the public on club kite-fly days due to its realism. But it certainly won't for its size or flying performance.
Bali Kite Capers
Winds were in the gentle range, down at the coastal weather station on Saturday afternoon. While giving some thought as to what to fly, my eye fell on the Bali eagle kite hanging on the wall.
At the expansive Knox Park there were two of us not-so-young kite flyers. Trev had his recently acquired bat kite ready to go. This was a fiberglass rod and ripstop job with a double keel of triangular section. Essentially, there was a bit of box kite there. While the bat soared, the bird from Bali didn't fare so well in the gusty thermic conditions. The wind speed was switching from not enough to too much. The latter condition would keep the bird kite very low, trailing edges flapping furiously. Often, the kite would be too low to recover when the breeze suddenly died again.
To cut a long story short, the breeze eventually swung towards the south and became smoother. The wind speed remained adequate; in fact it increased somewhat.
In the meantime, I had shortened the rear bridle leg on the bird kite a little too far. This made the kite bog down very readily when wind speed crept up a bit. Infuriatingly, I couldn't unpick the loop knot that had been put in to shorten the line. So I resorted to a drastic solution; I crossed the two upper bridle legs around the neck of the eagle, thus moving the towing point forward! The kite flew fine like this. In fact, the yellow Bali Eagle went on to fly around at a 30 to 35 degree angle on 120 m (400 ft.) of 20 pound Dacron line. Just 35 degrees? That's about the best this type of kite seems capable of, it seems! Never mind, it looked good, wings fluttering in higher wind speeds and going steady in lower wind speeds.
A Murray magpie darted around the hovering kite, passing within meters. The small black and white bird returned several times out of sheer curiosity, it would seem.
As the sun lowered in the sky, it began to back light the painted rip-stop sail, bringing out the rich yellow background color.
All too soon it was time to leave, and I slowly brought the kite down as Trev snapped off a few photos. Meanwhile, Trev's kite had been lying on the ground. A puff of breeze caught the black material which caused the kite to briefly take off by itself. The Bat then flew inverted for half a minute or so before coming to rest again! Curious.
Now to have another go at that wretched loop knot.
More Blister Than Bluster
Well, some possible thundery weather was on the way, so I had gone to the field somewhat earlier than usual on a Saturday.
Winds were supposedly in the gentle range and occasionally into moderate. This would have been perfect for the big club kite, a ripstop diamond that doesn't mind a bit of wind speed. However, on arrival at the field, it was more like a light-wind-and-thermals kind of day.
Periods of very light wind were interspersed with mild thermal gusts that barely tickled the tree tops. It was hard going just to get the kite off the ground, let alone to stay up!
Glancing skywards, it was clear that much more breeze was passing by overhead. Small patches of cumulus told the story as they steadily drifted by.
It didn't take long for me to get right out to the middle of the gigantic square field. This entailed pulling off more than 90 m (300 ft.) of 200 pound Dacron from the old hose reel. Even so, many attempts to launch the big patchwork diamond failed to produce more than half a minute or so of air time.
Fortunately, slowly but surely, the average wind speed was building. Gusts lasted longer and longer and peaked at higher speeds. Then foliage, near and further away, began to rustle which is always a good sign :-)
Finally, the kite was generating good solid tension while hovering near the far side of the field. A minute later and there it was, curving around from side to side in moderate airflow.
The kite was up around 200 feet off the grass, with the long banner tail making some noise from time to time. With the line tied off to a tree, I took a well-earned break and nursed the blister on my right index finger. Of all the fingers, that one's on the front line when it comes to hauling up big kites! Yes I know, wearing a glove would have been a great idea :-| Not much later, perhaps 20 minutes, I noticed a solid line of rather tall and puffy clouds in the distance—upwind and closing steadily! No doubt it was that forecast 'possible thunderstorm', so I brought down the kite and packed up.
So, it was a bit of hard work in the warmth today but the effort resulted in a reasonable flight in the end. Others enjoyed it too, as they drove in and parked for a closer look.
