recovering from a death dive

edited September 2014 in Technique
I've been flying the wonderful ITW Triton Kite for some years now and is still doing me proud.
However, I've noticed that in choppy winds it can have the disconcerting habit of turning over and darting to the ground.
It usually happens when the wind is a bit gusty, or there is a wind shadow to climb out of, the wind drops, the kite starts to bank and wheel.

As a first move to stabilize I add a tail, which usually inhibits the tendency in slightly choppy winds, and stops it from summersaulting. And then there are the adjustments to the different pulling angles and the tension line etc. But sometimes it's just a bit too variable and you need to keep on guard.

Until yesterday I've always been fairly successful at controlling it. When the kite begins to turn and there is pull on the line, give a quick drop of slack, it will turn up, pull back and it will climb out. Even at times when i've been looking at my feet while hoping over rocks only to turn round and see it nose first, tail up hurtling to the ground, this same action works. The kite will roll round to the side, sharp pull scoots you sideways, another slack, then pull and its nice and up again.

Yesterday was different. No matter what I did, after entering a downward trend there were only 2 responses I could elicit. Straight down slowly, and straight down quickly.

The kite landed unharmed, the camera faired somewhat worse.

Whether it was the wind – the kite had been struggling in test flights at the lower altitudes going from a good pull to suddenly floating backwards (related to turbulance form a stand of trees?) - or perhaps just me being tired and slow to respond, but I was wondering if anyone else come across this kind of behaviour and what your coping techniques are?


  • That's always a scary event, especially when camera attached! I have had just one occasion, where my self made delta didn't recover from a dive, even when I released all the line it could eat. I think the gust was just so strong that the "slack line" situation just wasn't possible. Fortunately I didn't have my camera attached then. Usually the releasing of line and perhaps even that running towards the kite will help, that's why I always leave some 50m of line to the spool, the emergency slack...
  • FCB
    edited September 2014
    Sounds like you're pushing it a bit at the upper end of it's range. You might extend it a bit by adding more bow, perhaps some elastic on the lower bridle, perhaps a longer-fuzzytail, but it works best as a smooth-wind, light-wind, slack-line kite.

    More discussion here on the triton:

    The weight of the rig also limits the ability to give slack to the kite when a dive starts. Corrections might work better with a lighter rig.


    Maybe I'm a little conservative, but when I see a tendency for dives and figure-8s I reach for a different kite or seek out better wind. Relying on my rapid response and attention (while fun) is usually not a recipe for success. It's just a little too easy for inattention to result in ground contact.
  • I like my kite nice and stable with no chance of diving before putting a camera up, however... stuff happens.

    Unstable flying is actually what allows single-line fighter kites to stay aloft. I have a few fighters and have played with them, and recommend every kite flier try one out.
    The basics are that when kite is spinning, pull the line when the kite is facing the direction you want the kite to go. The tension will make the kite shoot straight in that direction before going back into a spin. Repeat.

    This flight strategy can help you take down a kite in a semi-controlled manner even when it breaks a spar, or is over its wind range. It can give you that little extra time needed to frantically pull a kite down. That said, the few times I've done this with a large kite have resulted in the worst tangles of string I've ever seen.
  • I routinely handle this kind of situation with my Crane Kite Reel: Whenever you are reeling the kite in quickly you need to prevent any line tangle on the ground. At the same time you are forcing the kite to climb higher and more vertically.

    When my kite is flying too horizontally the aerodynamics are off kilter and the kite is forced to lay over to the side. That results in the air catching what should be the trailing edge of the kite and forcing it to roll upside down and head for the ground. With good line control you can release enough line to get the kite to fly vertically once again. If your line is tangled on the ground it is impossible to release the line with any degree of control. Once the kite is vertical you can then bring it in rapidly for a short distance which usually will cause it to gain altitude and regain the correct angle of flight.

    If it persists in rolling, the best adjustment is to shorten the forward support harness which helps create the horizontal attitude you need. Adding more tail increases total drag causing a lower flight position and that somewhat counteracts getting the horizontal flight attitude the kite needs.

    When all else fails you need to take the kite in as rapidly as possible and not destroy your kite line on the ground. The Crane Reel to the Rescue!

    Hope that helps.

  • When KAPpers put line to ground as part of a flying technique deliberately - it is not tangled. It forms a resource to allow quick response. There are few easier ways of giving line than letting it through the hands from off the ground. Not everyone flies with tight lines and spinning reels. Line on ground is not a recipe for tangles and wear if managed correctly. Worst tangle I got in was with a circular reel trying to wind slack line.
  • Simon, I was just thinking that I really should do that, the reel doesn't give the line fast enough in case of emergency, that's for sure! Clearly a good time to re-think my routines.
  • The line on the ground is a lovely scenario when conditions are just right, like standing on a freshly mowed lawn in the park. But that is not always our home base: Standing a rock outcropping on the side of Mt. Shasta; standing on the beach among seaweed flotsam; kiting among the chapperal of cactus and tumbleweed; these are not times when you can neatly lay out your line on the ground in circular loops so you can give it out as needed. I have one nice little "rat's nest" to illustrate this point.

    The other recipe for tangle is when you try to turn the neat pile of line over so you can get it back on the spool because now it is time to go home.

    Handled right, the Crane Reel never gets tangled, whether you have a 20 Lb. pull or you are winding a slack line. Also it will give out the line as rapidly as the air will handle it and still not get a tangle. It is not a spinning reel.

