It can be very frustrating to have your kite constantly crash when you’re flying it. It can also be a hazard to have your kite constantly divebomb people unintentionally.
Your kite can crash due to various reasons such as:
- Wind conditions unsuitable for the type of kite you’re flying
- Problems with the kite’s bridle lines
- Problems with the kite’s spars
In this article, we’ll go over why these reasons cause your kite to crash, and how to rectify them. Note that you should check and change one thing at a time, rather than to try and check everything at once, to narrow down the root cause of your kite crashing.
Wind Conditions Unsuitable For The Type Of Kite You’re Flying
Various types of kites require different wind speeds. For example: a sled or parafoil kite requires wind to fill its cells to lift the kite into the sky, and that means a lot of wind is required – anywhere from 10mph to 40mph winds would do the trick. However, there are low-wind or indoor kites which require very little to no winds at all, and there are also the popular mid-wind-range Delta kites which can take off in a light breeze.
When picking a kite, you should always enquire about the maximum wind speed limit and not the minimum wind speed limit of the kite. This will give you a better idea of which kite to fly in different wind conditions. Another factor to consider is the size of the kite – larger kites generally require more wind to stay afloat in the sky, and if the wind changes constantly, it may require more than a pair of hands to help control it.
Experienced kite flyers often take a variety of kites with them – 1 for light winds, 1 for medium winds, and 1 for strong winds – when they are out flying. At the flight location, they then choose the right kite for the right wind speeds, and the wind will do all the work. While this makes it look easy and effortless, keep in mind that this would have come about with experience and diligence in checking weather reports and forecasts.
Winds Are Too Strong
While strong winds generally keep your kite in the air, such winds can also force your kite to the ground, which looks like a ‘crash’. However, this is an indication for you to check your kite for any damage and reconsider if the winds are suitable for the type of kite you are currently flying, and if you need to swap it for another more suitable kite.
When the wind is too strong (above 15mph), it can be difficult to control a kite that is meant for wind speeds between 0mph to 14mph. Examples of these kites are diamond kites and some Delta kites.
Problems that you can face when the winds are too strong are:
- Your kite pulls very hard, which can cause line cuts or burns when you hold on to the line to try and control it.
- The wind can cause the material of the kite to stretch, or cause extreme stress to the frame of the kite. This can ultimately result in damage to your kite.
- Your kite line may not be able to bear the load of strong winds and can suddenly snap, causing your kite to fly away or crash land a distance away.
When you find that your kite isn’t flying straight, or constantly dipping and then righting itself, it’s time to bring your kite down and check the wind speed in your area. Strong winds can cause serious damage to not only your kite, but also can turn your kite into a deadly missile if it hits someone at high speeds.
Winds Are Too Weak
This is one of the top reasons why your kite keeps crashing. The wind is the engine of a kite, generating lift and keeping your kite in the air. Without wind, it can be very difficult to keep your kite in the air.
Kites like Deltas and diamond kites need anywhere from 0mph to 7mph winds to launch and fly. These are recommended as easy kites for beginners. However, if you’ve chosen to fly kites like parafoils, sleds, box kites, or even large novelty kites in weak winds, there is a high chance that these kites will constantly crash or not launch at all.
In such situations, it may be wise to change locations to somewhere that has stronger and constant wind (a beach is ideal). Alternatively, if you have a kite suitable for low or light winds, you may want to fly that instead.
Winds Are Constantly Changing
When the wind is constantly gusting or changing directions, it is another reason as to why your kite crashes. Turbulence is the irregular motion of air from eddies and vertical airflows, and is different from wind, which moves horizontally.
In the picture above, you can see that the wind around the obstacle no longer flows smoothly. This causes turbulence and if you are flying your kite close to tall buildings or even trees, it can cause your kite to crash due to an unsteady source of wind. In this case, you should move away from your current location to somewhere more open and with lesser to no obstacles.
