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Kite Altitude World Record
2004 Testing Times
By April 2004, I had finalised the CASA conditions of my first high altitude flights at Cable Downs. The trailer was purchased and the following months the winch was constructed and tested. It is difficult to find a site to test the winch as itís permanently housed in a box trailer drawn by my car. Almost all shire councils bar vehicles being driven on their fields. The only fields I could find were in Blacktown City at The Rooty Hill and John Aquilina fields just a short distance away. These fields were eventually closed off to vehicles so I was lucky to have that window of opportunity. The Rooty Hill is a designated field for the Australian Kite Society's monthly "fly in", not that there was anyone on the field on most days. It was good in that this field was on the top of a low, round topped hill and allowed flights to 400 ft. and above with little danger of the kite coming down in trees. There was little turbulence but lack of wind was frequently a problem as any sea breeze took a long time to penetrate to the far western suburbs. It was also hot between October and March. The often light and variable wind was good training for Cobar but the constant switching of the electric winch motor exposed weaknesses in the control switches. I could also see some deficiencies in the winch design and I knew that eventually I would have to totally rebuild the winch. Confirming good design and faults is the main point of testing so it is good to identify these things before having to use the winch at Cable Downs. One thing I couldn't identify were things that proved critical in the failure of some flights over the next 18 months. These were the separation of line splices and the motor failure under high line tension. It is here that I flew kites to over 2,200 ft. as I had advice from the air traffic manager at Bankstown airport that he had no problem with any altitude below 3,000 ft. This turned out to be incorrect advice but it is history now. I went to Cable Downs alone and the country was in the grip of a major drought. That region normally has marginal rainfall and the 4 years of drought meant stock numbers were at their lowest for 20 years. I went in October expecting temperatures in the upper 20's but for days on end 34 - 36 was the norm. The winds were also light and variable from the northwest quadrant. On day 2 the kite went down 1.5 km away in thick scrub. The Garmin Geko GPS was dislodged. Not a good start. I flew medium deltas to 3,000 ft which was my personal best but well short of expectations. day 3 a gust change came through and i delayed further flights until day 4. I flew to 4,200 ft. on my first attempt with good wind then I retrieved the kite to inspect for any damage and relaunched. The kite reached about 7,500 ft. before a line splice separated with 3,000 ft. of line out. The factory splices did not have enough overlap and this one had released under compression on the storage reel. It was the most important lesson I learned and required a lot of time effort and money to correct. After the test series at Cable Downs, I came away with a note pad full of modifications and analysis of techniques and self-evaluation. There were a few tips from Steve and Karen Viant about life in the field on Cable Downs and especially how to look after myself. I came back sun burned and my legs were scratched from the numerous thorny plants and bushes. My car was very damaged from striking a Kangaroo on the Louth Road outside Cable Downs. The Kangaroo expired instantly. The car expired on the way back to Sydney near Dubbo and needed towing to a smash repairer. I completed the journey to Sydney by train. I learned a lot and would be much better prepared next time. There was a raft of new conditions I would suggest to CASA.
This partial log of altitude profile was on day3 of October 2004 testing. The line splice (overlapping kite line join) separated at the 3,000 meter point and the kite drifted away then the line snagged a tree branch 15 km away. The kite flew at 6,000 ft for 4 hours and may have achieved 7,500 ft prior to line break. This log data was captured by a Garmin etrex hand held GPS unit. The record is truncated because this model GPS device has limited track memory.
The breakaway described on the left was preceeded immediately by the above flight. Here it shows the kite reached 4,233 ft AGL (above ground level), a good effort for the first opportunity to fly high.
A lot of testing was done at Rooty Hill, a public reserve in the western suburbs of Sydney. My boys, Andrew and James are with the many different kites I was testing at the time. The red & yellow DT delta was a 1/4 size model of the 120 sq ft record attempt kites. (see image on right)
The big black DT delta resting on Rooty Hill. Then this kite seemed massive and intimidating to fly. In time these kites seem normal to me and have lost that wow factor. This particular kite rests somewhere in the wilderness to the east of the the mine railway about 45 km away from Cable Downs.
The data table and altitude profile are part of the Garmin mapsource software which resides on PC. The Garmin GPS unit is connected to the PC serial port via cable after each flight. The data is is then displayedand saved for archive or presentation for record verification. On the right are horizontal tracks for the same flight.
Combine horizontal tracks of the 4,200 ft flight, the breakaway kite track, the track of the kite when snagged in a tree and the search tracks over the next 2 days. Point 01 to 03 is about 20 km. The red line is Louth road. The pink line is the estimated kite path. The cluster of points is the kites track when the line was snagged on a tree. The other tracks and points are ground searches. Point 002 is the point of line snag.