Flying A Kite
In dealing with this subject, for the sake of clarity, some things which have already been dealt with will be mentioned again, and, if necessary, will receive further comment. First to be considered is the place from which the kite is flown. There are certain do's and don't's which operate here. For example, avoid a spot where the kite might become entangled with trees or overhead wires, or where it might sail over a busy road. A good site is one where there is room to move about freely without causing annoyance to others. This applies particularly when several kites are being flown. It is exasperating if the lines get mixed up. Kite flyers, like anglers, give one another sufficient room in which to enjoy their pastime. Next, a word about weather conditions. It is the aim and intent of the enthusiast to fly his kite successfully under varying conditions. He regards them as a challenge to his skill. At the same time he is not so misguided as to see a challenge in a gale. He knows that because a kite is, after all, but a frail craft, there are limits to its capabilities. In this respect, common sense is a good guide.
The following are instances of different flying conditions. On a warm calm day the air seems to be still. But this is only comparatively so. Although there is little movement in a horizontal direction, there is upward activity. This is due to rising currents of air, called thermic currents. They will be found, for example, above ploughed fields, moorland and where buildings are grouped together. The familiar heat shimmer is an indication of this rising air. On the other hand, on such a day, there will be colder descending air where there is water, marsh or meadow.Then there comes a day when the wind is blowing. There can be variation in its movement. For example, it may be a fitful wind. Again, and to the point here, it may meet an obstacle such as a hill, a cliff, or a building, in which case it is deflected upwards. The strength of the up-current will depend upon the force of the wind, and the size of the obstacle it meets. Rising currents are a means whereby birds can soar, that is, fly without flapping their wings. Again, the glider pilot derives benefit from them. It follows, therefore, that, on occasions, they may prove to be helpful to the kite flyer.
We turn now from the weather to the kite. Before flying it, its size must be taken into account. Sometimes the enthusiast is tempted to build an outsize one. Though it may be the object of interest and admiration, the owner might not have realized that in flying large kites both skill and strength are needed. Someone has said that a 6-ft. kite pulls like a cart-horse. It follows then that one half this size, in a fairly strong wind and when a considerable amount of line has been released, can exert a strong pull. For this reason, the size in this book is limited to 3 ft. 6 in. This is a convenient and manageable size range for the beginner. Later on, if desired, the reader may make larger sizes by increasing the measurements given. The next thing to do is to inspect the kite. First, check the bridle and the line, to see that they are secure and that the line runs freely on the reel. Secondly, test the bracing and bowstrings to make sure that they are taut. The method of tying these, which is shown in Chapter 7, under the heading 'Knots and Hitches', will ensure that they can be tightened, if necessary. Thirdly, inspect the cover to ascertain whether it is secure and in good condition. This is very important in the case of a paper cover, as it can easily get damaged.
The method of flying the kite is as follows. A length of line is released. A friend holds
the kite, or if no help is at hand, it is laid on the ground. The operator then runs
forward against the wind. The length of the run and the speed required depend upon the
force of the wind. The kite will gradually rise at a shallow angle. The operator, still
moving, releases more line, the kite meanwhile responding to upward thrust. From then on
it is largely a matter of movement on the part of the operator when called for, and of
manipulating the line. Even on a fairly calm day the action of running causes a wind that
will lift the kite, and this is aided by a gradual release of the line, and by choosing a
place where there may be rising currents of air. The height which a kite may reach is
dependent very largely upon the amount of line which is released. If conditions be
favourable, it will climb steadily until the weight of the line begins to be felt. It will
rise all the time that the upward thrust is strong enough to overcome the downward pull,
due to the weight of the kite and the line. The speed of the ascent is increased by a
series of steady pulls on the line. In bringing the kite down, allow it to describe a
descending curve, meanwhile move towards it, and carefully wind in the line. The kite
should not be pulled down by brute force. Care is particularly needed for the last few
feet of descent. The kite will behave wildly if the line is wound in too
Success in kite flying comes, as it comes in other activities, by acquiring skill through practice. Theory may be good, but, for example, it is only when the pilot or the driver takes over that he gets the necessary 'feel' of his machine; it is only by handling his machine that he discovers what he and it can do in a given situation. So it is with kite flying. And let it be said that it is in this very fact that much of the interest of kite flying is found. If a kite were as mechanical in its movements as a clockwork train on a circular track, then the interest would be lost. It is the spontaneous response of a kite to variable weather conditions which sustains interest. The operator is in control, and finds much pleasure in this fact. There is a certain analogy between kite flying and both gliding and sailing. One person, as it were, becomes part of a craft which is very responsive to the elements and to his controlling hand. As far as kite styles are concerned, it may be said that today they mainly belong to two classes: the box and the flat type. The box kite flies after the manner of an aeroplane, that is, at a small angle to the wind. Its shape helps to keep it from side-slipping, which means a sideways and downwards movement. The shape improves stability. The box kite has a good lift, that is to say, it climbs well, and can be readily brought to a nearly overhead position. The flat-type kite flies at a larger angle to the wind, and in many cases balance is obtained by the use of a flexible tail.
It has a lively manner and is more suited than the box to aerial acrobatics. By skilful use of the line it will dive and dart about in the air in a most interesting way. It will therefore be seen that the choice of a kite depends upon what one wishes to do with it. If the aim is to fly high, then the box type is the choice. If on the other hand, the idea is to carry out aerial manoeuvres, then the flat or plane kite, as it is also called, is the one to use.
Note 1. A Useful Hint.
For steadying a kite in flight, when other methods fail, tie a piece of thin material about the size of a man's handkerchief, to the end of the tail string. The author has found this to be very effective.
Readers are advised to make inquiries at their local police station as to whether there are any bye-laws or local regulations, governing kite flying, particularly regarding the height to which they may be flown.