For a lot of people, the backyard is a magical place where a lot of fun times are had – from BBQs to Easter egg hunts to roasting and devouring marshmallows over a fire pit on a chilly night.
You can definitely fly a kite in your backyard as part of the fun as well. There are certain things to keep an eye out for if you choose to do so to make your kite-flying experience safe and fun.
Having grown up in the city, backyards were the playgrounds just below our block of units. I never flew a kite there, as you will read why later on in this article. But now that I’ve moved overseas, and backyards are a thing, I can tell you that backyard kite flying is an art form in itself, requiring both concentration and quick reactions to prevent your kite from snagging on a tree branch!
Safety is the reason why there are rules and regulations – yes, even for flying kites! In the USA, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has some regulations on how high and how and where you may operate a kite.
According to the FAA, no one may operate a kite more than 150 feet above the surface of the earth. This is usually suitable for general kite flying, and definitely suitable for flying a kite in your backyard.
Can I still fly a kite over the legal altitude/height limit?
It is usually illegal to fly your kite higher than what is stated by the regulations. However, as kites are sometimes put in the same category as anchored balloons, you may be able to obtain permission if you wish to fly a kite higher than the limit stated in the rules.
In the US, if you wish to fly a kite higher than 150 feet from the surface of the earth, then you must give notice of your kiting plans to the FAA ATC facility nearest to where you intend to fly.
The regulations about the allowed height varies between countries, and we recommend that you always check with the local Aviation Administration, or kite flying group.
Flying within the allowed altitude
It is really easy to ensure that you are flying your kite within the allowed altitude or height. You can do this by checking and restricting the length of your kite line to just under the maximum height allowed.
If you are flying your kite higher than the maximum height allowed, ensure that you attach colored pennants or streamers to your kite line beginning at 150 feet with a 50-foot interval, and ensure that these pennants or streamers have at least a 1-mile visibility.
Flying a kite near an airport or other restricted areas such as military camps or areas can be dangerous both for you and others in the restricted area.
You will need to be at least 5 miles outside of the boundary of any airport in the USA to fly a kite legally. If you stay near an airport, it may be wiser to take a 15 minute trip to a park to fly a kite than to try and fly it in your backyard.
Flying your kite too close to an airfield can distract both pilots and Air Traffic Control (ATC) crew during critical stages of flight, such as take-off or landing. A kite flying at sufficient height can also block visibility, or it could be sucked into aircraft engines, which can cause a catastrophic accident.
In certain countries, it is also not permitted to fly too close to highways and motorways. It is to prevent a kite from obstructing visibility for the vehicles on the road and causing accidents.
Other regulations to note
These regulations apply to kite fliers in the USA; again, if you are flying in a different country, be sure to check with the local Aviation Administration or kite flying group to ensure that you are not breaking any laws.
Avoid flying your kite in an area where ground visibility is less than 3 miles.
If you wish to fly a kite between sunset and sunrise, you must ensure that your kite is adequately lighted. You can do this by attaching LED lights to both the kite line and outline of the kite itself. The lights provide a visual warning as a kite can be considered an obstruction to air navigation.
If you are flying above 150 feet and between sunset and sunrise, you will also have to attach colored pennants or streamers to your kite line beginning at 150 feet with a 50-foot interval, and ensure that these pennants or streamers have at least a 1-mile visibility.
Have you ever been to a kite festival? Do you recall how much ground it covered? It’s because kite flying isn’t the safest activity with a lot of people crowded together.
This holds true if you’re looking to fly your kite in your backyard – make sure that people around you are aware that you will need some space to launch and then find your kite.
Ideal spatial conditions for flying a kite would be:
- Large and open space
- Generally flat ground that has little to no obstacles such as rocks or marshland
- The area is clear of trees and other obstacles such as overhead power lines.
Your backyard, depending on where you stay, may or may not be suitable. If you stay in a rural region, and have a meadow that ticks all the above conditions, for a backyard, it would be perfect for flying a kite. However, if you stay in the suburbs, the treeline, neighbouring houses, or power lines are obstacles that you don’t want to tangle with.
