Flight Reports—Tinkerer

Here's a short selection of flight reports which illustrate a few things that I got up to, with single-line kites.

Read up and see if there's anything you'd like to try for yourself :-)

Successful Parachute Drops

One of the ideas in my old email series Tips-n-Ideas was dropping small parachutes from a kite line. This idea was inspired by a site visitor who contributed a story to the site about how his family used to send small parachutes up a kite line and then flick them off.

The MBK Soft Sled kite in flight.MBK Soft Sled

Having thought more about it and having done some tests earlier today, I have reformulated the idea so more people can have success with it. For one thing, everything has to be just right for a small parachute on a hook to slide most of the way up a kite line. With the new idea, the parachute is secured in a very simple fashion to the line near the kite, and then it is flown up with the kite and flicked off later.

The breeze near the coast was gusting to the high 20s in kph. That was perfect for the MBK Soft Sled. At 60 cm (24 in.) tall, the kite was somewhat smaller than ideal for launching a 30 cm (12 in.) diameter parachute with a 15 g weight underneath. But the little kite was pulling strongly in the top half of its wind range today, so there were no problems at all!

The first drop was made from some 10 meters (30 feet) or so from the kite, on a fairly short line. That was just to see if the idea worked. It took a few pings, but work it did! Down floated the 'chute, gyrating slowly as it spiraled down to the grass.

Another flight was made, this time on 60 meters (200 feet) of line. In addition, the chute was suspended right near the bridle knot of the kite. Launching was a little tricky, but soon a gust came through and powered the Soft Sled right up to a 50-degree line angle. Again, generous amounts of shaking and flicking dislodged the 'chute and down it came as before.

After yet another flight up on the longer line length and another successful parachute descent, the concept was considered sound. Sound enough to publish, that is, replacing my earlier article which—tsk tsk tsk—was largely untested.

A few more minutes were spent on the field, flying the sled right out to 90 meters (300 feet) of line. The kite flew straight and true despite earlier signs that it needed a bit of a tweak, a few days ago. A quirk of soft kites perhaps, or maybe it was just because this one is plastic and packing tape, with storage creases making a small difference.

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.

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!

Two New Ways to Anchor Kites

Note: these are only suitable for rather light-pulling kites such as those from the MBK Paper Series ;-)

With gusts disturbing the foliage outside it seemed an opportune time to take out the Paper Sode #3. I chose the big square Knox Park this time since it would be good to get plenty of thread out, regardless of the wind's direction.

While waiting at a red light, I noticed large trees being fanned from the east. OK, so it would mean a bit of walking, since the car park was in the northwest corner of the reserve.

An initial flight was promising, with the new spar design holding up well to the boisterous gusts. However, despite good height being achieved, the little sode was soon back on the deck.

Thermal activity! Paper kites are not very tolerant of lulls since they descend fast when the breeze is just a few kph below the required minimum. Only seconds are available to catch the next gust.

In an effort to get a longer flight, I launched again and backed away upwind, letting out thread as I went. So far so good, as the tiny sode rode the gentle-to-moderate-strength breeze.

Rising air gave the kite a further boost for half a minute or so. Now there was so much thread out that line sag was becoming apparent. And that's with polyester sewing thread!

Having left my bag behind on the dry grass, I needed to find some way of anchoring the kite for a while. Aha! A dry weed, the kind which often presented problems with catching the thread, now became a possible anchor point. After a little fiddling, the thread was secured around the base of the weed. And it did a great job, holding the kite until it came down a few minutes later.

Lulls between thermals were shooting the sode down every few minutes, so I had one last go. This turned out to be a  5-minute flight for the log, on the full 70 or 80 meters of thread. And the anchor point? That was a handy large crack in the parched soil, down which I had stuffed the paper winder. So there's number two—another way to anchor a small kite!

Carbon Diamond Hoists Camera

With the wife busy at the nearby supermarket, there was a small window for some kite flying and KAP. We had both been sick pretty much all week, having survived the entire winter unscathed up until then.

The 2-meter (8-foot) span carbon-and-Tyvek diamond went together fairly quickly, and even the KAP rig setup seemed to be getting easier. It must be the practice! A half-Picavet suspension seemed perfectly adequate since the big super-rigid diamond has almost zero side-to-side sway in flight.

Winds today were almost too light, but the diamond got away successfully, out to just over 60 meters (200 feet) of line. The camera was hanging just 15 meters (50 feet) from the kite this time, rather than the usual 30 meters (100 feet). No problems ensued, despite the uneven wind speed and gentle thermal gusts. Nice! We'll be getting slightly higher KAP shots from now on, while keeping the kite altitude legal.

ISO was set to auto, over the range 125–200. EV was left on 0.0 for the first flight. Although the camera never got much higher than 150 feet off the grass, some of the photos just caught a glimpse of the sea, several kilometers away.

Unfortunately, there was a delay of quite a few minutes in getting the rig in the air for a second photo session. Hence no usable photos were obtained, which had been set to -1.0 EV for comparison with the first lot. There were plenty of nice closeups of grass growing though ;-) The wind had died to almost nothing, in between the small thermals which lofted the occasional butterfly up toward the kite.

At least something made it into the air this week. That's better than nothing!

Box Kite Hoists Camera

This outing was a little nerve-racking, since dark low clouds were going over, with the threat of strong wind-gusts associated with them. At least I had detected no lightning strikes on the weather radar, which shows strikes during the past 30 minutes.

Perhaps fortunately, the Fresh Wind Barn Door kite had go back in the car after I discovered that one of the sail corner ties had almost failed. So it was out with the mighty Multi-Dowel Box kite!

On previous attempts at KAP with the box, I had concluded that it just wasn't practical with box kites.

But today proved that if you operate the box in the top half of its wind range instead of the lower half, there are no problems at all! With an extra 15 or 20 kph of wind speed, launching on a short line was effortless. Well, aside from the hefty tension in the line that is! The camera rig lifted off fairly gently and controllably, just like with any other lifter kite.

There's just one downside of doing KAP with big box kites—the setup time. For my Multi-Dowel Box, it's around 10 to 12 minutes to rig and check that all the lugs line up.

The big box kite flew smoothly most of the time, on 90 meters (300 feet) of line. It was anchored around some square metal fence-posts which had smooth rounded corners.

The windy periods gave the kite a real workout, pushing it to high line-angles and upsetting its flight at times with turbulence and sudden down-drafts. These showed up in the video as wild oscillations to 45 degrees each way! The soundtrack captured the noise of the wind whipping past, calls from passing birds, and the urgent note of a soccer umpire's whistle from a neighboring field.

Watching the kite was not particularly relaxing. I half expected something to give way, which would have started my Pentax Optio on a rapid descent to the stones below.

This was only the second outing where imagery was taken in the downwind direction. Hence there was no flying line in the images, which is a bonus. Unfortunately, I somehow misjudged the position of the top shoelace tie. Result: about 90% of the stills and video featured stormy cloudscapes and precious little landscape or buildings!

I have managed to extract just one movie still which features the intended photographic target—the big Noarlunga shopping complex here in Adelaide, S.A.

Another problem was the sunlight which was blocked by cloud most of the time. Such is KAP. At least the panoramic shots of the flying field ended up almost perfect, with the aid of a small solid chair on which the appropriate camera angles were marked.


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.