Sunday, March 7, 2010

Go Fly a Kite

Benjamin Franklin had his turn. Had mine yesterday. Took a friend and two kites to an open field, and we let them fly.


It was in a large way just an excuse to get outside on a rare warm Colorado winter day.  The thermometer made it to 50 degrees which brought thoughts of spring to the foreground. Being Colorado, the snow is sure to return a few more times, so days like yesterday are meant to be siezed upon.

Flying kites seemed like the thing to do.  The kites had been purchased on an impulse a few weeks ago. Long plastic tubes contained cleverly fashioned fiber skeletons with nylon fabric skins.  One, a butterfly, the other, a cheeky dragon with realistic shiny green eyes.  It took less than 5 minutes to arrange each one for flight. Kite string reels were pre-assembled and ready to hook to the string harnesses on the kites.

If you know Colorado, you can think of at least two reasons why kite-flying in this locale might be a fool's errand.  (Not including that it is child's play and my childhood days are a few decades gone....)  The first reason in most seasons would be the nature of the wind. Notoriously fierce, that is.  In the spring especially, gusts of 50 miles per hour are not uncommon. Easy to imagine losing a kite to the stratosphere, or at least the next county.  The other reason is more sobering, and may exclude a large part of the summer from safe kite flying.  Thunderstorms and lightning strikes occur here in abundance, perhaps more than any other state in the union. 

No worries about lightning on an early March day, thankfully. The warm winter day also  proved ideal in the wind department, even perhaps a bit on the slack side.

I'm no Benjamin Franklin, but I found myself analyzing the effects of the wind at different heights from the ground. The flying field we chose had a small berm at the south end, and the prevailing wind near the ground was coming from the south. It seemed to me that it helped to move some distance north of the berm to get a bit more consistent wind.  The kites we were using each came with a cheap plastic wind meter; if I read mine right (and if it was accurate) we had less than 5 mph of wind at the site. After a while, I observed that any attempt to let out my kite to a height further than some 20 or 30 feet from the ground resulted in a quick collapse, and several times the dreaded "death spiral."  When I maintained flight at the lower level, my dragon held its posture nicely, with decent tension on the kite string.

After an hour of flying (actually a little less due to the occasional death spirals) I practically had to drag my friend away from the field, she was enjoying it that much. She logged more flight minutes with her butterfly than I did with my dragon.

The view from our location was a great background for our flying friends. I'm looking forward to the next flight.

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