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  A kite operates like a simple aeroplane on a line - in fact aeroplanes were developed from kites (see History of Kites). Just like a plane, a kite flies because the movement and force of the wind passing the kite pushes it upwards enabling it to stay up in the air.

To help it fly, the shape of the kite is important. Some shapes are easy to fly and control, while others offer more of a challenge to the flier. All kites are variations of flat and curved surfaces.

 
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Kite Types

pic11 Diamond Kite
A diamond kite is either flat or curved and is the classic shape we all think of as a kite shape. It is also called a Malay or Indian kite.

Flat Kite
Flat kites come in various shapes such as square or round. They are often used for trains of kites that are tied together to look like caterpillars or dragons.

Box Kite
Box kites can be rectangular, hexagonal, tetrahedral or other shapes with frames that provide three-dimensional cells. These shape combinations give good lift and stability.

Sled Kite
Sled kites have straight stiffeners and the kite is curved in one plane.

Parafoil/ Flexifoil Kite
Parafoils and Flexifoils are a development of sled kites with multiple curves, similar to an aircraft wing in shape. Flexifoil Power Kites are precision made from tough rip-stop nylon fabric. They are high performance, two-line sport kites. (For more information see Information:: Flexifoil Kites)

Delta Kite
Delta kites have three braces or stiffeners at the top to form a Delta wing. They are light and easy to fly.

Snake Kite
Dragons, fish or caterpillar are all forms of snake kites. They have a frame and a often curved head, that continues downward into a tail. Generally snake kites are very colourful and attractive and are popular with children.

Bird Kite
With wings supported on cross frames, bird kites look like birds.

There are many variations of all these basic types.

 
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Kite Lines

pic12Many kites are now controlled with two lines, although simple, basic, fun kites still have single lines. Some kite models, known as quads, are controlled with four lines. Quad lines are not necessarily better but they can let you do more manoeuvres. Quad and dual line kites are used in competitive kite flying.

Materials
Different types of materials are used to make kite lines, the most common being polyamid and polyester and the most expensive being Dyneema or Spectra. The more costly lines are better for quality and strength, but ultimately the choice is yours.

Line Strength
All kites have a 'pull' measured in pounds. Generally, smaller kites have less pull and need 80-150lb lines and larger kites have more pull and need 150-300lb lines, depending on the wind speed. The most popular sport kites on the market are around 6 - 8 feet and the pull can be rated from mild to strong with line recommendations between 80 - 250 pounds. (Line recommendations are listed by the manufacturer on each kite's specifications)

Line Length
This is usually given with the kites specifications and can range from 50 - 150 ft.

 
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Choosing a Kite

pic8 Look at shape, size, wind range and price and take advice from a good kite supplier (See Information) when you are choosing what to buy. Basically, you need a kite that is well constructed, easy to handle and one that will fly well even in a light wind.

  • Shape
    The shape affects the way the kite handles in the wind. Choose an easy flier if you are a beginner - there are lots to choose from. Many kite suppliers offer Starter Kite Packages.

  • Size
    Kite size is determined by height and width, the sail area and the wingspan. Anything under a 3 foot wingspan is small, 4 to 6 feet is medium, 7 to 12 feet is large and more than 12 feet is extremely large. The 6 to 8 feet range is the most popular. Some of the best performers are in this range.

  • Windrange
    The wind range of a kite is the amount of wind needed to fly your kite. Wind speed is graded 0 - 12 according to the Beaufort Scale so the wind range of a kite is given as a Beaufort Number, eg. If your kite is labelled Wind range 1 - 6Bft it can be flown in any of the wind speeds listed 1 - 6 (3 - 30mph) on the Beaufort Scale.
    (See Flying High: Beaufort Wind Scale)

    A light wind kite can be flown in light winds for a considerable amount of time, avoiding the frustration of seeing your kite come down to earth too often!

  • Price
    Fun kites can be bought from under 10 but many cheaper kites are hard to launch or keep airborne unless the wind conditions are just right. This can be frustrating and may put you off trying again. For a good beginner's sport or stunt kite, expect to pay a reasonable amount. Prices start from about 30 upwards.

  • Other Features
    Many kites have frames made with carbon spars. Sails are usually made from plastic, nylon, or Icarex polyester fabric. Your choice of kite will depend on what you want the kite for - fun, exercise, competition or a combination of these.
 
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Other Equipment

These items are not essential but if you are a keen flier, you might consider them at some stage.

Windmeter
This device checks the wind conditions. If you can't afford a meter, you can use a traditional wind chart to estimate wind speed (see Flying High).

Altimeter
This device measures the altitude (height) of your kite. Height is important for good kite flying and safety.

 
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Last modified on: Tuesday, July 1, 1997.