How tro fly a Kite

David Dorn, master Instructor.HOW TO FLY A KITE  “The basics of kite flying do not need to be complicated. With some basic equipment, some open space, and a little breeze you can master the fundamental flying skills in an afternoon. Using the trainer kite is a fun and relatively safe way to learn about the wind, and to learn the basic kite steering reflexes. Remember that mother nature is the boss out there, and you should always treat the elements and your environment with respect. Do not underestimate the power of the wind either. Even the small trainer kites can overwhelm kids and novices, so we recommend parental supervision for young kids. And remember that it is always more fun to fly with a buddy. Lets take a look at How to fly a Kite”. Aloha, David Dorn

How-to use a Trainer kite by David Dorn

Guide for beginners.

Flying the trainer kite.Kites are fun to fly and provide many hours of entertainment. There are many different types of kites available. From kids toy kites, up to high powered sports kites that are fast and furious. Some kites are suitable to be used as trainers for the kiteflying skills that we need for kiteboarding. So we call them Trainer kites. We use the trainer kite as a training tool for kitesurfing skills. The trainer has much less power than a full size inflatable, so the pilot can practice safely and feel more confident. When you are learning to fly kites, you will make mistakes and crash many times. With this type of kite you can make mistakes with fewer consequences. The important thing is to reduce the damages to kite and pilot, and also to learn for your mistakes. The best way to learn kite flying is with a professional instructor. But if you are learning by yourself, there are several things you can do to help yourself.

You will be discovering many things for the first time, with this learn by doing approach. also known as “trial and error”. This technique works quite well most of the time however, If you were to make every possible kiteflying mistake yourself, you probably wouldn’t survive the learning process. So we strongly recommend that wherever possible, you can learn from other people’s mistakes. You can do this by flying with more experienced kiteflyers, or by reading and studying some of the basic techniques and safety information, like in this how to guide.

 

Firstly here are three main rules you should know for Kiteflying Survival:

Rule#1 Respect the Kite

Most people’s experience flying kites is from childhood. They used simple one-line kites or small two line kites for fun. This gives many people that misconception that kites are toys. Some kites are toys, but most are not. They are sports equipment that require skill, strength and experience to control. The kite itself is the interface with the earth’s atmosphere. You are hooking into the force of the wind. And that is a lot of power. Even small trainer kites under 2 m². have the power to knock you over and beat you up if they are mishandled. Never underestimate the power of any kite.

Rule #2 Respect the Weather

Knowing the weather and wind conditions is essential to kite flying. Avoids strong winds when learning. Stay away from wind obstacles that cause turbulence. Never fly a kite in a storm, or extreme weather.

Rule #3 Choose a good location

Location is essential. First choose an area with good clean wind. An open field, or wide beach. Stay away from people, cars, power lines, trees, and buildings. Choose grassy surface that will not damage the kite when it crashes.

Please note: Never attempt to recover a kite from power lines. Call the fire dept or 911, so they can turn off the power first.

Flying with a buddy is more fun.

 

It is best to Kite with a buddy:

Having a kite buddy is best. It is best to share the experience with someone else. Someone to hold the kite and help you launch. Someone to help in case you have a problem or get into trouble. Share the learning experience and don’t forget to share the kite too. Your buddy is a second set of eyes to spot trouble before it occurs. they can also help to hold you down if the wind is strong. Make surf your buddy does not suddenly let go or you could go flying. If you are sharing a kite with someone who is bigger than you, take care that the kite does not have too much power for the lighter pilot. In this picture, the young pilot is assisted by the author (me). and we have attached the kite’s bridles directly to the bar’s lead lines. This makes the setup very easy and controllable.

 

Types of Kites:

Ram-Air Kites are best for trainers.

Two Line Deltas are fun but are too fast. Also they are susceptible to damage.

LEI =  Leading Edge Inflatables, which can be used but the get damaged more easily.

Our trainers come with a kite control bar, not handles.

We recommend to always use a kite leash.

 

Setting up the trainer Kite:

Trainer Kites are set up slightly differently to other kites you may have used before. Our trainer kites are typically “ram-air” foil kites and will have shorter lines, a control-bar, a kite-leash (with quick release), and sometimes a releasable harness line. Kite leashes should be set up to fully flag and depower the kite when the bar is dropped. Some control bars will need to have their lead lines extended for this purpose.

