Thursday, 8 April 2021

3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Thornbirds are Go!

A few weeks ago, I saw a set of three Thornbird kites, made by the long-defunct British Kited company, for sale. For the princely price of £20 per kite. Never came across this particular kite before, but they looked like nice team kite with their 2.62m wing span, so I snapped up the set of three. 

Why I got all three, given that we normally only fly as a pair, or a 4-strong team (L-katz), I'll come back to later, but let's first look at the kites themselves.

Wind was mostly 7-14mph, and the first kite on the lines, Thornbird 1, felt very heavy. Especially when the wind picked up into double figures, it developed quite some pull. 

Thornbirds 2 and 3 felt pretty much the same when we flew them, one after the other.

All three kites felt equally heavy, but despite the quite heavy pull, they all showed to have pretty good tracking. 

We then flew them together in all combinations, and that showed they were all matched very well against each other.

Next step was to tweak the bridle settings for all three kites a bit, bringing the nose slightly forward. That really made them fly less heavy on the lines, without losing any of their good tracking. 

The set came with two narrow tube tails, so obviously ...

As you probably gathered, we're very happy with our Thornbirds. A slight bridle tweak was all they needed to fly optimally for us. Yes, they're well-used and patched up in places, but they have plenty of life left in them, and they're definitely worth the £20 each we paid for them.

Now why did we get the set of three? Well, having a set of three full-size team kites like this gives us the opportunity to give someone interested in team-flying the chance to get that first taste of team-flying without having to spend money on a kite. We know of a particular someone like that already (if you're reading this, you know who you are!), but of course the option is there for anyone who can fly a dual-line kite on their own, and who wants to get a feel for what team-flying is like.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Another pair of Skynasaur Aerobats

Quite a few years ago, at Weymouth kite festival, a woman was selling a whole bunch of kites. Mostly single-liners, but among these was also a pair of Skynasaur Aerobats, in rainbow colours, with a price tag of a mere tenner ... Even though we already had a pair of Skynasaur Aerobats, I couldn't resist!

For some reason, the two rainbow Aerobats disappeared behind a cupboard ... I found them again the other day, and this time they were soon going to get flown.  

Because of the rainbow colour scheme, they really look cheerful in the sky. We flew them on 30m lines, as we felt that flying kites as small as this (they have a 1.27m wingspan) on our normal 45m lines would make them almost disappear at the end of the lines. 

Because these Skynasaurs don't have stand-offs, they really need to rely on the push of the wind in the sail to maintain their 'rogallo' shape. A sudden change in direction (like flying a sharp corner) distorts that shape, and they don't like that. Bring them to the edge of the wind window, and you run the risk of them losing shape completely and just fluttering to the ground. 

But as long as you fly them at wind speeds well above 10mph, and keep wind pressure in their sails all the time, they're fun to fly!

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Double Sky Weaver!

Got this pair of Ariel Sky Weavers off eBay quite a while ago, but for some reason, we never got to fly them. Now, with lockdown preventing us from going out for proper pair-flying, and with some sport fields within easy walking distance, we thought it would be a good time to get them to the air. 

Dating from the mid to late 1970s, this would be their maiden flight after 40+ years, as they were still new in their package. 

As long as they have pressure in the sail, they're pretty steerable, at least for a 1970s dual-line diamond kite. Due to the lack of a cross spar, the frame is very flexible and so able to absorb gusts to some degree. When the wind drops, though, getting them to turn is almost impossible. 

So how do they behave when flying together?

As you might expect from a kite of that era, they're pretty skittish, so flying them as a pair looks rather 'messy'. They're far from ideal precision kites, but of course they weren't designed for that.

Still, we had fun flying basic patterns with these vintage kites!

Monday, 21 December 2020

Double Sky Cat!

About four years ago, I got my hands on a Sky Cat. Or, to give it its full name, a "Sky Cat RCWI Parawing Stunter Kite". 

Dating from the 1980s, it's easy to dismiss it as just another Peter Powell clone, but it's definitely not a complete copy. First of all, it doesn't have a cross spar, just a spine and leading edges. Secondly, the frame is much more flexible than that of a Peter Powell. You may think that increased flexibility will make it a rather flimsy kite to fly, the opposite is actually true. It flies very smoothly, the flexible frame absorbing variations in wind speed, needs minimal input, and doesn't oversteer nearly as much as many other dual-line diamond kites of that period.

The Sky Cat does come with a narrow ribbon to tie to the spine and use as tail, but it certainly doesn't need it for stabilising purposes. Without tail, it flies as smoothly as with it.

Fast forward by almost four years, and another Sky Cat popped up in eBay, with a princely starting bid of £8; I was the only bidder .... 

This one didn't come with its tail, but as the kite really doesn't need one, I didn't bother trying to find a matching ribbon.

Second Sky Cat showed the same smooth flight characteristics as its sibling.

Next step is pretty obvious, isn't it? Fly them together! And it will probably not have escaped you that the sails of the two kites are each other's mirror images: blue with a yellow 'butt', and yellow with a blue 'butt'.

They flew very well together, speeds completely equal (which is good, as the bridle isn't easily adjustable), and generally matched in terms of flight characteristics.

Sky Cats are obviously not kites we'll ever use in competition, but to have a bit of fun with after a practice session, they're a really nice addition to our quiver of paired vintage kites!

Saturday, 9 May 2020


The Hurricane is a vented kite designed and built by Adam Pallas. I first flew an early version at the northern round of the Nationals in 2016, following a demo by the Pallas Family Flyers there.