    Hope that helps, Frank, TheCraneReel
  • Thanks for the feedback, I think the comment about the rig was probably it, though it's quite a light rig, it did seem to hang some more than i'm used to seeing. And from what people say, crucially, I was too lazy to sprint forward that time and I knew it... NB to self, always eat a chocolate bar and have a good draught of water before flying!

    As for other kites, well, had thought/hoped i'd found stable air higher up, but alas only for 10minutes. My only other kite to hand was a flowform, while the windspeed was enough for lift, in wobbly spots and difficult take offs they have the heart-stopping alternative to a death dive – where a side or under gust will crumple it up like a plastic shopping bag. Fortunately the only time i've had a camera on when that's happened (and it plummeted like a rock) a chance gust opened the vents just before impact.

    Agree with the line on the floor as fast release, but also usually on terrain with boulders/thornbushes/steep drops/general clutter, do ok with the halo spool, it can roll fast though sometimes letting it roll off and chase after it can be faster! (not advisable).

    For reeling in quickly, tangle issues usually get bumped into the deal-with-it-later category, and I drop the spool or hand it over to the nearest person and run down the line. But, if you keep moving in a zig-zag pattern drawing in with broad arcs and large arm movements it helps lay a lot of string quickly without tangles over quite a short distance. I also find the wide arm movements, coupled with short hand flicks allows a lot of response to the wind. Wouldn't like to try it while balancing on seaweed though!

    So, in summary, looks like I was just reckless and lazy that day! lesson learned?...

    Cheers for the triton discussion link.
  • I'm seconding Simon H that the worst tangles I've gotten are line slacking off a winder and getting tangled. often at very inopportune moments.

    I'm excited to try a Crane Reel. I really do like the control of a reel. but halo winders are that perfect recipe of it-just-works. They aren't the best at everything, but they're not bad at anything either.
  • I have not tried a halo winder and have seen many of them in action, but only under ideal conditions; steady gentle wind, small kite, etc. How do they react to heavy pull, heavy line, more than 100 ft. for rewinding? I've heard that they can crush under a heavy load and the amount of line is somewhat limited capacity. Do you release line by playing it off the side of the spool? I ask because this can result in line twist.

  • I routinely fly my levitation delta 1000'+ on a halo in less than perfect winds. I let the line slide off the side of the reel when using a halo, and put it back on the same side when coiling up so there are net zero twists. I like that there is nothing to break on a halo. There are no mechanical parts to jam or bind, I can throw it in my bag and pull it out and know that it will work. If you use spectra, the fact that it doesn't stretch means you can wind in under tension and not worry about collapsing the halo. I've toyed with the idea of building a stratospool, but I can't justify the extra size/weight/complexity when the halo already works so well. I have two halos that cover 90% of my flights: 1000' of 150lb dacron, and 1500' of 140lb spectra. Gloves make it easier, but aren't necessary if you build up some callouses.
  • I'd echo psweeting. I think gloves are pretty important, but my favorite are very thin ones-- I buy rubberized gardening gloves that are thown out by our city's gardening crew at S.C.R.A.P in Portland, Ore. The worn out gloves are missing most of the rubber, and provide a very light touch.
  • Slightly off,sideways, topic

    About gloves. I use mine to PROTECT my hands from possible friction burns. Thin gloves/worn out gloves could well just cut through and be no protection at all!
    I was given ex-policeman's gloves which I am assured would protect against broken glass and other things policemen have to deal with.
    I hardly ever hold the line, however, but it helps protecting my hands while using my reel. I often run my left hand along the rim of the reel to control the speed of release. I use very thin line which has proved to be strong enough for all of my kites and sometimes I have had to pull it in with one hand to take the pressure off, while winding it on to the reel by hand instead of reeling in as I do in lighter winds.

    What's that black thing up there? At Penvins kite festival 2014

    Me at Penvins kite festival 2014

    Fly High

  • It's worth looking at our admin, Cris Benton's dozens of pages of KAP online and all his saltscapes work. Far as I know and remember Cris only uses halo reels for his KAP.
  • I routinely use a winder like Erick's, which takes a good bit of wrist strength. But I also use a halo winder. I have to agree with all the comments so far. They're dead-nuts simple to operate, and as long as I pay attention I don't get tangles.

    The concern over them imploding comes down to a question of winding technique. It's been covered in other threads here, but this is how I do it (when not winding off the ground): Wear gloves. I use leather roping gloves. They're thin and they work great. Take in a wrap of line, pull in against the kite so the tension comes off the winder, then let it take some tension back up as you pull in the next wrap. With 1000' on a hoop I've never had it over-tension when winding on this way. Once I got used to the technique I got to where I could take in two to three wraps a second in a hurry. Past that and I just pull to the ground.

    For reversing a pile on the ground to wrap back onto a halo, I flake to a new pile rather than just flipping the pile over. I never tangle when I do it this way.

    For flying a halo on questionable terrain (and raw lava rock is questionable terrain!) I bring a beach towel. It provides a good surface for line, as long as I don't let the line spill off. This is a trick I learned from a climber. They climb in questionable terrain all the time, and really don't like their ropes to get snagged or tangled. The guy I talked to uses a tarp.

    Anyway, I figure the choice of winder a KAPer uses is exactly that: a choice. It's a personal one, kind of like the choice of gloves. Different people will choose different tools that work with how they like to fly. That's one of the things I get the biggest kick out of with KAP, aside from the photos themselves: No two KAPers approach it exactly the same way. So any time I talk to a fellow KAPer, I get to learn something new. That's COOL!

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