Soft Kite Posts - Parasail

It's an archive of sorts, although there are no dates and times. Kite flying is timeless, don't you agree? I trust there is plenty in here to educate, inform and often entertain!

These soft kite posts once appeared in the site blog page - that's the one you enter via the 'what's new!' site navigation link. Just scroll down and stop at any heading that appeals :-)

Have a look at Making The MBK Parasail Kite if you would like to make and fly one yourself, from e-book instructions. The e-book is a PDF file download, from which it's easy to get print-outs. 

MBK Parasail Kite

Latest Parasail - Higher Flyer

On arrival at one of my favorite flying fields, the grass was very wet but otherwise all looked good. Gusts were coming through, blowing into the 20's in kph. Ideal for the Parasail!

The MBK Parasail

Just like the first prototype, the current kite tended to rotate to the left under pressure. Hence, as before, I closed off part of the upper side vent on the right. After a short flight, this was clearly not enough, so I ended up partially closing both the other right-hand side vents as well. This worked for a while, but the kite seemed to get up to it's old tricks a bit later...

I suspect that strong air pressure might have been stretching the very thin plastic around the openings of the vents. Or perhaps it was just extra-strong gusts of wind, since the kite was generally flying around OK.

With a total bridle weight of around 1/3 of the first prototype, this kite was occasionally reaching much higher line angles. Up to 60 degrees, compared to the older kite's 45 degrees. With some lighter line on order, the older kite had been flying on a combination of 100 pound and 200 pound Dacron.

With all the adjustments, the kite was now spending minutes at a time in the air, just occasionally being forced down to the left under the pressure of fresher wind. Often, the sail would touch the grass and deform slightly, still full of air, before rolling sideways and floating skywards once again.

Sudden lulls would cause the sail to act more like a parachute than a kite. That's one of the unique aspects of this design.

A small Murray Magpie hovered within a few meters of the flying kite for a few seconds, observing it, before fluttering away. Later, a flock of white cockatoos did at least two fly-pasts near the kite, which was sitting at around 50 feet at the time. Some of the birds had to take evasive action as they almost clipped the flying line! A Kookaburra started up in the distance.

Eventually, the line was out to around 30 or 40 meters (100ft+). With the overall wind strength building, the Flying Jellyfish proved a handful to bring down. The strongest gusts were measured at 5.5kg with spring-scales. On a 50 pound Dacron line, that can be almost painful without gloves!

All in all, it was an encouraging outing with the Parasail kite. Weather stations were reporting gusts to 30kph not long after I left the field. After a little more experimentation with trimming it to fly straighter, the kite should soon have some long, high flights. 'High' meaning at least 300 feet off the ground.

Latest Parasail - Tweaks Needed

With some initial mods completed on the first prototype, the last few days have been spent documenting the build of a second Parasail kite. This one is scaled up a little and also has the vents opened up a bit more - on top of the up-scaling.

The first kite had 4 extra-thick bridle lines at the bottom edge. My thought was that the extra weight and drag would be beneficial for stability. And the first kite certainly was stable. However, were the heavy lines actually making much difference, or were aerodynamics playing a bigger role with this type of kite?

While out for a walk today, I had a winder stuffed into one pocket and the rolled-up kite - the latest one - in another pocket. Ah the convenience of soft kites!

Stopping for a while at a small local park, the Parasail was soon in the air. To cut the story down a bit, let's just say the kite was barely stable. A tendency to loop left will be easily fixed, but in general the kite showed only the tiniest tendency to seek an upright stance in the air. It kept ending up on the damp grass. So, back to the drawing board...

On arriving home, a small panel of somewhat heavier plastic was added between the two bottom-most bridle lines. As a small drag-plate, it should cause the bottom edge of the sail to swing away downwind when the kite is up a bit. At lower line angles, the extra weight should help the kite to pendulum into the right orientation to climb away. If even more weight is necessary, it's easily added to the new panel. Strips of electrical tape I'm thinking, if it comes to that.

Improved Parasail Pulls a bull! Although the nearest online weather station was reporting 18kph gusting to 24kph, the gusts seemed somewhat higher - probably due to an approaching rain cloud.

Earlier today I had opened out the vents considerably, reduced the size of the central hole and also lengthened the lines by a good 15% or so. Initially, the flight characteristics seemed relatively unchanged from the 90cm diameter sail's first test outing a couple of days ago. Right down to the tendency to spin to the left when under pressure.

After partially closing off a side-vent however, the parasail started to show it's true colors. Stability was only barely adequate in the moderate wind speeds, but the trimmed-out parachute managed to touch 45 degrees a few times, on a very tight line.

So, it's a real kite after all! If people want to add a few tails to the lower edge, that would improve the stability.

As the distant rain squall got closer and the gusts started waving the tree-tops around, the modestly-sized 'chute proved a handful to bring in. If you thought sleds or parafoils pulled hard for their size, try a parasail! Being basically a high-drag parachute, it was no wonder.

Eventually I got the 'chute back on the ground and started packing away. A 1.8m diameter 'chute could well pull harder than the 2.4m tall Multi-Dowel Sled!

One other thing I found impressive about the kite today was that nothing broke! This design spreads the forces fairly evenly through the sail and bridle lines.

Parasail Prototype Not Perfect

But certainly this design has promise... It actually flew today. Something that looks so much like a parachute would only fly down - not up, one would think. However, by carefully copying the vents used by the full-size parasail, this comparatively tiny 'chute managed to fly stable and even gain some height with all the lines adjusted to the same length.

I used 200 pound line on the 4 lowest attachment points, reasoning that the extra weight and drag down there could only be good for stability. Strength-wise, the whole thing could fly on 10 pound lines since there are so many of them! 18 to be precise.

Anyway, the clear drop-sheet plastic sail popped open like a real parachute and hovered around at low line angles in the gusty light breeze. As you would expect, this kite pulls quite hard for it's size! Heaps of drag and not much lift. Which brings me to a point - the next step will be to open out the vents even further to let more air through.

Also, the lines will be double-checked for equal length, and fixed more securely at the towing point. Today, almost half the length of the bridle lines was folded up and secured with a small rubber band, forming a bundle which had a significant amount of weight. Like a passenger on a full-size parasail, as they get towed behind a motor-boat. This approach will also allow me to try different bridle lengths fairly easily.

Next time out, I'll make all the lines about 20cm longer so there is less chance of the chute collapsing.

So glad the thing flew, since making one of these is not quick! Very cheap and quite easy yes, but it involves a few hours of marking, cutting, taping and knotting...

Have a look at Making The MBK Parasail Kite if you would like to make and fly one yourself, from e-book instructions. The e-book is a PDF file download, from which it's easy to get print-outs. 

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

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

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

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

Strong breeze
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