Saturday 19 September 2015

Red Arrows!

You know the saying that some things are like buses? You wait for one for ages, and then three show up at the same time? Doesn't just apply to buses; applies to kites as well ...

I was aware of the existence of a 1970s Peter Powell-like kite made by Mettoy Wembley, called 'Red Arrow'. Plastic sail, partly transparent and with a red silhouette of a jet plane, extended nose, and a plastic tube tail to simulate a smoke trail. I kept an eye out for one for ages, but without any luck, until one showed up on eBay, which I did indeed win. Within a week or two, Allan Pothecary, of Close Encounters fame offered me a bunch of vintage kites on permanent loan, and that bunch included a stacked pair of Red Arrows! So within a couple of weeks, my collection of Mettoy Wembley Red Arrow kites went from zilch to three. Given what we normally fly, we were more interested in flying a pair than a stack, so I disconnected the stack, added red and blue tube tails, and off we went trying out the single Red Arrow I got off eBay ...

... and the front Red Arrow from Allan's stack

We first flew both separately, to get a feel for their flight behaviour. As you might expect, they're pretty heavy kites for their size, so need a decent breeze to fly well. When the wind drops, they tend to stall, and become harder to turn. Essentially, not different from an old Peter Powell.

And of course we had to fly them together! At that point, the wind started to drop away, so we struggled to fly patterns and formations, but they will be fine in stronger winds. Thanks, Allan!

Obviously, I can't have a blog post about Red Arrows without talking about the 'other' Red Arrows, which gave the kites their name in the first place. Especially because not long after we flew our Red Arrows, we were treated to a 20+ minute truly awesome Red Arrows display over Southampton Water! Unfortunately, we didn't have our Red Arrow kites with us at the time (would have been fun to have both in the air at the same time!)

What made the Red Arrows display even more special for us is that there are definite parallels between what they do in their jet planes, and what we do when we fly in a kite team: tight formations, wraps, and even star bursts!

Picture credit of Red Arrows display: Neil Gostling.


  1. Hi, I've just bought one from eBay too! How does the metal cross member rod connect to the main strut?
    Many thanks Paul Chichester

    1. There should be pieces of plastic tubing (like from a fuel hose) around the leading edge as well as on the spine. The cross spar goes through/in there.

  2. This was my first stunt and favorite kite as a child I remember chasing sheep along the ground and the beautiful long tail. So glad you posted this picture it came in handy for a birthday celebration memory with my brother

  3. I had a red arrow kite as a kid which i think might have been this. But I remember opening the wings on the kite in a similar way to putting up an umbrella, do you do that with this one ?

    1. No, not this one. There is a simple cross spar, but not with any fancy way of opening the kite. The Barnstormer DOES have a sort of umbrella opening, so maybe that's the kite you had as a kid?