“A kite is a heavier-than-air, tethered aircraft kept aloft close to a perpetual stall by the wind.”
A kite has three essential characteristics:
1. A structure designed to produce lift from the wind,
2. A flying line (tether) that keeps the kite from flying away,
3. A bridle that aligns the face of the kite to the proper angle in the wind for lift. In some cases, the flying line
attaches directly to the kite’s face or keel and governs its angle of attack.
Types of Kites:
There are thousands of different kites and they can be divided into four main types: flat, bowed, cellular (box), and
air-inflated. Fly Ringo Kite are of the flat types with a slight bow in the frame construction which helps with aerodynamics.
How Kites Fly:
Kites are heavier-than-air flying structures controlled by three main forces: lift, gravity, and drag. Lift is the upward force created by wind pressure on the face of the kite, which makes the kite rise and keeps it in the air. Gravity
is the downward force on the kite which works against lift. Drag is the air resistance acting on the kite as it travels
forward. The kite flies most efficiently when the three forces are balanced at an imaginary point, known as the
center of pressure.
Read an explanation of the Bernoulli Principle by Tal Streeter. For the “path of least resistance” taken by a kite
in flight, see the excerpt from Measuring the Sky, Streeter’s book in progress. In-depth kite aerodynamics is a subject
of great interest. To learn more about kite aerodynamics explore the works of Peter Lynn, who has an uncanny
ability to describe how kites work in an accessible way.
Where to Fly:
The best places to fly kites are large, open spaces such as parks, public playing fields, and beaches. A good
launching site should be open to the wind and well away from trees, tall buildings, and electrical power lines.
Launching a Kite:
To launch in good winds, stand with your back to the wind and hold your kite up to catch the wind. Let line out only
as fast as the wind lifts the kite. If the wind lulls, pull in line to make your kite gain altitude.
In light or gusty winds have a friend hold your kite 100 feet or more downwind from you, with the line stretched
tight. When you signal, your friend should raise the kite in both hands so that it catches the wind. As soon as your friend releases the kite, reel in line to make it climb.
Running is the hardest way to launch a kite. The uncontrolled tugging on the line makes kites dive and crash.
Let the wind and your reel do the work instead.
Controlling a Kite:
Careful line handling lets you control your kite when it is flying. Maintain a steady line tension to keep your kite
flying evenly. Take in line to move your kite in the direction it is pointing. Let out line to change its direction.
Also use the line to keep in touch with your kite. If the line goes slack, the wind has lulled. Reel in line to slow
the kite's descent. If the pull on your line increases, check to see if a gust is causing your kite to loop or dive.
Let out line to help it recover or soften its landing. Always leave some line on your reel for unexpected gusts.
If your line tangles with another kite line, hold your line steady and walk toward the other flier.
The tangle will move down the lines so that it can be undone.
Landing a Kite:
In moderate winds, reel in your kite slowly, pausing if too much tension causes it to loop. With a hard-pulling
kite, walk it down. While a friend holds the reel, put the line under your arm or hold it with a gloved hand and walk
toward the kite, to bring it in without increasing the apparent wind speed.
Remember that you are always responsible for your kite and its line.
• Never fly near busy roads or over other people.
• Never fly in stormy weather or near power lines.
• Never fly near airports or in airplane flight paths.
• Increase your caution with the size of your kite. Big kites can overpower anyone in heavy winds.
• Never leave young children unsupervised during their first flights.
Two Federal Aviation Administration regulations apply to kites weighing less than five pounds:
• No person may operate a kite in a manner that creates a hazard to persons, property or other aircraft.
• Kite flying within five miles of an airport requires the approval of the airport.
There are more stringent regulations governing kites weighing more than five pounds. Check with the FAA.
Some localities have other laws and regulations governing kite flying. For example, some cities prohibit flying kites over public roads. Check with your local authorities before you fly.