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Kite Altitude World Record
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A TEMPO RESTRICTED AREA ACT AT CABLE DOWNS STATION,COBAR 10NM RAD OF S31 15.18 E145 32.57 (20NM NW COBAR AD) DUE HIGH ALTITUDE KITE FLYING ACTIVITY. TRA WILL BE DEACTIVATED WHEN ACTIVITY COMPLETE AND/OR CANCELLED. NO FLIGHT PERMITTED WITHIN THE AREA WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE CONTROLLING AUTHORITY CTC AIRSERVICES AUSTRALIA TELEPHONE 0392357420 OR ML CEN FREQ 124.9
Extracts from the CASA instrument (approval to operate high altitude kites). It can be seen that the conditions are detailed and seem somewhat restrictive however Rob Glen of Sports Aviation in CASA, and I developed the conditions. These are consistant with safe practices that will maximise the chances of breaking the world record, retrieving the kite intact and minimising hazards to aircraft. My kites will not only fly very high but aircraft will not interfere with our activities, that is the most thing important to us.
Above: The actual NOTAM as issued to pilots by Air Services Australia. This is a computer generated message that appears on route maps displayed on instrument navigation screens for commercial aircraft and some more sophisticated light aircraft. Operators of light aircraft who are in uncontrolled airspace are supposed to contact their relevant traffic control centre before taking off to establish if their any NOTAM restriction in their flight path. This may not happen sometimes in remote areas such as when local farmers make flights within the Louth/Bourke/Cobar region for instance.
CASA - Civil Aviation Safety Authority - Air safety - regulations
Air Services Australia - Airspace management
In 2002 I was flying small to medium kites high from my local fields. I didn't consider that I may be breaking CASA regulations when I flew some kites to increasingly high altitudes. In fact I sisn't know that CASA existed nor that flying kites at Rooty Hill to over 2,500 ft was illegal. Very few kite flyers have knowledge of or care about the limit of 400 ft above ground level although there are not many that venture over 400 ft anyway. The only reason I became aware of CASA's existance was the occasional reference in the media when an air crash occured and Dick Smith making scathing attacks on CASA nearly 15 years ago. After I made contact with airport managers, aviation experts and looked at web sites, I had a clearer idea what CASA's role was in regulating recreational flying.
In most cases, flying a kite in suburbia to 500 or 600 ft above ground level, doesn't present a hazard except if flying close to airports although technically it is breach of regulations. Flying a kite above 600 ft in suburban areas may pose a significant risk for helicopters which fly lower than fixed wing aircraft. In steady flight, light aircraft usually fly at least 1,500 ft above ground level. Other aircraft such as commercial jets fly at various fixed levels such as 3,500 ft, 7,000 ft and multiples of 3,500 ft as dictated by routes, destination and traffic densities. Air traffic management is the reponsibility of Air Services Australia and I have to contact their operational centre several times a day when we are making record attempts. Just as a large bird strike can cause damage to a jet engine, a kite could be sucked into a jet intake although there are no incidences of this nature that I am aware of and probably the chances of this in uncontrolled airspace is minimal. I have seen read a report of a light aircraft having its prop shaft tangled with kite line, stalling the engine. The plane landed without damage but it could have resulted in a crash, serious injury or death. Any percieved risk is unacceptable especially when these risks can be virtually eliminated by sensible kite flying that does not interfer with aircraft. Just as important to me is the risk of aircraft cutting line or damaging a kite which would destroy a record attempt. The conditions for the kite altitude record attempts established by CASA appear to be very restrictive, however they don't present any practical barrier to our high flying activities. In fact I would impose most of these conditions on our operations without CASA because they are consistant with successful record attempts. The only conditions that restrict our flights on occasion is flying into cloud and having a large streamer attached to the kite was probably unnecessary. At Cable Downs blue skies have predominated in 2004, 2005 and 2007. In 2009 there were days with blue sky, days dominated by clouds and rain squals and days with mixed conditions. On some days we may reach for instance, altitudes above 10,000 ft but clouds may form then pass under the kite but this is unavoidable unless we don't fly at all. We try, to the best of ability to comply with CASA conditions. If there is some reason why I anticipate we cannot meet the conditions during the record attempts, then I discuss possible changes to the rules with Rob Glen. We have developed work-arounds between one series and another. This good relationship between me and the CASA Sports Aviation officer is essential so my reputation is maintained, giving confidence to future applications for other activities such as the kite train record.
As my kites got bigger, it occurred to me that aircraft could be damaged or even crash if they struck one of my big kites. Even if this is a very unlikely event, it worried me. I searched for kite flying regulations and found them on the CASA site although it wasn't clear how some of these rules applied to big kites flown high. However, It became clear that my plans to fly high altitude kites needed clearance from CASA and I needed organise the record attempts in a structured , scientific and professional manner. I had no idea who to contact or how to approach CASA to get these permissions. In 2003/2004 it took more than 12 months of dialogue and negotiation to achieve the first approval to fly kites to high altitude. Initially I contacted several potential sites including Richmond Airforce base, Jervis Bay Naval Base and a previous site for the world hang gliding championship at Forbes. I tried Woomera test zone in South Australia but it became too complex to gain permission with bureauxcratic red-tape and it may cost a small fortune to secure a zone. Following consultation with several aviation experts they advised me to contact Rob Glen in Sports Aviation at CASA. Then the process went ahead in leaps and bounds. I believe I have developed a good rapport with CASA and Air Services staff and have also earned their respect as a responsibly person doing a professional grade job with an amateur activity.
After a great deal of to-and-fro communication I finally had a broad zone defined as any suitable site west of a north-south line between Griffith and Cobar. I still had to search for a farmer who would host the record attempts. I also had to find a property within 100 kms of a weather station for the wind data to be relevant to our flight location. The only station conducting daily balloon sonde flights in the define zone was Cobar.
Some times the most obscure events can change the course of our lives. In this case it was the Sunrise program, a popular Sydney television breakfast show which had done a small story on the difficulties of rural communities maintaining services for children. In this case Karen Viant was interviewed at Cable Downs about the impending closure of the mobile rural library service. I looked the story up on the Internet then got the name of the property. I found the property name on a topographical map. I looked at satellite images. I looked up references to Viant and found that Steve Viant was a Cobar Counsellor. I wrote a letter to Steve and Karen requesting they allow me to attempt the world altitude record. They replied that they were happy to host the record attempts although I am sure they were intrigued by my request.
So I had the permission, the location, a weather station and all I needed was a winch, line, a kite, GPS and a trailer. There was a lot more to it that that but it was a start. For the first few attempts, CASA services were free but now, for each series of attempts, I pay between $500 - $600 for application processing.
Rob Glen at CASA and I have refined the "instrument" to include a host of conditions. The NOTAM below is one of the conditions, that is, Air Services Australia have to declare a restricted zone and I must communicare with Air Services staff each day to activate and deactivate the zone.