Saturday, 4 April 2015

Double Skynasaur!

Few years ago, we got ourselves a Skynasaur Aerobat. Dating back to the 1980s, it's a small-ish and relatively heavy kite, which has the typical Rogallo shape when it flies. No stand-offs, though: the Rogallo shape purely comes from the pressure of the wind on the sail. It's a fun nippy kite to fly, but it does need a decent wind, both because of it being rather heavy for its size, as well as because it needs the wind to create the Rogallo shape.

Recently, we got our hands on a second Skynasaur Aerobat, via Windswept Kites. Same size, different colour, and bridled in a different way (second, orange Skynasaur has a control bar, which our first, red one lacks)  Now we're a kite-flying pair, we got a pair of essentially the same kites, so why not try and fly them together?

Turns out it works pretty well! The kites look rather small at the end of 40+5m lines, given that we're used to seeing kites with a wing span of around 2.40-2.50m at the end of our lines, and the Skynasaurs measure just over 1.30m. But they're pretty responsive to input, and simply fun to fly. We went through several figures with them, and even managed a few refuels! The one thing they don't like is anything that takes the wind out of the sails, even for a second. So they're not keen on boxes or any other sudden changes in direction. And they're really not keen on the edge of the wind window. All a result of them not having stand-offs, and so needing the push of the wind to maintain their shape.

So Flying Fish has another pair of kites to add to their team quiver! Not a pair we will use for official routines at festivals or competitions, but a pair to have fun with at the end of a practice session on a windy day. They're in our team bags now!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Anyone for a taste of team-flying?

Dual-line pair- and team-flying is not exactly a big sport in the UK, and it could really do with some fresh blood. But how to get people make the step from flying a kite alone to flying a kite as part of a pair or team? Even if someone is excited from seeing a pair or team display at a festival or practice field, it's not so easy to give that person a first taste of what it actually feels like to fly patterns and formations together. Simply because it's not a case of asking that person to take his or her kite and just join in. Very likely that he or she has a different kite from what the team is flying. Very likely that he or she flies on 25-30m lines as opposed to the 40+m lines required for team-flying. Different kites will fly and handle differently, and line length will influence the speed of the kite. And whereas experienced team-flyers can deal with different kites being part of a formation, for someone keen on getting his or her first taste of team-flying, it's pretty essential that the kites are all the same, and the lines all of the same length.

With that in mind, we wanted to add one kite to our wide range of paired team kites, so that we would have a trio, and so could offer anyone interested a first taste of team-flying: kite's there, lines are of the right length, so all ready to go!

Question: which kite? Actually, we didn't have to think about that for very long. We have a pair of Dream On kites, which really are perfect for a first introduction into team-flying. They're a bit smaller than a typical team kite (2.21m wing span as opposed to the usual 2.40-50m), are very easy to fly, and don't pull much.

And not only do we as Flying Fish have a pair of these kites, the other members of L-katz also have one each, and we regularly fly them with the team, especially if we want to try out something new. Because of their smaller size, they provide just that wee bit more space in the sky to test out new patterns and formations.

So decision made, we got an extra Dream On via Kiteworld, and here she is, in the sky together with our earlier white one.

We also made a set of lines and leaders at the correct length, so it really is a case of kite and lines being ready to go. We can take someone along with the two of us for flying in a team of three, or go up to a team of six, if all other members of L-katz join in.

Extra Dream On and associated lines will always be standard in our team bags from now on. So if you are able to control a dual-line kite and want to get a first taste of team-flying, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Double Cyborg!

When I first saw a picture of an Aerialogics Cyborg kite, I knew I just had to have one. Took me quite some time, as, first of all, they're pretty rare; and second, because of the central 'cross', they're expensive to ship.

I certainly never aimed to get a second Cyborg, but when one was offered for sale for a very decent price on the Gone with the Wind forum, I jumped at the opportunity.

So here's our pair of Cyborgs! The green kite is the one I got a few years ago; the red-and-yellow kite the one I just got. Because of the colour pattern, the red-and-yellow Cyborg sort of resembles a shark (ok, it's mostly my imagination, but I do see something 'toothy'!) so that links back to our very first pair of team kites.

