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Kite Altitude World Record
October 2005 - It never blows but then it blows, blows & blows. Splice, splice - a nice splice would be nice.
With us for this series was Michael Richards, Roger Martin, Greg Moore and Hugh Moore. In April we encountered hot, dry conditions with mostly light variable winds. Our best altitude was 4,200 ft. This time I brought the black DT Delta and the 165 sq metre DT delta. There were a few other kites to fly time permitting. I always bring a medium test delta just sample conditions up to 2,000 ft. This time it's the green and yellow delta which is built for strong winds but was an exceptional flyer in all conditions. It flew to 3,500 ft which if scaled up equivalent to 120 sq ft is 14,000 ft above ground level. For the first 3 days we were frustrated but a soft layer between 3 & 5,000 ft. It was hot and exhausting work repeatedly trying to work the kite higher or return the kite to ground to adjust the bridle then relaunch. While we don't physically have to wrestle with the line for hour after hour, we do have to stand operating the winch with the neck strained looking into the sky. Observing the kite and watching the computer monitor and constantly monitoring the winch, reel and line is mentally draining. We rotate between roles to reduce fatigue but at the same time we need to be mindful of maining hydration and my sugar levels as I am diabetic. We all have to protect ourselves with hats and sun screen. Aside from those practical issues, the record attempts are a matter of patience, concentration and making the correct decisions. Lose concentration and bad things can and do happen, like loss of control of the winch or failure to take full advantage of changing conditions.
Day 4, 11 am and 15 minutes after the launch the kite is about 1,500 ft out and 400 ft up. We struggled for 5 hour trying to work the kite beyond 4,000 ft. Finally the kite rose over 4,500 ft and then got sucked into a strong westerly stream. However, the wind proved too much with a low level jet stream taking the kite to 7,000 ft and the winch motor burned out. In hindsite, freewheeling the winch may have allowed it to reach record altitudes but we didn't have the benifit of hindsight. We attempted to walk the line down but we only managed to recover 1,300 meters before a splice separated at the 2,000 meter join. The kite line lodged in a tree but not before the kite shot up to over 17,000 ft. We recovered the kite the following morning with the line draped through a neighboring property and high over Louth Road. This image was taken by a Sydney Morning Herald reporter who flew 1200 km to and from Cobar just for a few images. Greg picked her up from the air port, brought her back then took her back to Cobar. Two return trips of 80 km or a total of 160 km and 2 hours. You would think the SMH would be more appreciative of our hospitality. The newspaper report was was not what I expected with negative overtones of failure and disappointment. However, the spin doctors did give us and kiting some exposure and kites are not normally big news.
This wind profile shows the difficulty of flying the kite through "soft" layers. The green trace indicates a 2,500 ft thick zone from 2,500 to 5,000 ft. Also from 6,000 ft to 10,000 ft the wind speed remains at 14 knots. In effect this is a 13% decrease in wind energy as the air density drops with altitude. There is also and increase in line weight and drag si the kite would probably struggle until 11,000 ft even if it could get through the 2,500 - 5,000 ft zone.
Again the zone 2,500 to 5,000 ft would be even more difficult to negotiate as the wind drops to zero at 3,000 ft and goes through a big direction change. The zone 8 - 12,000 would be almodt impossible to push through. Again trying to fly high on that day would be "flogging a dead horse". We would try anyway, hoping the wind improved after the balloon Sonde flight that morning.
This profile shows the existance of both conditions, that is, a frustrating low wind layer and kite shredding high wind higher up. If I had the same winch settup as I have now, we could have flown to record altitude for it was the winch's low power which forced termination of the attempt. The wind eventually moderated over night but to continue would have meant breaching the CASA condition of not flying at night.
Good wind aloft but an impenetrable layer around 3,000 ft. My son Greg stayed on but the 3 others returned to Sydney. The following days we struggled and then we lost the kite on Friday 8th. Searches on the following day failed to find it. It is still somewhere in the bush 25 km to the east of Cable Downs. A total rebuild of the winch and 18 months to the next series of attempts in April 2007. The crutial factor determining altitudes achieved is wind. This is despite equipment and operator (me) failures (:.
Roll on April 2007and 10,000 ft + altitudes.