The kite is designed for strong and variable wind, and comes with a set of three patches, allowing the flyer to adapt it to the prevailing wind. I liked the kite I flew back then, although I felt the standard 6mm carbon frame was a bit too flexible. Adam said he was looking into using Skyshark spars.

Fast forward by three years and some, and we were looking for a second pair of vented kites at the extreme high end of the wind range, to be added to the Airdynamics Taipan V2 kites we already fly. I remembered the Hurricane and shot off a quick email to Adam. Yes, Hurricanes with Skyshark spars were indeed available!

Which of course brought us to the dreaded or cherished (depending on how you look at it) colouriser .... after playing around a bit, I decided I wanted a pair of kites that did not in any way conform to the colour schemes we normally use for Flying Fish. So no green/orange, no blue/red. Ultimately we decided on purple/grey, with the two kites only distinguished from each other by the shade of grey (light grey for Lex, dark grey for Irma).

So here they are!

As I mentioned above, Hurricanes come with three sets of patches, giving six possible permutations:

It will take some time to get a feel for what permutation is best for which wind conditions ...

Putting that aside for now, how do they fly generally?

Different from what we're used to with our V2s. Slower, and a bit stronger pulling. We still need to play with bridle settings a bit more to set them up perfectly for us. They definitely track well, which is of course a key requirement. Axels and half-axels will take time getting used to; the input required is definitely different from what we're used to with our Taipans and Impulses. But that's just a matter of spending more time in the field with them.

We also flew our pair of Hurricanes together with a pair of V2 when flying with L-katz.

That showed, first of all, that Hurricanes and V2s are not a good match. As I already mentioned, the Hurricanes feel slower, and that's exactly what happened in a straight comparison. It was very difficult to remain in proper formations when flying Hurricane - V2 - Hurricane - V2. Of course, flying such different kites together in the team was never an aim, but it was an interesting comparison. What that session also showed, and what I was already expecting, is that the Hurricanes without any patches seemed to go a wee bit higher than the V2s. When the wind picked up and Pea and Lisa were finding flying their V2s becoming uncomfortable, Irma and I had no problem with the Hurricanes, and when we then handed the lines of our Hurricanes over to Pea and Lisa to have a go, they confirmed the Hurricanes felt better under the prevailing conditions.

In summary, we're very happy with this addition to our pair-flying quiver, and look forward getting more time with them. And I also feel our choice of purple and grey works really well. Kites look great in the sky, and also look great together!

Friday, 13 March 2020

'Psychotic' fun

Anyone who has flown a Flexifoil Psycho will agree that the name of the kite is well-chosen. When the wind picks up, this kite becomes a fast and furious one, and flying (half-)axels with this kite in a strong wind is, well, let's say 'exhilarating'.

Of course we have a Psycho in our quiver. You can't call yourself a serious sport kite flyer if you haven't at least flown one at least once.

Now it just so happens that a kite-flying friend of us has several Psychos. That opened the opportunity of adding a second Psycho to our quiver, and do some pair-flying with them. Crazy idea? Sure, but if you've been following Flying Fish over the years, you know that we're keen to pair-fly kites that aren't your normal team kites ...

Said friend was willing to let one of his Psychos go when I explained what we wanted, and here's his Psycho joining ours at our regular flying field in the New Forest.

By design, Psychos oversteer massively; they are are everything a team kite shouldn't be. But that does make it a lot of fun to try and do something with them that sort of resembles synchronised sport kite flying.

We tried simple things such as boxes (very wobbly boxes!) and ladders, and then moved on to parallel half-axels and contra-axels. Surprisingly, they refuel quite easily! But when it comes to flying STACK figures with them .... well, let's just say any judges present wouldn't really have needed their pencils ...

Nevertheless, flying them together really is a hoot, especially when the wind picks up. Psychotic kites indeed!

Saturday, 18 January 2020

A kite game!

Some years ago, I got a small Rhombus 'Fisch Fighter' kite, which flew surprisingly well given its very simple structure and material.

Shortly after I got this particular kite, I became aware that the kite was also sold as part of a 'kite game package'. Took me a few years to get my hands on that package (no thanks to Rhombus, who never bothered to reply to my emails), but I did succeed in the end!

The full package consists of two 'fighters', a lifter kite, and a hoop with a fish 'wind vane' attached to it. That hoop is the key of the game: aim is to fly the fighters such that their noses go through the hoop.

The hoop is meant to be on the line flying the lifter. We tried both the lifter that was included in the pack (a small yellow kite) and a larger Go Fly a Kite Shark. The small yellow kite struggled to lift line and hoop, whereas the larger Shark had no problem with this. However, the Shark bucked quite a bit in the blustery wind, which didn't help keeping the loop in one place ...

One of the two fighters included in the pack is almost identical to the 'Fisch-Fighter' we already had; the only difference is in the little nose ball, which is black rather than blue. The other fighter is a bit more shark-like, but with an identical frame.

We first flew the two (near-)identical Fisch-Fighters together ...

... followed by the two that were included in the package.

And then to the aim of the game: trying to fly the kites such that their noses entered the hoop. This was far from easy, as it's quite difficult to judge distances that way (we flew the kites on 25m lines), so it involved quite a lot of walking forwards and backwards. What also didn't help was that, due to the prevailing wind, the position of the hoop constantly changed. But, with some practice, we did get pretty close and succeeded in pushing the nose through the hoop once or twice.

I don't expect STACK will make this part of the annual National Sport Kite Competition cycle, but it's fun thing to try and do something different!