In terms of flight characteristics, they're relatively slow flyers, good in tracking and circles, but not so good in sharp changes in flight directions. The frame, not having an upper spreaders, flexes too much for that. But that doesn't stop us from enjoying flying them, and I think they look great in the sky together!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Festival diary 2015

I know it's still February, and it ain't exactly nice and sunny out there, but let's look ahead at the 2015 Kite Festival season, and where/when Flying Fish will perform.

May 3-4: Weymouth
Following our Weymouth debut in 2014, we look forward to being back there. And besides flying as a pair, Flying Fish will join Solent Kite Flyers in a mass-launch of Cobra-Serpents.

May 30-31: Exmouth
New festival for us; we look forward to exploring new grounds and meeting new people.

June 6-7: Basingstoke
This will be our third consecutive year flying at Basingstoke.

June 13-14: Dunstable Downs
Not a kite festival, but the UK National Championships; we've got a trophy to defend!

June 21: Streatham Common
One day festival; also new one for us.

June 28: Herne Bay
Another one day festival, and again a new one for us.

July 11-12: Brighton
We're practically part of the furniture there: debut in 2012, and been flying there ever since.

July 25-26: Dunstable
Very glad to be back at Dunstable Kite Festival; good memories on that field!

August 15-16: Portsmouth
We flew here unofficially in 2013, and were officially invited for 2014; very happy to be back again this year!

OK, those are the confirmed festivals for us. In addition, we're hoping to fly at Bristol (August 22-23) and Malmesbury. Whether Malmesbury, where we've flown the last two years, happens, we don't know, as we've not had a confirmation of a date yet.

So if everything confirmed plus everything in the pipeline happens, we'll be flying at 10 festivals this coming season, plus the UK Nationals. We're going to be busy over the summer!

Monday, 5 January 2015

Marcin Klysewicz documentary - the making of

You may already have seen the short documentary on us and our flying on our Facebook page. Whether you have or haven't yet, here's a bit more of the story behind it ...

It all started with a chance encounter. We were practicing our routines on our regular flying field, and I saw from the corner of my eye that someone stood behind us, watching our flying. After we landed, I looked behind me, and saw a guy with his young son. He introduced himself as Marcin Klysewicz, and said watching us fly was fascinating. We talked some more, and it turned out that he was a passionate photographer and documentary maker. He asked us whether we would consider being the subject of the first of a new series of documentaries he was planning to make on people and their passions. We'd never done anything like that, and it sounded like fun, so definitely, yes!

Email addresses were exchanged, and a few weeks later we met up with Marcin and his collection of cameras and other gear.

We spent two days filming, both at home and in the field, including one day when Marcin's brother Krystian joined us with his quadcopter-mounted camera for some aerial shots.

In addition to the filming, we also spent a morning recording voice-overs at home.

Marcin was keen to tell a 'story' in the video. Us preparing at home to go flying, setting up in the field, some stick practice, plugging in our radio system, flying our routine (obviously!), and then packing up at the end of the day. In the voice-overs, we basically talked about how we got started, why we enjoy flying kites, and what our goals and aims are for the future, Between filming, we usually discussed the next scene he wanted, and regularly 'acted out' the same scene which he then filmed from different angles. So there was lots of ".... aaaaaaand ACtion!"

Specifically, he asked us to fly the same routine many times, every time filming it from a different angle (including from the air), or just focusing on the two of us. That way, he could splice together footage of us flying our routine from different viewpoints.

Following the actual shooting, there were a few weeks of editing for him, plus composing the music to accompany the video. From all the footage he shot, and the voice-overs he recorded, it must have been really difficult to decide what to use and what not. We're very happy with the end result, but judge for yourself, if you haven't seen it yet!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Ultralight tails

If you don't like seeing tails on kites, stop reading and look away now ...

For our 'make it up as we go along' routine to Adiemus, the aim is to fly this routine with tails. Not a routine for the UK nationals, but purely for festivals. Tails on kites are popular with the public, as they add to the spectacle. Obviously, we'd like to able to fly this routine in a wide range of wind conditions, and whereas flying tails in stronger winds is not really an issue, flying them in very light wind is, as tails add weight and drag to the kites.