Flying lines: If the kite’s flying lines are too long, the pilot can “double the lines back” to shorten them. This gives the kite a shorter stroke, and less potential for generating excessive power. Using shorter lines allows more kites to operate safely in a confined area. Also the shorter lines prevents different pilots wind-windows from overlapping, and uses a smaller area.

 

Kite Sizes and power:

Larger kites have more power than small ones. Trainer Kite sizes usually range from 1meter to three meters. The three meter has three times more power than the one meter. In a steady wind, and adult can usually use a two or three meter foil kite on shorter lines. Using a trainer that is too small will give a false impression of the kite’s power, and allow bad habits and techniques to develop.

Kite Line length:

Many kites come with long lines as standard when they are new. Lines can be up to 20-30 meters long. This is way more than we need while learning. Longer lines are more power than shorter lines. But they also make steering more difficult. Shorter lines give the pilot a better feeling for the kite and more control. We sometimes shorten our lines to as little as  five to seven meters long. Most often we will half the line length of the standard lines to begin flying with. You do not have to cut the lines, but you can simply double the lines back top the bar. This will give you the option of flying on the full length lines later. Doubling back 20m lines will give you 10m lines to practice with.

Using Shorter lines:

Shorter lines are easier to handle, and they require less area to practice in. This setup simulates the steering concepts of a larger kite and gives enough resistance to require some counterbalancing. Children can use a trainer kite with the kite’s bridle attached directly to the control bar’s lead lines.

Treat the trainer kite with respect:

Trainer Kites should be flown in the same manner as larger inflatable kites, never use techniques that are not also appropriate for the larger kites. This will give you good habits that can be transferred to larger kites later on. Never drag your kite on the ground. Do not step on your kite  Never fly the kite without a leash. Do not jump over land. Do not fly your kite over the top of anyone. Make sure you never take more power than you can handle.

Safety Tips:

  • Always use the kite leash.
  • Do not “hot launch” the kite directly downwind.
  • Do not “power” loop the kite.
  • Always demonstrate good techniques.
  • Respect the equipment (do not drag it , crash it or put it away wet or sandy).

 

The Drop Zone:

Drop Zone is the area where the kite may fall, and is a circle with a radius the same as the line length. Set up away from all obstacles, and make sure everything and everyone is outside your dropzone. Outside of your dropzone you want to keep a safe distance away from all hazards, like rocks, people and trees etc. Keeping a safe distance between yourself and the hazards is called a safety buffer. When you are learning it is best to keep as much distance between yourself and other beach goers, and other objects. We recommend a safety buffer of two kite line lengths.

 

Wind Window:Wind Window

 The window is where the kite is going to fly. The wind window is directly related to the wind’s direction. the window will be across the winds direction. And it is also that area over head and above you. Make sure that you have enough room above you, downwind,  and on either side too. The edge of the window has the least power. this is where you want to launch and land the kite. The back of the window has the most power, so you want to avoid this part of the window when you are learning and launching. The top of the wind window is called the Zenith. The Zenith is where we start to fly the trainer kite.

 

 

Wind Direction:

 Find the wind direction before you launch the kite. Stand with your back to the wind. Each side at right angles to the wind is the edge of the wind window, and is where we want to launch and land the kite. Directly downwind is the hot zone. Directly above you is the zenith or neutral zone. make sure you clearly understand and remember the wind’s direction before you launch. Look for tell tale signs of wind direction, like smoke rising, and flags etc.

Stopping the kite:

Before you launch the kite you should have a clear understanding of hot to stop the kite!! With a kite leash, You can stop the kite by letting go of the bar. This is best for landing the kite alone or in an emergency. You should practice emergency stopping until it becomes an automatic reflex. Make sure that your kite leash is attached correctly so that the kite depowers fully when the bar is dropped.

Recovering the Kite:

after you have stopped the kite, it should be flapping on the end of one line. You can recover the kite by walking toward it and climbing up one line to the kite. We climb up the safety line (the tensioned one), by going hand over hand until we can reach the kite. Once you get to the kite secure it with sand so it does not blow away or relaunch.  Only grab one kite line at a time, and Never wrap the kite’s lines around your hand.

