Most Rewarding Kite Project

by MBK Flight Reporter: Susan Drey
(Omaha, NE, USA)

as a static display

as a static display

I have to say that this was my most challenging kite project. But more importantly – it was eventually my most rewarding kite project.

My first attempt at flying the Tetrahedral turned to disaster with many crashes and keys locked in the car; which was indirectly related to my frustration. I thought maybe the wind wasn’t right, or that I had mis-located the tow point, so a week later I took it out again. Although this resulted in further spinning, crashes, and diving into the ground - to the point that I thought the kite was going to break apart.

So, I knew that I had to turn to Tim to get some advice and any information that would help for a successful flight. Tim explained to me that a simple 4-cell tetra is right at the bottom edge of viability. Meaning that the mass/weight of the structure is at the high end (heavy), in comparison to the expanse of sail area to support it. He continued explaining that my flight success would be greatly improved by selecting the lightest thinnest skewers for the structure. It will make all the difference, Tim said, and it eventually did.

After analyzing my first kite structure and design, I immediately understood that it was headed for disaster. I had built that kite using the opposite approach of what I now understood.

My intuition had originally told me to use the sturdiest, heaviest skewers, as I thought they would be optimal for a solid and structurally sound kite. Boy oh boy, was that wrong - pretty much assuring doom.

After this realization, I knew that I had only one choice. And that, much to my irritation, was to rebuild the kite using the lightest/thinnest skewers. Thankfully I was able to salvage the sail material which I had so diligently painted with some of my favorite colors. I took it apart so very carefully, trying not to tear the rice paper that I had used for the sails. Then I rebuilt the structure, very carefully selected each skewer by comparatively weighing them in my hands.

Once rebuilt, the kite was amazingly light, and felt half the weight of the first version. I had put so much effort along with emotion into rebuilding this kite that I could hardly bear to test it – I would not be able to deal with another failure.

With great trepidation, I carefully laid it in my car and drove once again to the park. I was ecstatic when my re-made tetra immediately lifted into the air; rising beautifully into the blue sky. I could barely stand the excitement of seeing this kite smoothly sailing above. It soon became one of my favorites. I have flown it many times since my first successful flight with the second rebuilt version. It is beautiful and fun to watch – and best of all everyone is intrigued by it.

I am not sure if my tetra required the substantial tail that I had attached (made in the bow tie style). It ended up twisting, and winding all over itself, although I think the tail did help with stabilization in the lower altitudes. But, the most important factor influencing my tetrahedral's successful flight, was reducing the weight of the kite’s structure as directed by Tim – Thank you!

Comments for Most Rewarding Kite Project

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Nov 01, 2013
by: Tim Parish

A kite story with a happy ending. Just as well after all that work!

For a tetrahedral with many more cells, slightly heavier spars would be ok. They would just allow the kite to stay up in rather stronger winds without failure. But on the marginally stable 4-cell design - definitely the lighter the better!

And a tail is entirely appropriate on a 4-cell kite. Mind you, seeing it fly without the tail would be satisfying. Would require waiting for a near-perfect day when the breeze was just strong enough to cause the kite to climb. That was the case when I took the video of my original :-)

Click here to add your own comments

Return to MBK Flight Reporter Submission.

FREE E-Book!

I'm referring to Simplest Dowel Kites, my popular kite-making download. It's a printable PDF file. Make a diamond, delta or sled. Each kite is capable of flying hundreds of feet up for hours on end.

Could you do me just a small favor though?

Please sign up for my free monthly publication, "Tethered Flying". No other emails will be sent, and your details are safe with me. You need to be at least 16 years old. There's...

  • A huge "photo of the month" (via a link)
  • 3 "tips of the month" (one each for beginners, parents and the more experienced)
  • A "flight report of the month" (selected from my own flying logs)

Back to top of page

Need winders, reels, flying line?

We earn a small commission if you click the following link and buy something. The item does not cost you any more, since we are an "affiliate" of Amazon.

Click here to buy anything you need. Just use the Search box in there if you need different weights or lengths of line, for example.

P.S. Keep an eye out for books by kite author Glenn Davison, a prominent kite person in the USA.

What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    Canard Makes 50 Feet

    Jul 08, 20 09:07 PM

    With so little opportunity to fly, development of the 5.5 meter (17 feet) span Canard has been pretty slow.... For the first time in many days, the sun managed to make an appearance. In fact, there wa…

    Read More

Wind Speeds

Light Air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2

Gentle ...
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3

Moderate ...
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4

Fresh ...
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5

Strong ...
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7

Like/share this site...

Like/share this page...