Second time to write a story to the category of "lessons learned"

Just about a week ago I was flying (and KAPing) above Korcula, Croatia. Wind was smooth and weak so it took some time to reach some high with long line.
Basically I felt that I succeeded so I started to reel my kite down when my family came back from sightseeing explaining me that tourists were discussing about what was flying above the old city.
I was smiling and kept reeling the line. A small group of youngsters came to me and asked what I was doing. They came from Belgium and were nice people so I let them hold my spool and fly my kite.
Also explained KAP and they really enjoyed the pull of my dopero.

All of a sudden I heard some noise... some terrible and frustrating noise.
I told them that a helicopter is approaching as I hear and give my spool back-they were not so fast (did not realize the problem)
Grabbed my spool and was winding so fast my line as I could. By this time the kite was only in 40-50 meters high and the rig was almost on the ground.
I thought that the army copter will see my kite (3*2 meters) but they did not make any turns just continued getting closer.
I started to run to the opposite direction with kite to pull it out of the way. They made a f*cking turn towards the same direction. Like a cat and a mouse.

My kite almost got hit by the helicopter just missed with like 5-8 meters. Also almost "tangled" into my line. I dropped lots of line so it made a curve and the helicopter flew in that small bay of free area.

Neither my kite and the heli were higher than 40 meters as we saw it. There is no reason to fly so low!!!!!

And that was it. No one was injured. No problem occured

I've got my kite to the ground, Belgian guys and girls took a look at my photos wife asked how dangerous it was...
I put my rig into the box, the kite into it's bag and continued visiting the old town.

After 10 minutes when the adrenaline was gone I had to sit down to a bench. Was sitting there for a while.


Why did it fly so low?
How could it not see my kite? Sun was behind the copter
How can I avoid such situation?

Of course it was my fault -but could happen to anyone. Any solution?

Smooth winds for all of you and free air of helicopters for you




  • edited August 2018
    There is nothing you can do. I always bear in mind that the subject of my flight and the conditions I want for successful capture will be the SAME as anyone in a helicopter or light aircraft will want. I know this because my photostream is followed by a couple of light aircraft (and a few drone) pilots looking for ideas for aerial photographic subjects.

    Why do they fly so low? Because they can. Despite clear regulation setting a lower ceiling of 300M (https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/uk-falls-into-line-on-altitude-rules-196776/) this is often ignored, particularly by 'copters but also microlights and parascenders.

    Remember, if you think it will make an interesting subject for KAP you can be sure someone else in the air will think the same.

    The only action I can think of is to keep a down wind safe space clear and be prepared to run down wind to drop the kite in the hope of avoiding contact- even so I dread the thought of my rig being wound into a rotor or a parascender shroud line wrap causing a wing collapse.

    I believe a kite is almost invisible from the air, it is a small object after all.

  • edited August 2018

    Glad you survived your helicopter encounter with no major damage or loss.

    Low flying helicopters do get your adrenaline flowing!

    You did nothing wrong! Helicopters are permitted to fly just about anywhere and at any altitude (i.e., very low). The helicopter pilots have responsibilities too when flying low VFR flights.

    I tried to find my prior post (June 2008) from my KAP / Helicopter encounter but it looks like the post was on the old KAP site that appears to be down. (Hope Cris can bring this valuable resource back to life or maybe move to different site as there is a wealth of knowledge posted there).

    The following is a link to the KAP safety post on this forum which contains a few tips that could help.

    Given my original post is no longer available, I am reposting it below.



    Kite and KAP Rig Meets Helicopter…..Helicopter Wins (Repost from June 1, 2008)

    Fate showed up Sunday afternoon June 1, 2008 in Philadelphia, PA on the Delaware River waterfront.
    It had to happen someday….I hoped to be reading about this type of event as a hypothetical possibility and not writing about a factual real life encounter with a helicopter while flying a kite and KAPing.

    Please read carefully and note pictures supporting this story along the way.