Patchwork Diamond Drifts
At last, after a run of unflyable days, the weather seemed ideal for putting something up.
Why not put up the big Patchwork Diamond, as I have dubbed it now. This club kite is a bit of a barge, with its fiberglass tubes and metal fittings. The wind today was mainly in the gentle range, gusting just into moderate. The wind meter registered 12 kph with a gust to 20 soon after I arrived at the field.
Some time was spent hauling the big diamond up in every gust that came through. Being from the east, which is overland here, there was nothing smooth about the conditions. But eventually the kite settled down for a while, on 75 m (250 ft.) of 200 pound Dacron.
In the strongest gusts, there was just a hint of the left-turn tendency which had been noticed in the previous outing. I had come prepared though.
With the kite back on the grass, I tied on a small cylinder of rolled-up plastic to one of the short lines that hung from each side tip of the kite. Exactly what these lines were originally used for is a bit of a mystery, since the horizontal spar has its own bow line. Perhaps small spinners, tails, or other decoration hung off the lines at one time.
The Patchwork Diamond does not seem to be a particularly efficient kite since it rarely makes 45 degrees of line angle. And that's over quite a range of wind speeds. But I might try adjusting the towing point even further forward to reduce drag. Since its last outing, the three bridle lines had been lengthened as planned, and this did seem to reduce the flexing of the vertical spar.
The rolled up plastic hanging from one tip had the desired effect. It kept the kite straighter in gusts, not to mention producing an extra few degrees of line angle. I think it looks less distracting than an entire tail hanging off just one side of the kite.
Big Diamond Lumbers Aloft
Recently the club acquired some kites from interstate, including a large diamond and an equally large Asian-inspired design.
On its last outing, the diamond proved to be a very mediocre light-wind performer. However, today the breeze was solidly in the moderate range most of the time.
The kite had a patchwork sail of ripstop nylon and tubular fiberglass spars. Paired to the big square-shaped diamond was a tail of small diamonds joined end to end. Each tail diamond had a light fiberglass rod running horizontally from side tip to side tip.
In no time, the kite was up and pulling strongly. On about 60 m (200 ft.) of line, I flew for a while to just observe. For such a large kite, the line angle seemed quite poor, so I brought it down and shifted the towing point forward a little to relieve the pressure. The kite was certainly pulling hard. On the spring scales, the tension popped up to seven or eight kilograms during a gust.
The kite also had a slight lean to the left under pressure. In fact it completed a tight loop to the left at one point! With the kite back on the grass once again, I flipped the horizontal spar around in case it flew better that way. Sometimes small imbalances in frame and sail can cancel each other out. But not in this case. The kite continued to lean left, so the spar must have been very symmetrical in stiffness and weight.
To keep the kite more upright, I added in a second length of banner-style tail, leaving the flat diamonds trailing on the end. With the extra stability it was decided to let out more line. In the end, there was over 90 m (300 ft.) of 200 pound Dacron buzzing away in the moderate breeze.
With the vertical spar flexing quite noticeably at times in the strongest gusts, this kite might prefer somewhat longer bridle lines than how they were set today. The flexing was back and forth like a floppy delta, not side to side as when a kite fishtails.
Tune in for big diamond kite tuneups later on.
Polka Dot Diamond Drifts
A friend had requested that the traditional bow-ties tail on his diamond be switched over to a less troublesome drogue.
So yesterday, with a gusty light breeze outside and bonus winter sunshine, it seemed prudent to get the diamond up for a test fly. And that before the weather closed in as forecast.
Down at the reserve, the kite was easily launched and flew briefly on 30 m (100 ft.) of 50 pound Dacron line. 'Briefly' because the air was quite active despite the time of year. Clearly, it would take more than a short length of line to ensure the kite stayed up, despite its excellent wind range.