Steering the Kite:

to steer in the kite we pull on each end of the bar. Pulling the bar tensions the kite’s lines. Pull the left side of the bar to make the kite turn left. Then pull the right side of the bar to make the kite turn right. Trainer kites are very sensitive to steering, so only pull gently on the bar to begin with until you know how the kite will react. You may only need to pull the bar a few inches to get the kite to steer. It is a push-pull action that will steer the kite. Steer the kite to one side, then steer the kite back to the middle of the wind window again. Keep the kite in the middle of the wind window while you are learning. Steer the kite slowly at first. Steering faster will generate more power. Notice that there is a time-delay in the steering.

Assisted Kite launching Launching the Kite with an assistant:

After checking your lines and attaching your leash. Have your buddy pick up the kite from the back side of the kite. Farthest away from the pilot. The assistant holds the leading edge and fills the kite with wind. The assistant steps back away from the pilot until there is tension on the lines and the kite is full of wind. The assistant waits for the thumbs up from the pilot and releases the kite. The assistant should then retire to a safe distance away from the kite, in case it crashes.

 

Landing the kite with an assistant:

After signaling the assistant to catch the kite (by patting your head) the assistant stands cross wind from the pilot. The pilot carefully steers the kite down to the assistant. So he can catch it. After the assistant catches the kite, they step towards the pilot to slacken on the lines, then they can secure the kite.

Trainer Kite flying Procedure:

1)      Chose a kite with the correct amount of power, “Never use a kite with more power than you can handle. Start with a smaller kite then test the wind first.
2)      Find a clear area away from trees and obstacles. Make sure there is good steady wind. Find the wind direction. And determine the wind window
3)      Secure the kite with sand and untwist the lines. Make the lines straight and parallel. Attach the lines to the kite’s bridle, and to the bar. Check the kites safety leash.
4)      Next show your assistant how to hold the kite, and tell them to release it when you give the launch signal. Tell them that after they launch the kite they may walk around and get behind you. The Pilot holds the bar, puts on the wrist leash and gets in a crosswind position. Then the pilot gives the thumbs up and launches the Kite.

5)      Bringing the kite up to about one o’clock. The pilot begins some slow steering exercises, and tests the wind window.

6)      The next step it to practice the emergency stop by releasing the bar. Wait till the kite falls before recovering it.

7)      Recover the kite safely by climbing one line to get up to the kite.

8)      Set up the kite for another launch, and repeat. Practice makes perfect.

 

 

Common Problems:

Pilot gets lifted too often and/or can’t easily steer,

This may indicate that they could be overpowered. Shortening the flying lines, or reducing the kite size could alleviate this problem.

The kite repeatedly crashes hard on the ground;

 

The pilot could be overpowered and their grip is too tight, or they may be over-steering the kite. Try to move the kite more slowly, using small amounts of bar movement (like one inch at a time).  remember to steer by bending the elbows.

Kite steers wildly side to side;

 

This is usually due to over-steering. The pilot is over-correcting the movement of the kite, creating a P.I.O. (pilot induced oscillation).  Practice incremental steering. “steer and wait”, to allow for the kite’s response time. There is a time delay between the control input (bar movement) and the kite’s response. Understanding the timing and response of kites is a critical step. And every kite has a different feel.

 

Points to Remember:

  • Respect the Power.
  • Do your homework (seek information).
  • Kite with a buddy.
  • Always use a kite leash.
  • Have Fun.

 

Definitions of Kite terms:

Apex =  Zenith, the top of the wind window.
Bar =  the control bar used to steer the kite.
Bridle Lines =  the lines that give the kites shape and steering.
Cutter = An emergency line cutter hook knife.
Drop Zone = the area where the kite can fall.
Edge of Window = the area of least power in the window.
Flagging = having the kite flap in a depowered position.
Gust = A sudden burst of wind.
Kite Leash = A leash from the kite to the flyer, that depowers the kite when the bar is dropped.
Lark’s Head = the knot we use to attach the kite lines.

Lead Lines =

thicker lines connected to the bar.

P.I.O = 

Pilot Induced Oscillation.

Ram Air =

a dual surface kite with openings at the leading edge.

Respect =

the most important part of kiteflying.
Safety Buffer =  the extra space you put between your self, your kite, and hazards.

Shadow =

an area of turbulent wind created by an obstacle.

Wind Shadow = 

the area around an obstacle with turbulent wind.

Wind Window =

the area where the kite flies

Zenith =

Apex, the top of the wind window.

  Written by David Dorn, Images copyright, all rights reserved. ©2009-

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