    The setting:
    A beautiful late spring day on the Delaware River Water front. The wind was running about 10-20 mph out of the west. A water safety day was underway on the Delaware River waterfront with just about every boat in the Philadelphia police and fire department were on display. The U. S. Coast Guard had a large presence. The U. S. Navy was present. Over 100 law enforcement officers, water rescue teams, swat teams, un-manned submarines … the works was on display at the Delaware River water front in Philadelphia, PA.

    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins
    The south end of Penn’s Landing peer that fronts the Delaware River was free of major obstacles. I checked the park rules and local law enforcement for any special restrictions. I did a brief safety review. The wind was blowing out of the west which would place the kite and rig safely over the water with minimal risk to any people in the area. The wind was strong and steady enough to attempt a KAP session with my Premier Kites 78” Rokkaku. I launch the Rokkaku kite to test the wind for about 15 minutes. The kite was stable and flying well at different altitudes 100-300 feet. I attached my auto KAP rig (modified BBKK rig with the AuRiCo controller) ran a preflight check with the Canon A570IS with the large 0.45 Opteka wide angle converter attached. I selected one of my Wind Watcher CHDK KAP scripts and selected 6 still photos and 20 second video clips.

    Up in the air with lots of fun KAP subjects to capture including: the U.S.S Olympia (vintage battle ship from 1898 Battle of Manila), the U.S.S. Becuna – guppy-class submarine from WWII (South Pacific), Gazela tall ship, Moshulu tall ship, the Spirit of Philadelphia, the Big-J Battleship New Jersey and the Ben Franklin bridge. Lots of activity in the water with many sailboats, jet skis, police boats, Cost Guard boats and fire boats.

    The kite and KAP session was pure enjoyment. The kite and rig was out over the water doing it’s thing – taking pictures from a kite. I had several parents stroll by with their kids. I had several parents and young kids hold the kite line to get a feel of the power of a kite. Total KAP time was about 30 minutes.

    Enter the helicopter:

    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins
    Suddenly a Coast Guard helicopter shows up on the NJ side of the river over a mile away. The helicopter is starts doing mock sea rescues near the Ben Frankly bridge (about 1 mile away from my kite). I begin to assess the unexpected new situation. The helicopter sea rescue demonstrations continued for several minutes near the Ben Franklin bridge with the helicopter hovering over the water under the Ben Franklin Bridge at less the 20 feet off the water. The helicopter sea rescue demonstration continued for about several additional minutes or so and seemed to be restricted to near the Ben Franklin bridge and NJ side of the river where several police and fire boats had gathered. I began to assess my options and to prepare to bring the kite down if the helicopter returned to my immediate area.

    The Rokkaku kite was flying at near 200-250 feet with the KAP rig about 100 feet below the kite. The wind was continuing to fluctuate between 10 and 20 mph (with a few gusts).

    The helicopter suddenly starts heading straight for my location from a mile away. I immediately try to assess my emergency options to avoid the fast closing helicopter. Options included: A) wind in quickly B) let line out quickly and C) cut the line. I could not move latterly as I was on a dock surrounded by water.

    The helicopter closed to my location quickly (in less than 60 seconds). The speed of the approach surprised me. I immediately took evasive action and selected option B) let line out quickly (hoping the KAP rig and camera weight would quickly drop the line into the water (sacrificing the rig and camera to the water) to avoid the helicopter. I let out maybe 75 to 100 feet of line in less than 30 seconds. The altitude of the kite and KPA rig did not change significantly (wind gust was taking out the line). The tension on the kite line was moderate due to the gust.

    The helicopter few under my kite and above my KAP rig! The kite line was immediately cut by the helicopters blades. The helicopter continued flying down river with no visual impact on flight direction or speed.
    The BBKK auto KAP rig with my Canon A570IS camera and wide angle lens converter hit the water with a big splash after a free fall of about 100-150 feet.

    The Rokkaku kite was taken by the wind across the Delaware River where it landed just in front of the Big J Battleship NJ and the Tweeter Center in NJ.

    I was stunned.

