Flying kites is excellent for both kids and adults. For kids, it is an activity that brings them out of the house into a place where they can breathe fresh air. It is especially true nowadays when the younger generation spends most of their time in front of their gadgets.
The parafoil kite is one of the easiest kites to fly, especially single-line parafoils or what is more commonly known as sleds. All you need to do is attach a line and launch!
For adults, being involved in an enjoyable physical activity such as kite flying has many benefits. Flying a Parafoil kite provides a non-impact form of exercise. There is very little chance that you can get injured when flying a kite.
Second, being in the outdoors flying a kite reconnects you to nature. It provides you with a stress-relieving activity that promotes better well-being.
Advantages Of A Parafoil Kite Over Other Kites
- Easy to maneuver
- Difficult to destroy because of the absence of hard frames
- It folds up quickly because there are no struts. Storage is not a problem.
How Are Parafoil Kites Made?
One of the reasons why Parafoil Kites are easy to fly, even for inexperienced kite flyers, is because of their unique design.
The classic Parafoil kite is created by cutting several pieces of kite material and sewing them together to develop the desired shape or design.
The cut and sew process is explained through this diagram. (Source)
Unlike other kites, the Parafoil kite is devoid of a sturdy structural frame to hold its skin or fabric. You can liken it to a parachute. It is composed of two major skins connected by intertwining fabric cells.
When you launch the kite, these cells fill up with air. This air pressure builds up, giving the Parafoil kite its shape and form.
Making a Parafoil kite requires some level of expertise in bridling. Even kite enthusiasts who have been joining kite festivals for decades find it hard to perfect the bridling process in building a Parafoil kite. Take a look at this forum. (Source)
Today, kite sails are from space-age materials such as ripstop nylon, Mylar, and other super lightweight items. For lines, there is the prevalent fiber known as Spectra. This synthetic material possesses incredible tensile strength making it the ideal line for power kiting.
This bridling style is unique to the Parafoil Kite. Some prefer to adjust the bridle to get the most height from the prevailing wind. It enables the kite to achieve an aerodynamic advantage – better maneuverability and flight efficiency. Which brings us to the question: How do you fly a Parafoil Kite?
How Do Kites Fly?
A kite needs three things to stay afloat: gravity, drag, and lift. A kite is launched in the air because the wind’s aerodynamic force can beat gravity and drag. Drag is the resistance that you feel whenever you pull the kite towards you.
Just like a boat with a rudder, kites that are flat need tails to help keep their nose up. The bow-shaped and the Parafoil Kites are innately buoyant, so they do not require tails.
Types of Parafoil Kites
- Single line – looks like mattresses in the air. They are flat with many tiny keels into which you insert the bridles. What you envisioned as a kite when you were young is the single-line kite.
- Dual-line – they are very fast and easy-to-maneuver kites. They are controlled even when stationary and are usually flown to perform tricks and stunts.
- Quad line – generally used to pull boards, buggies, and skates. The first two lines are for control, and the last two are for brakes.
How Do You Fly a Parafoil Kite?
Flying on a kite is a great way to spend time outdoors. Here are a few pointers on flying a Parafoil Kite:
- Choose your Parafoil kite. The shape of these kites is usually like a sled, an arch, or a box. Parafoil Kites, although easy to fly, are a bit more challenging to handle than regular single-line kites.
Never use any metal as the material for your kite line. Wear gloves when handling the line to avoid skin burn, especially when you are making maneuver exhibitions.
- Once you have picked your Parafoil kite, the next thing to do is look for a wide-open space. Stay away from areas with lots of power cables, trees, busy roads, and other tall man-made structures.
Large parks, the beach, and open fields are some of the best kite-flying zones.
Once you are in an open area, keep your distance from other kite enthusiasts. It would be best if you had this distance to maneuver your kite better.
Checking The Weather
- Parafoil Kites require powerful gusts of wind, from 10 to 25 miles per hour. It would be tough to launch a Parafoil kite if the wind conditions are below this speed.
If you do not have an app that tells you the wind speed in your area, one good way of determining if the conditions are ideal for kite flying is to look at the leaves on the ground. If they are swept by the wind and blown up in the air, you can successfully launch your kite.
- Running is not an ideal way to launch your Parafoil Kite. The best way to do it is to have one person holding the kite downwind at a distance of about 25 to 30 meters from another person tugging at the lines. You can quickly achieve a quick launch with one quick pull on the lines.
- Never fly your kite when there is a thunderstorm. Learn from the story of Benjamin Franklin and his kite misadventure.
- For a beginner, it is best to have a companion holding the kite while pulling the lines to launch it upwards.
- Before you launch, make sure that the wind is behind you. When the wind is strong, launching your kite will be almost effortless.
Upon Launching Your Kite
- Once the kite is up, you can experiment with steering. If your Parafoil kite has two lines, pull the left line, and your kite will VEER towards your left. And the reverse will happen if you pull the right line.
- Once you get accustomed to the left and right maneuvers, it is time to practice 360-degree turns. You can make a clockwise or counterclockwise 360 by pulling on either the left or right line and retaining the hold on until the kite makes a complete turn.
Controlling Your Kite
- You can still steer the kite even when the lines are twisted. They slide off each other to allow steering. All you need to do is reverse the 360-degree turn to untangle the lines.
- As you fly your kite, you will notice a zone where the kite does not require maneuvering to stay in the air. This part of the sky is called the wind zone. To land the kite, you must fly it horizontally to get out of this zone.
You will notice the kite slowly going low and eventually falling to the ground.
- Keep on repeating these maneuvers until you have mastered them. Afterward, you can try other more complex tricks and maneuvers.
When you have flown your Parafoil kite and learned these basic flying skills, you can now say that Parafoil flying is effortless.
It does not matter whether you are young or old. If you have experienced flying with those diamond-shaped kites before, it is high time to graduate and move on to more maneuverable and challenging kites such as the Parafoil Kite.
Who Invented The Parafoil Kite?
Perhaps because it is safe again to go outdoors, kites became popular in the western hemisphere right after the Second World War. The predecessor of what we now know as the hang glider and the delta kite was a design patented by Francis Rogallo in 1948. He created a kite free of the rigid framework.
In 1950, the sled kite was introduced by William Allison. It paved the way for Domina Jalbert’s Parafoil Kite in the 1960s.
Today, there are stunt kites controlled by dual lines and quad lines. Expert kite flyers can now make difficult acrobatic stunts such as mid-air stops, backward, figure rights, and other complicated turns.
How High Can I Legally Fly A Kite?
It varies from one country to another. In the US, the FAA allows a maximum flying height of 150 feet above the ground.
If you desire to fly your kite higher than 150 feet, you must furnish the local FAA with a copy of your kite flying plans. You also need to put markers on your line starting at 150 feet. These markers should be visible by a mile.
If you want to ensure that you do not exceed the height limit in kite flight, measure your line and ensure it does not exceed 150 feet.
What Do You Do When Your Kite Gets Entangled?
If your kite gets stuck in a tree, let out some lines to let the wind blow it out of the branches. When the kite has been punctured and trapped in the twigs, or the line got entangled with the leaves, you may need a tall ladder to remove your kite from the tree manually.
However, if the location of your kite is inaccessible by ladder, it may be a sign to give up and buy a new one.
Never attempt to retrieve your kite when it gets caught in the power lines. Contact the power company. Power cables are considered very deadly territory even to professional electricians.
When your kite gets entangled in the power lines, you may consider getting it back as a lost cause.