Hotter speed and turning than competition kites. Higher-quality exercise and livelier pull than power kites.
WindDances are "airgear," a new concept. They fly better and feel more exciting than typical stunt kites.
Our other advancements: Ergo T-handles that boost feel, control, exercise. Natural active FLY-a-kite skill.
The first WindDance bounce-'n'-fly
While test-flying the first pre-WindDance 3 in the Spring of 1992 on Green Lake Playfield in Seattle, a passerby asked if he could give it a try. He had never flown a dual-line kite before. We said, "Sure," gave him a few seconds of verbal instruction -- "Pull on the right handle to make it turn right," etc. -- handed over the two control handles, and gave him an assisted-launch. During one of his crashes, the kite bounced up like a big ball -- the loudness of the bounce startled him and made him flinch and pull on the flying lines in a certain way -- which turned the kite upward during the bounce and kept it flying! We had never seen anything like that before! He was very surprised, too! After a few more minutes of practice, he was able to fly continuously without crashing.
Later, it took us a month to learn how to bounce-'n'-fly on purpose!
Strength testing . . . the Montana way
According to the National Weather Service, Great Falls, Montana, is the windiest city in the USA. The winds average 13 mph. In the early 1990's we asked a good friend who lives there to perform some destructive testing of WindDance prototypes for us. Ed gladly agreed. In turbulent, gusty, 30+ mph winds, Ed and his friends flew the test kites we furnished and repeatedly crashed them on purpose -- including onto pavement -- to see what they could take. At times, the pull far exceeded the Rated Pull Strength of the kites. Even the small WindDance 1 yanked those big strong testers off their feet and dragged them across the ground (they loved it!). Highest bounce after a crash? Over ten feet. Except for a few occasions when a single B-line broke (A-lines and B-lines on the production versions are stronger), there were no signs of damage whatsoever.
Trick flying . . . the Montana way
Ten-foot-high bounce-'n'-fly tricks? Those are nothing compared to this:
During a visit with Ed, we went flying in "Montana wind." It was strong and blustery because a big thunderstorm was approaching. The small field where we flew had a bare wood telephone pole, no wires or cross bars, sticking up midway between the center and one edge of the field. Ed was flying a WindDance 1 prototype. Suddenly, the wind shifted 180° and Ed had to run from one side of the field to another to keep the flight envelope on the field -- and lost track of where the pole was -- which ended up directly downwind of Ed but 20 feet upwind of where the kite was about to fly. At high speed, Ed's flying lines hit halfway up the pole -- and then the kite flew in circles around the pole, faster and faster and tighter and tighter, until the kite wound up the entire 20 feet of lines around the pole and hit with a loud "Whap!" Incredibly, the kite instantly bounced off the pole and began flying extremely fast around the pole in the opposite direction, totally unwinding the lines and then flew away from the pole! It lasted two to three seconds at most, and was the most amazing 'trick' flying we have ever seen!
Durability testing, Seattle
Here in Seattle, we flew the same WindDance 1, 2, and 3 for 18 months straight during 1995-96, often several hours per day. Winds were 0-20+ mph, from very smooth to extremely turbulent. Weather ranged from sunny to soggy.
During solo and side-by-side flying, we exerted thousands of wear-and-tear stress cycles on the wings and bridles. Those stresses occurred during setup when we accidentally stepped on the kites and tripped hard on the bridle lines, during launches, forceful pull turns, strong gusts, crashes onto the ground including abrasive dirt and pavement, crashes into thorn trees, drags across grassy and unfriendly ground surfaces, self-relaunches, bounce-'n'-fly stunts, mid-air collisions, landings, occasional dog bites, takedowns, and squashings into packs and suitcases for travel. During crashes, some ground-impact speeds were well over 50 mph and impacts were so loud you could feel the concussions. Closing speeds of some midair head-on collisions exceeded 100 mph. At times the kites got awfully dirty. Debris (grass, weeds, dirt, sand) had to be emptied out of the cells. We had to wash off mud, grass stains, and dog slobber and doo.