    I quickly began cranking in the kite line. The KAP rig with camera attached was now 20-30 feet underwater! I cranked in the kite line for about 5 minutes with a fair number of onlookers who witnessed the entire event. It was like landing a big fish on the dock when I finally pulled my KAP rig out of the water. The kite was just falling to the ground after dropping like a leaf in the wind. I was surprised it stayed up so long and that it reached the NJ side of the Delaware River.

    I was stunned at what had transpired in the last 10 minutes. Swinging from an enjoyable KAP event to a few seconds of terror followed by relief that no apparent damage or safety related accident with the helicopter. The risk was real to me of the potential for a more serious outcome. The multiple police and onlookers shrugged it off as bad luck on my part (losing the KAP rig, camera and kite). I considered myself as very fortunate individual to survive with only a material loss.

    The rapid turn of events had me rethinking what I could have done differently: a) not fly a kite at all, b) no KAP attempt, c) wind in the kite as soon as the helicopter showed up over a mile away, d) cut the line, e) wind in the line when the helicopter approached, f) better research on helicopters in the area, g) notifications to flyers… I am sure I will add a bunch more ideas…. and I welcome comments and recommendations from fellow KAPers…. I openly share all of this with the hope that it will help fellow KAPers make better decisions than I.

    Post analysis:

    Nerves : Three days after the KAP encounter with the helicopter I am still assessing my nerves.

    Rokkaku Kite (Premier 78”): Lost and I hope in the hands of a new owner. The kite was confirmed to land in NJ near the Big J. I called security at the Big J and they promised to call back if they spotted the kite. Two hours later I received a call. They spotted the kite near the Tweeter Center. I drove to NJ to visit with the Big J and Tweeter Center security….and after a 1 hour search…no kite was found. Two witness confirmed the kite landed but now no kite could be found. I hope someone has a new kite.

    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins
    Modified KAP Brooks BBKK rig: Wounded but still kicking. The KAP rig was seriously deformed (See picture). All four of the sides (top, bottom, right and left) were bent. The compact Picavet cross was also deformed with all four arms bent up (see picture). The PeKaBe ball bearing blocks showed no evidence of damage. The string on the Picavet cross showed no evidence of damage. The Brooxes hang-ups were stretched and deformed (see pictures). The damaged described above is evidence of serious force on the rig. I attributed the force to three possible factors a) stress on the line from the helicopter blades applying sudden G-force on the kite line and KAP rig (most probable casue), b) force of the rig hitting the water from 150 foot drop (next most possible cause) or c) force during winding in the KAP rig while under water (I discount this cause).
    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins
    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins

    AuRiCo Controller: The AuRiCo controller was full of water after pulling it out of the river. I removed the KAP rig batteries and let the AuRiCo controller and battery case dry out (see pictures).

    Pan and tilt servos: There was no visible damage to the pan servo or gears. The tilt servo axis was bent (see pictures).
    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins

    AuRiCo Controller with servos: After two days of drying out I reloaded the original AAA Energizer batteries and activated the AuRiCo controller and it powered up normally and turned the servos!

    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins
    Kite line (braided Dacron 200 lbs): The kite line was snapped by the helicopter blades. Prior to the line being cut there was the typical pull of Rokkaku kite then nothing at all. The picture shows the end of the kite line that was attached to my reel. I examined the kite line for any tears, cuts or stretches. The attachment points where the Brooxes hang ups were attached showed stretch marks. The line was cut approximately 10 feet from where the Brooxes hang ups were attached to the line (very close call). My emergency run out of the line may have dropped the KAP rig below the height of the helicopter (hard to tell as the helicopter was rising up at the same time).

    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins
    Canon A570IS camera with large 0.45 Opteka wide angle converter: The camera sank to a depth of 20-30 feet in the Delaware river (Philadelphia is a sea port with direct access to the Atlantic ocean. The water is a mixture of fresh and salt water….. After pulling the KAP rig and camera out of the water with a bit of help from nearby spectators I removed the batteries, SD Card and poured out the water from the camera (see pictures). The Opteka wide angle converter was full of water but no apparent other damage (see pictures). After setting the A570IS in the sun (dashboard of car) to dry out for a whole day. I was able to get the camera to power up, but no sensor response in camera mode. I placed the camera for a 2nd day in the sun and was able to get it to power up and take pictures! Amazing. My spirits are beginning to improve!

