Yesterday, Saturday September 26, 2015, the Pocono Kite Symphony ran their third Annual Mountain Top Kite Festival at Harry Benning Park, in Mountain Top, PA, from 10 am to 4 pm. It was a great event for the kids and 157 sled kites were built and flown throughout the day. It was great to see so many families enjoy kiting, most of them for the first time.Flying Area
The flying area for the event was in a field about 300 feet wide (east to west) and 400 feet deep (north to south), on a flat plateau part way up a hillside that increased in elevation to the west. The flying area was surrounded by an established row of trees on two sides (south and west), where one side (west) was on the uphill portion of the hillside. There also was a partial tree line to the east that ran from the south and ended midway to the north and numerous trees to the north and east of the field. NOAA indicated the wind would be out of the east at 7 to 8 mph. That's nice, but in reality, the wind was very light and changing in direction due to local thermal generation. Fortunately, the wind was coming up the hillside towards the established row of trees. The field was section off in half so the upwind side (east) could be used for the newly constructed sled kites. The downwind side (west) was for others to use such as myself, at 150 feet in the direction of the wind and 400 feet along the hillside. By the end of the day, many of the kids and parents were using both sides of the field. The wind below the tree line was 0-2 mph, which made it difficult for most of the newly built sleds to fly unless the kids ran. The parents didn't mind because that kept them very occupied and gave the parents a break. Ramblings of my Adventure with the Bird of Prey 96
After helping the PKS members setup for the event, I had some long awaited quality airtime with the Bird of Prey 96 that started at 9:30 am. Tom White and I have been discussing using slightly less nose weight to allow for a more gradual transition from climb to glide. I reduced the nose weigh to 5 in. in length and used my 250 ft. spool of 50 lb. spectra line. The light frame (P90s/Zero Airs) was in the Bird of Prey 96.
The Bird of Prey 96 now performs as desired for this typical northeast inland field and wind conditions, and is now my go to glider kite for large outdoor flying area. I could work a glide to the downwind edge of the field, turn and climb to a height above the upwind tree line to catch the clean air, and most of the time spool out my entire 250 ft. of flying line. In the process of playing below the tree line, I was flying up to 100 ft. across the 0-2 mph wind to my left and right. Please note there were many no wind areas on this field. At height, the Bird of Prey 96 move like a real bird, with the changes in the wind currents due to thermal activity. If the air was clean and steady, the Bird of Prey 96 parked like a well-behaved single line kite. After a thermal left the area and was replaced by the sinking air, I would quickly bring the Bird of Prey 96 over my head then glide upwind, sometimes to a surprising distance of up to 100 feet, and glide over various areas of the field at tree top height looking for lift. If no lift was found, I was back on the deck below the tree line gliding and waiting for the next thermal to build. If a thermal was building on the field (no wind and an increase in air temperature), the Bird of Prey 96 during a glide would on occasion increase in elevation with no tension on the flying line. Just another of those mouth open moments for the day where you go “that was cool!”
There were a few times the Bird of Prey 96 just happened to be directly over my head above 20 feet and circling in the building thermal. Another mouth open moment.
Right before noon, the wind associated with the thermal activity above the tree line picked up. Now it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t share some of the stupid things we can do while kiting. Due to the increasing strength of the thermal activity, I brought the Bird of Prey 96 down quickly with my flying line in a pile by my feet. I was concerned about breaking the Zero Airs and the associated light joiners I used. The Bird of Prey 96 was back on the ground and kids were starting to invade my side of the field. I made the mistake of reeling in the line from the bottom of the pile. I now have a large looped mess of line to work through. It was my therapy during breaks, but it will take several more nights to undo my mess. No use in being stupid unless you show it.
In the afternoon I change out the frame to the heavier one (P100s/2PTs) and used my 250 ft. of 75 lb. spectra line since I trashed my 50 lb. The 75 lb. was a better choice anyway due to the stronger winds up top. The same 5 in. in length nose weight was used. The additional total weight of the kite due to the heavier frame increased its glide speed and allowed the Bird of Prey 96 to penetrate the turbulent air better, but more finesse was needed to work the 0-2 mph wind and lift on the deck, which was quite fun to do.
Throughout most of the day, my flights were lasting approximately 45 minutes, and on many occasions, I brought the Bird of Prey 96 down to take a break. A few of the other single line flyers that attended the Festival attempted to fly during the day, and most of the time they had a brief moment of success, but could not get into the clean air above the tree line.
In summary, I finally gave the Bird of Prey 96 a chance to fly in the conditions it was designed for and it’s a thermal hunter. With this glider kite, I can take advantage of conditions that would leave most other kites on the ground. Please note that when I fly glider kites of this size, I don't stand in one place and tend to move as needed over an area of about 30 feet. The Bird of Prey 96 fits my style of flying, but on a larger scale than when I fly indoors. After quitting for the day at 4 pm, I had a great cardiovascular workout, an incredible amount of quality airtime and a lot of open mouth happy moments.
During the day, I was texting Tom White with my observations. It was my turn to have good conditions, while his area of California is suffering with high heat. In the near future, I hope he experiences the same observations with his twin to my Bird of Prey 96, when he can back out. If he does, we will then determine a path forward to make this version of the Bird of Prey available to others in some capacity.
In closing, when I first finished the Bird of Prey 96, we weren’t getting along too well. With upgrades to joiner and testing various nose weights, that all changed yesterday and we now have a mutual respect for each other. This type of glider kite flying is like what I equate to flying indoors to music. You get in tune with the kite so you work together as one to take advantage of the conditions.
I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. Way too much fun for one person to have with a 96 in. glider kite.
Yours in kiting,
DougUpdate (September 28, 2015)
There were two photographers in the morning at the Festival and I hope to obtain some of the pictures of the Bird of Prey 96 being put through its paces and post them here. Also, I cleared out my flying line knotted ball last night without cutting the line. Very therapeutic.