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!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Double Nirvana!

This one slipped through. And with 'this', I mean this blog post. I'd meant to report we had a second vented Nirvana, which we got some time ago, but hadn't gotten around to taking a few pics of the two Nirvanas in the air and write a brief blog post. So here's our pair of R-sky Nirvana HW kites! We already had the red one, and the blue has now completed the pair. Very nice kites to fly, with good tracking and good trickability, which is exactly what we want in our paired freestyle kites.

So that means that, after our two Fury 0.85s, our two Cosmic ULs, our two Mambas, and our two Inner Spaces, the roll-up bag that contains our pairs of freestyle kites is now full. It also means that, as the red Nirvana moved from the roll-up bag that contains our (non-paired) trick kites, this bag now has a spare slot. This bag already contains a Vapor, Amazing, Gemini UL, Talon UL, Widow Maker UL, Deep Space, Sea Devil, SuperFly and vented Silver Fox; suggestions for which trick kite should fill this final slot welcome!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Routine plans for 2015

Just over a year ago, I posted about our routine plans for 2014, and suggested they might be a bit ambitious .... well, they indeed proved to be just that! So let's look ahead to 2015, and try to be a bit more realistic ...

First up, our routine flown to Kayak's "Ruthless Queen". This will remain our main routine next year, to be used at festivals and competition. Following our competition d├ębut this year, we received good and constructive criticism from especially Keith and Vee. We have already changed some of the routine to deal with that criticism, and have a few more ideas on how to make it a bit more interesting in places, replace a few patterns which didn't really work so well, or which we now feel are a bit 'meh'. These mostly go back to a time when we were just very happy to get from pattern A to pattern B! The new version of the "Ruthless Queen" routine is definitely going to be ready for the 2015 season; nothing too ambitious about that!

Next, the routine we have already started to use at DunstableMalmesbury, and Portsmouth: our make-it-up-as-we-go-along routine, flown to "Adiemus". What we need for that one, first of all, is to add a few more patterns to our quiver, and especially some more complex and intricate patterns. And second, the ultimate aim for that routine is to fly it with tails, so we really need to get a lot more practice flying with tails, so we get a better feel for what works and what doesn't, and for the challenges of flying patterns with something like 100' tails. We also have a rather unusual ending in mind, which we need to try out to see if it really works. Needless to say that, given the tails and lack of strict choreography, this will be a routine purely for festivals.

Finally our "Jaws" routine, flying our Fish/Shark kites to the theme music of 'Jaws'. We had hoped to have this ready for the 2014 season, but we simply didn't get that far. Partly because we shelved it when the first festivals were approaching. And partly because the weather last autumn and winter was such that we lost a lot of practice days (keep in mind that the kites have a relatively narrow wind range, so we can't always fly them). On top of that, we're not happy with the end as we have it now. As Flying Fish was essentially born with these two kites, we definitely want to have a specific routine for them, so we need to pick up the '"Jaws" routine again, and come up with a better ending. I know last year I said it would definitely be ready for 2014; this time no promises, but I hope it'll be festival-ready in 2015. And it will always be a festival routine; we don't expect to use it at competitions.

And what about the "Chariots of Fire" routine, that I mentioned about a year ago? That will definitely become our next main routine, to be used for festivals as well as competition. We really want to use that routine to get better at flying specifically to the music. We started working on it, and have practiced flying maybe the first half or so, but do not aim to do much on it in preparation for the 2015 season. Let's not be too ambitious this time, ok?