Safety should be your top priority when flying a kite, especially so if you are a beginner kite-flier. Below are some guidelines that you should follow when flying a kite.
You should never fly a kite when it’s raining or when there is a thunderstorm. When a kite gets wet, it can act as a conductor for electricity. You may have heard of Benjamin Franklin’s experiment in 1752, when he flew a kite in a thunderstorm. The experiment enabled him to demonstrate the electrical nature of lightning. There are also other hazards if you choose to fly a kite in bad weather.
As mentioned above, while you can fly your kite at night, consider not heading out too late during the day to fly a kite unless you have lights on your kite. Flying a kite when it cannot be seen is dangerous both to yourself and others; not only will you not be able to enjoy it as you cannot see it, you can also risk having your kite tangle itself in a tree, powerline, or other obstacles. Your kite can also become an obstacle should it accidentally drift down in front of moving vehicles.
There are various obstacles that can cause damage to your kite, or vice versa. At the same time, obstacles can also create turbulence, which makes it harder to fly a kite.
Flying a kite in your backyard can be challenging, especially if your backyard is surrounded by obstacles such as trees or neighboring buildings. Sometimes it may be easier, safer, and overall more convenient to travel to a park to fly your kite.
Whether you’re in your backyard or at a park, to get a rough idea of the wind direction, toss some dry leaves or blades of grass in the air. You can then best position yourself to launch your kite. Once your kite is in the air, you may have to move to allow your kite to take full advantage of the wind. Your kite is also a great indicator of the wind direction once in the air.
Knowing the direction of the wind can help you prevent accidents with your kite.
Trees or Overhead / Power lines
If your kite is floating over to some trees or power lines with not a lot of height to spare, you need to act quickly. Do not assume that the wind will change directions or that your kite will be fine. Start moving in the opposite direction, which will encourage the kite to center itself and fly away from danger.
Buildings and other obstacles
Another situation that can arise from flying in suburbia is if your kite is flying high over an obstacle such as a building. In such cases, keep an eye on your kite. If anything goes wrong – for instance, the wind suddenly dies down or changes direction, you will have time to reel in your kite to prevent it from getting caught on these obstacles.
If the wind picks up or changes direction, and your kite starts to veer towards the obstacle, it can be more difficult to decide on a course of action. Often, your best option is to reel in your kite while moving in the direction away from the obstacle. As wind is usually calmer towards the ground, your kite may stabilize itself and you can slowly let more kite line out.
What should I do if my kite lands in a tree, or tangles with power lines, or strikes an obstacle?
If your kite is stuck or has disappeared from sight, make sure that it is safe and well-lit before you go hunting for your kite!
If your kite is stuck in a tree, try to coax your kite free by letting out some line when the wind picks up. Sometimes, your kite will catch the wind and lift itself out of the tree. If you can see that your kite sail has been punctured by tree branches, or if the tail or kite line is wrapped around or tangled in the tree branches, it is often easier to bring out a ladder to try and remove all parts of your kite from the tree. If it’s not possible to scale the tree, it may be a lost cause to try and retrieve your kite.
If your kite is tangled with power lines, call your local power company. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RETRIEVE YOUR KITE YOURSELF. Power lines are dangerous even for professionals, and can be lethal to the untrained. We recommend that you write that kite off if you are unable to retrieve it.
Another common occurrence is your kite can get sucked down a vent in a building, usually commercial or industrial in nature. If this happens, it’s best to notify the building’s management so that they can remove your kite and prevent it from blocking the vent, and return it to you.
You can certainly fly a kite in your backyard; if you have a small or low-wind kite, I believe you would find a lot of pleasure in flying such kites in your backyard.
Safety should always be your top priority, especially in an enclosed area like your backyard. Keep an eye on the weather, and where your kite is flying to ensure that you have a great time flying your kite!