The air certainly wasn't smooth. To my surprise, the drogue line managed to snare in the towing-point fitting. As sometimes happens when flying a supposedly reliable tailed design, I looked up just in time to see trouble... The kite was about to touch down in an unstable configuration! On more line and hence in smoother air it would be unlikely to happen again. And so it turned out.
Moving to a better location on the field, I soon had over 60 m (200 ft.) of line out and the diamond was doing well. It was quite a sight against the blue sky and high-level clouds. Large shifts in wind direction were nudging the kite left and right. Also, sudden decreases and increases in wind speed were causing just as sudden ups and downs in the brightly dotted diamond's flight path.
After taking a few videos, and soaking up a little more sunshine, it was time to bring the Tyvek-sailed diamond down. Below 50 feet off the grass, the tension eased up and it became much easier to loop the Dacron line onto the winder.
It was test flight complete, with video proof of a coping kite in the rough air!
Drogues are a Real Drag
Literally ;-) For those unfamiliar, a drogue is a windsock-like device that can be used as a stabilizer for kites—like a long tail commonly does.
It's kite festival time again, here in Adelaide, South Australia. Once again I hope to put up a moderately long train of diamonds. From previous experience, long plastic tails tend to get wrapped around the flying line. This is particularly a problem when the wind speed drops off, and the train assumes a shallow angle.
Over the last few years, attempts have been made to minimize the tail-tangling problem. This year a swap to drogues will be tried. In theory, there should be almost no contact between drogue and line. Maybe the occasional bump and slide. This is because the drogue plus bridle lines combination is relatively short compared to the amount of tail that used to be required.
So today was a tryout with three different sized plastic drogues that were whipped up just yesterday. Out at the field, the breeze was only gusting to around 20 kph. But even so, it would provide a fair indication of how effective the drogues would be. For speed and simplicity, this was done on just one kite.
The first drogue tied on was the middle size which had a 120 cm circumference at the front and was 50 cm long. Do you think that's rather big for a 1 m (3 ft.) tall diamond? Well, this particular kite always needed plenty of tail, being much like a fighter kite in outline. Somewhat to my surprise, the drogue seemed quite a bit too big. The kite tended to pitch down when the drogue caught a bit of extra pressure. Also, the kite struggled to climb far in the light breeze.
Changing to the smallest drogue of the three, I tried again. This time the kite did better, but still seemed to lack its usual climbing ability. And then came an idea... Fishing around in my kite gear bag, I soon found an older drogue that was even smaller than the one currently on the kite.
Soon the diamond was away. Up and up it went, the old drogue looking very fine in proportion. As well, it provided completely adequate stability. Great! That'll do. The largest recently-made drogue didn't even get considered.
Now to create a template to make up eight or so new drogues. Plus I'll make another template with dimensions 20% smaller, which should be sufficient in light winds.
Hopefully, wasted time at the festival will be minimized and hence flying time maximized. There won't be any wrap-around messes this time!
Paper Barn Door Lifts Off
The Paper Barn Door has been sitting half completed for many days, while the diamond saga unfolded. But yesterday the barn door took to the air.
The traditional frame is quite tricky to do in paper. Hence the first experiment has been with the diagonal spars separated into unconnected upper and lower portions. A four-leg bridle prevents the kite folding up. The idea seemed to work quite well in flight.
The little barn door managed to spend a few seconds at a time in the
air, but was hampered by limited stability. This was despite having plenty of
tail. However, from experience with the tiny 1-Skewer Barn Door years ago,
I'd say it just needs more dihedral.
For a first prototype using
an unproven construction idea, it was satisfying to see the few short
climbs to 20 degrees or so of line angle. Spinning set in each time, but it's a
So, the horizontal spar will be replaced by a copy of the
very successful diamond kite spar. Except it will have a little less width and
somewhat more dihedral angle built in. I'll probably swap out the
current odd-looking tapered tail to a simple corner-to-corner wide
ribbon tail. This looped tail concept has always worked nicely on the 1-Skewer
and 2-Skewer Barn Door kites.
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.