What happened? Our hands got calloused by the flying handles. Several flying lines broke (100, 150, and 200 lb-test), usually during side-by-side flying. Also while flying side-by-side, one linkline got sliced clear through during a hard collision with a flying line. The wingtip A-lines showed signs of wear from many midair collisions. One kite picked up several small fabric cuts from two nasty collisions into thorn trees, one at high speed. The kite kept flying well in spite of the 15 tiny cuts. The same kite picked up another cut by getting "sawed" (as in sawing wood) by the flying line of another WindDance. Those 16 cuts were quickly repaired, permanently so, with patches of white medical adhesive tape applied from inside the cells. During all this hard use the stitching on all three kites held up fairly well. One rib-to-skin stitch snagged on something and pulled out into a loop and a 1 cm length of rib-to-skin stitching loosened. Both were easily fixed. Most stitching holes enlarged a little, but with no ill effects. Due to frequent ground impact, the A-lines and B-lines became soiled by grass and dirt and the ends frayed, cosmetic problems only, and the upper-skin fabric at the leading-edges became wrinkled and somewhat porous. The High-Performance bridle settings gradually drifted downward by about 1.0 cm. During all that hard flying and crashing, not a single A-line or B-line broke. The WindDance 2 was flown the longest, hardest, and most abusively . . . and at last, after 18 months of trying, some serious damage became detectable: a few tiny unrepairable tears in borderline high-stress areas began to develop. So we added reinforcements to those areas before mass-production began. After 18 months of hard use and abuse, there were no other signs of damage or wear.
What about performance? Speed, turning, and light-wind performance did not noticeably deteriorate. And due to the way distortion caused by wear-and-tear occurs, all three WindDances became even more forgiving and easier to fly.
WindDancing on Kite Hill
Seattle is a hotbed of dual-line-kite flying and development, recreational and competition. Kite Hill, located on a point that extends far into Lake Washington (which is why the wind is so good), is also our favorite place to fly. To the north, east, and south, you see expanses of water often dotted with sailboats and speeding windsurfers. Further to the east, the Cascade Mountain Range. Nearby to the southeast, Mt. Rainier rises. Elsewhere, everything is green all year 'round. You barely notice the urban setting.
We cannot help looking far beyond our WindDances as we fly. We enjoy flying loops around the summit of Mt. Rainier. As well as around the moon. Looping the moon during a total eclipse was a special treat! Looping the sun was hard on the eyes, even with dark sunglasses on. The word "sunspot" took on a whole new meaning. We did that only once. Looping fast-moving aircraft is fun, too. A few times, seagulls have closely shadowed our WindDances during slow side-to-side passes along the upper-edge! We worry about and are very careful about our flying lines hitting birds that fly through. Usually there's time to go into a hover or to swerve away. But one time a swarm of tiny birds sped by before we could even react -- they darted and flashed around our fast-moving flying lines like a school of tiny fish, completely avoiding the lines! Breathtaking! And then there are the clouds, which continually tell us why the sky above Kite Hill and to the north is called the "Puget Sound Convergence Zone": you can see the westerly wind's north and south branches churning as they merge back together after flowing around the Olympic Mountain Range to the west.
On Kite Hill, most of the dual-line kites that are flown are delta kites. The expert and competition delta-kite flyers spend most of their flying time doing tricks: forcing their kites to stop flying and then floating, sliding, twirling, flipping, and tumbling them in midair (radical air tricks), and landing their kites and then standing, rocking, twirling, flipping, and cartwheeling them on the ground (radical ground tricks). Recreational flyers, however, spend nearly all of their flying time FLYING their kites.
Have delta flyers flown our WindDances? You bet. Novice flyers found WindDances easier to fly than their deltas. One expert flyer, perhaps expecting the WindDance 2 to feel and fly like a typical parafoil, exclaimed, "It flies like a delta!" One day when the winds were strong, gusty, and very unsteady, two expert delta flyers quit flying. Nothing in their kite bags, not even their small deltas, would fly well in those winds. Our WindDance 1 and 2 were flying just fine. The two tried our WindDances and very much enjoyed them. Those three experts -- very skilled at tricks, competition, and FLYING -- performed truly amazing ultra-quick-&-tight-turning high-speed aerobatics with our WindDances! It was a real treat to watch them FLY WindDances far more skillfully than we could!
A young flyer, while watching us FLY for the pure fun of it, remarked with a knowing smile, "I see why you call them 'WindDances'!"
The park attracts many people besides kite flyers. Even on days when recreational delta flyers, sparred-parafoil flyers, and highly-skilled competition delta flyers were out in force, flyers and non-flyers alike have stopped by to chat with us as we flew. Some spotted our flying WindDances from afar and had to drive over for a closer look. "Your kites are so exciting to watch!" "They're so agile and aerobatic, by far the best-flying kites on the hill!" "You're having so much FUN!" From their smiles and what they said, merely by watching they completely understood what WindDances are all about.
WindDance dual-line parafoil stunt kites/sport kites are developed, sold, and backed by Seattle AirGear.
WindDance, WindDancing, Seattle AirGear, and AirGear are trademarks of Seattle AirGear.
Copyright © 1995-2017 Seattle AirGear.
This page last revised Jan-22-1997