    SD Card: The SD card was wet when removed from the A570IS camera. I popped the SD card into my pocket and let it dry out for a day. I got up enough courage to pop the SD card into my PC slot to see if I could salvage any pictures from this eventful KAP experience. To my surprise I was able to recover all pictures from the KAP session from the start to the moment the helicopter blades cut the kite line. See link in flickr for additional shots.

    KAP Pictures: multiple pictures and video clips were captured during the KAP session. Assorted mixtures of interesting KAP pictures were captured. Several shots of the helicopter in the immediate area and beginning it’s approach to the KAP rig were captured (see pictures).
    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins

    KAV Video: multiple KAV video clips were captured during the KAP session. The video was rolling taking pictures looking south down the Delaware River when the helicopter approached from the North and cut the kite line. No video pictures of the helicopter were captured during the encounter. The last frame of the video shows a sudden blur as the kite line was cut. The audio on the video clip is most informative (and scary) as you can clearly hear the helicopter approaching and getting loud. Click on the photo below to see video on flickr.
    Kite and KAP Rig Meet Helicopter - Helicopter Wins


    I consider myself very fortunate that there was no accident or apparent damage to the helicopter. The risks were sudden and beyond my control after the kite and KAP rig was in the air and the helicopter suddenly approached. Safety should continue and must be a first priority for all KAP sessions. Material losses (lost kite, damaged KAP rig and components) on my end are insignificant to the potential risks. I hope this detailed write up helps guide my fellow KAPers to make wise decisions when they encounter similar events. I appreciate thoughtful feedback from all.

  • Dear Blakebill91 and WindWatcher,

    Thank you for your responses. I read all your "instructions" for safety and thought it over and over.
    I was so lucky in this bad situation

    Smooth winds for you

  • Back in April this year I got buzzed by a helicopter (while shooting these pics). I was using my FlowForm 16 which has a long fuzzy tail, flying from the top of a hill overlooking Totnes and the River Dart. While a Rok might be invisible from some angles, there's no way the helicopter pilot didn't see my kite, indeed that was what obviously attracted him. When he started coming directly towards me from less than a mile away I started bringing my kite down (it was probably about 150' up and he was at roughly the same altitude). He circled the kite at a distance of a few hundred feet and then started moving closer while I hauled the kite down. He didn't move away until I had removed the rig (when the kite was maybe 50' up). I think he was just curious about what I was doing (at his closest he would have definitely seen the rig) but he didn't seem worried about hitting the kite line.

    We get quite a few low-flying helicopters - rescue, traffic and police mainly - but this wasn't any of those.
  • I fly in a small town in central Oregon that sees few helicopters, although the local airport (Redmond) is only a couple miles from my home. The sound of a copter scares the bejeezus out of me when my delta is in the air, even though they always seem to be at a much higher altitude. Would mylar streamers help? I have a flashing LED I could attach, but I doubt it would be seen in daylight.
  • Dave, how are the privacy laws there these days? For example, if there'd been a nude sunbather in one of those back yards, would you have been in trouble for photographing her/him? And could even a fully-dressed resident complain about your intrusion into a private space? We had a case here recently where a woman complained to the council because a neighbour's children had made a tree hut that enabled them to see over the fence into her garden. (Her own house was two-storey, so she could see into their garden anyway!) The council invoked planning laws rather than privacy laws to say the tree hut must go. Heaven knows what they'd say about a kite with a camera over someone's house and garden. A drone in such a situation would be illegal for sure.
  • Jim, things are changing here. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights gives people reasonable expectations of privacy when not in a public place though there have been few test cases (mainly where public figures have been photographed in private places using long lenses or drones). Mostly these have been concerned with publication (particularly for profit) rather than the act of photographing itself.

    I do worry more than I used to about photographing private gardens (like those in the pics above) but mostly there are no people around and if there are they are generally completely unrecognisable. I'm also always highly visible - anyone seeing the kite and rig can usually see me too. I don't sell photos but I do put them on Flickr.
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