With this is mind, I've been looking around for something that could serve as ultralight tails, and I think I've found this in a humble roll of hazard tape. And I mean the cheapest stuff, as that's usually the lightest. Got a 500m roll from amazon for next to nothing, and cut off 30m of it. And then I cut this strip of 30m hazard tape lengthwise to create two narrow 30m ultralight tails. Piece of dacron added for strengthening at the kite end, so it can be attached to the kite without tearing immediately.

Something that seems to work on paper may not work in real life, so once the tails were ready, we obviously needed to test them out in the flying field. And we felt the perfect kites for this would be our pair of Fire Darts. These kites are essentially ultralights, and the thin tails would be a good visual match for the strong lines of the kites.

Well, I must say they worked an absolute treat! Even when the wind dropped down to 3-4mph, the kites had no difficulty flying the tails. As the tails are so light, they only come down slowly, so the 'after effect' after a couple of loops lasts quite some time.

The narrow tails indeed work really well visually and also colour wise: the black from the hazard tape matches the black of the red/black Fire Dart that Irma usually flies, and the yellow from the tape matches the yellow of the blue/yellow Fire Dart that is my usual kite. I don't expect the tails to last forever, as they'll probably tear quite easily. But we got another 470-odd meters left on the roll, so ....

So, coming to a festival near you: a pair of ultralight tails!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Spirit of Air-o-bian

Some time ago, I wrote about my plans to recreate the Air-o-bian kite from the 1930s. If you've been following me on Facebook, you'll know this project has been progressing steadily. I guess it's time now to tell you the full story.

Stage 1 of the project was to try and recreate an Air-o-bian kite as close as possible to the original patent:

To achieve that, I got myself a pair of Spirit of Air box kites (the idea was to end up with a pair of Air-o-bians, so we could fly them as Flying Fish). I created a rudder from a plastic storage box, and mounted that on a 5.5mm carbon tube, inside which was a 3mm carbon rod.

Note that, according to the patent, the rudder is not connected to the bridle lines, but is connected to the upright spars with a piece of elastic. Kite was bridled, and we were ready for the first test flight!

So did the Air-o-bian fly? Yep, no problem at all. Did it steer as it was meant to? Nope ...

The rudder basically didn't do anything, and any attempt at pulling one line or the other merely resulted in the kite rotating around its longitudinal axis, but not moving into the direction of the pulled line.

To be perfectly honest, I would have been surprised to see the kite steer, as the rudder wasn't controlled by the bridle lines, or by anything else for that matter! So on to stage 2 ...

For stage 2, I decided to move away from the original patent, and link the bridle lines directly to the rudder. This way, the rudder would move as the lines were being pulled. I decided to use the second box kite I had for this, and leave the other kite as it was. If it worked, I could simply adapt that one.

Test flight number 2 showed this direct rudder control had no effect whatsoever! It still was the case that pulling on either line resulted in the kite rotating rather than steering in a particular direction.

Now I was still following the patent regarding the attachment points of the 'uphaul' part of the bridle, i.e. on the lateral upright spars as you face the kite. What about making the two 'uphauls' attach together on the flyer-facing upright spar? I know I'm moving further and further from the patent, but I just wanted the box kite to steer ...

So here's what the improved bridling looks like. At the lower (rudder) end of the kite, the bridle lines connect directly to the two sides of the rudder; pulling on one line will make the rudder go one way, pull on the other, and it goes the other way.

And at the top end of the kite, the two 'uphauls' come together on a single spar; that ought to reduce the rotation of the kite, as all pulling will now only go to the rudder.

Test flight number 3! Will it steer now?

Well, yes, actually! After getting used to the kite flying to and fro a lot, I actually managed to fly it into loops left and right!

It turned out that the position of the tow point was pretty crucial. Too low down, and the kite wouldn't have enough angle to fly; too high up, and the bridle lines connected to the rudder would remain slack, and it wouldn't steer at all. But a bit of trial and error seemed to give me the sweet spot.

Even though I managed to steer the kite in the end, control is not even close to what we would need to fly two of them side-by-side, so it'll remain a one-off for now (unless I get a sudden brainwave as to how to improve control massively).

So here's our "Spirit of Air-o-bian"! The name is a nod to the maker of the original box kite, and to the fact that that the end result has the 'spirit' of the original Air-o-bian in it, even though I've veered further and further away from the patent. It definitely was a fun experiment!