If you are flying away from obstacles, but there are still sudden changes in the wind speed or direction, it can mean that a storm is on its way. If this is the case, check your local weather forecasts and be ready to retrieve your kite and leave the area.
You’ve checked the weather report, measured the wind at your location, and it’s generally good kite flying weather. But your kite is still crashing! Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you’re not destined to fly a kite. It could be some simple fixes that your kite needs.
Problems With The Bridle Lines
The bridle is the line that connects the kite with the flying or kite line that you hold on to. Some kites have a bridle that is connected to the kite itself in 2 places, and other kites use bridles that are attached to the kite in many places. The point where the flying line attaches to the bridle is called the bridling point.
Alternatively, your kite may have a keel, like in the image of a Delta kite above. A keel is a piece of material on the bottom of the kite. It is usually perpendicular to the rest of the kite when in the air. The keel helps to keep the kite stable, and provides a hole to attach the kite line where it is indicated line attachment.
Both the bridle lines and keel are important in stabilising your kite. Below are some problems with them that you may encounter when troubleshooting why your kite crashes.
There may be a knot where your kite line joins or is attached to the bridle. Moving or sliding this knot along the lower bridle line toward the bottom of the kite will reduce the kite’s willingness to spin, and generally stabilizes the kite. Moving the knot toward the top of the kite will increase the kite’s tendency to spin and crash as it would be ‘top-heavy’.
If the kite is constantly spinning or turning to the right, the length of bridle line on the right side is too short. There may also be a knot that can be slid either right or left on your bridle. If the kite is constantly turning or spinning to the left, move the knot to the right, and vice-versa. This right-left balance is a sensitive adjustment, so you should move the knot only about 1/64” (0.5mm) at a time.
These minute adjustments (and those listed below) should be tested by flying the kite for between 5 to 10 minutes to see the results of your adjustment. Repeat these steps until your kite flies straight.
Stretched Bridle Lines Or Keels
Over time, bridle lines can also stretch due to the stress of being pushed and pulled by the wind. This can be easily checked as some manufacturers will publish the recommended bridle length for your kite.
Alternatively, if your bridle lines can be detached, you can detach them and check if they are of the same length. Bridles with unmatched lengths will tend to pull your kite in one direction and make it more likely to spin and crash.
If your kite has a keel instead of bridle lines, and you suspect that the keel has stretched, it is best to contact the manufacturer. Ask if it’s possible to get dimensions of the keel, so that you can measure your kite’s keel to see if it has indeed stretched or not.
Shrunken Bridle Lines
On the flip side, there have been reports of shrinking bridle lines – these are more common in the kitesurfing community due to the structure of the lines that they use (woven or braided lines, instead of the common twisted lines in normal kite lines).
Aurelien Mierswa, a North line specialist, has mentioned that “…the line is a woven structure. This woven structure gets loose with (the) time and use. Water, dirt, and sand can get in between the filaments. What happens is that the line gets a bit thicker and this makes the line shrink as well.“
So while this may not be commonly seen in beginner kites, this is something to consider when checking your bridle lines for problems.
Knots, Tangles, Or Twists In The Bridle
Knots, tangles, or twists can be a cause of frustration – just like when they are in your hair, you will have to comb and straighten them out. This holds true for any of your bridle lines and kite line(s).
These little things – knots, tangles, or twists – can cause your kite to be unbalanced. When unbalanced, your kite will either spin or dive and crash. If there are knots in either your bridle or kite line, it can cause your lines to snap if there is enough tension.
When you set up or pack down your kite, always inspect all lines for any knots or tangles. If there are any, you must undo them before launching your kite.
When unpicking any knots or tangles, always check that there is no wear on the line(s). Wear-and-tear can occur over time, and is also exacerbated when lines rub constantly against each other.
Problems With The Kite Spars
The spars of your kite is also sometimes called the kite frame. These spars open up the sail area and provide some tension. More importantly, spars provide balance to your kite. Below are some problems that you may encounter when trying to figure out why your kite keeps crashing.
Spars Of The Kite Are Not Balanced Or Are Broken
A good sign of unbalanced or broken spars is when your kite constantly spins in one direction before crashing. If this is the case, firstly check that side for any broken spars. Broken spars will need to be removed carefully without piercing the sail and replaced. A good kite shop or your local kite club will be able to help with this.
If your kite’s spars are unbalanced, the following steps will help you determine crucial points on your kite.
- Place a long ruler on the back of the kite, connecting both the left and right wingtips, and then make a mark where the rules crosses the spine. We will call this the ‘wingtip line mark’.
- Place your kite’s spine on your fingertip and adjust its position until it is balanced in the top to bottom direction. Make a mark on the spine at the balance point – this will be the ‘balance point’.
The location of the balance point is usually closer to the nose of the kite in relation to the wingtip line mark. If the balance point is more than 1.25″ (32mm) from the wingtip line mark towards the top of the kite, your kite is less likely to spin and thus will be more stable.
If the balance point is closer to the wingtip line mark, your kite will be more likely to spin. In such cases, you will want to check if you have set up the spars correctly for your kite (i.e. there may be confusion as to which spar is meant to be the cross-spar, and which spar is meant to be the spine).
If the balance point is located nearer to the bottom of your kite from the wingtip line mark, the kite will spin with the bottom at the center of the spin.
For some Delta kites, there may be pockets for the ends of the spars to slip into. Make sure that your spars are sitting in these pockets. Check that the pockets are also equal in length, as that will change the effective length of the spars when in flight.
Keep in mind that minute adjustments on your kite can affect its flight and handling vastly. It is best to fly your kite to get a feel for its new handling after each adjustment.
Uneven stiffness of spars
In bigger kites, a horizontal / cross-spar with uneven stiffness can often be the cause for the kite spinning and crashing.
Flat kites with 1 or 2 bridles usually distort with air pressure, which is totally fine. However, depending on the stiffness of the spars of your kite, one side of the spar sometimes can bend more than the other. When this happens, the effective sail area becomes unequal, and causes the kite to spin in the direction of the side with lesser sail area.
Bowed kites are generally self-correcting; if there is any unequal stiffness in the horizontal spar(s), the less-stiff side will bend more than the other. This can cause the kite to be unbalanced even in light winds, and can be very noticeable in strong winds, which make for poor handling.
Trying to feel how stiff a spar is is usually never accurate. A good way to check if both spars have the same stiffness is to secure both spars to the edge of a table or bench, and hang 2 small, identical weights at the end of both spars. Use a straight edge or a long ruler to check which spar bends more – this is the more flexible one.
The stiffer spar will need to be sanded or filed down in diameter to match the other spar(s). Again, make sure to sand or file small amounts at a time and then check the stiffness. You will not be able to undo a mistake here, so be patient!
In certain kite designs, the spine of the kite affects the flight of the kite quite drastically as well. For example, a Delta kite with a slightly-bowed spine can cause it to spin and dive. If this happens, you can try to straighten out the spine by gently flexing it in the opposite direction. If that doesn’t help, you may need to replace the spine.
In low wind conditions, you could shorten the length of your kite line to gain more control over your kite. Make sure to use smaller motions with your kite line as larger motions will translate into big changes in low wind conditions.
If your kite is spinning to one side before it crashes, it may need a short tail on that side. If it’s spinning head-over-heels, the bridle or middle spar may need to be adjusted, and a tail attached to the bottom of the kite. These are more about balancing your kite, which we have more detailed information here.
While wind conditions can always change, it’s best to bring 2 or 3 different kites that suit different wind conditions. This way, your trip is not for nothing, and you can still have a lovely time flying a kite.
You should also check your kite and any flying equipment for any damage before and after flying, as this can prevent crashes mid-flight, along with any injuries to others.
Anytime your kite seems to be flying or handling a little funny, it is time to land & check it. You may have broken spars, or stretched lines, which will need to be fixed before flying your kite again.