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Big Deltas

Richard Synergy's Huge Delta
One of Richard Synergy's very large deltas, built for high altitude flights

"Dan, with the thirty foot delta that we discussed a year ago we flew to 14,558 feet above sea level from a field that was 860 feet above sea level setting a new world altitude record by more than 1000 feet. Will send exact data later." - Richard Synergy, 16 August, 2000

Mine aren't anything like as big...

A few of my biggest kites

16 to 20 footers

Big tunnel keel deltas

Another kite intended for high altitude flying. The span is about 15ft 10in. I needed assistance getting this one down on its maiden flight.
Two built in 1990.

Frank Acton's delta

This is a scale drawing of the biggest delta I made completely by myself, made in 1976 and still flying (so I'd been told). It's 18ft 4in span x 8ft 8in tall. The frame is all wood. It predates the mathematical towing point positioning I now use. It predates scallops. I used very small fins then, which allowed the aft end of the kite to flex back in gusts. The wing spars are proportionately very long, too. On the first test flight, 80lb flying line started to unravel before my eyes!

Steve Lane's delta

Steve Lane's 20 footer at Bristol 2002The last big delta I was involved with (other than a couple of Skyhooks and R10's) was this 20 foot standard delta designed for our friend Steve Lane. Steve rented a church hall, where he helped me lay it out. I glued the splices, marked it and cut it; Steve did all the sewing and sparring up. It's framed in fiberglass and flies as steady as a rock. It's too much to hang onto in anything other than a nice gentle breeze, but then, that's what deltas are for.

Richard Synergy monster delta
The funny thing about big deltas is that high in the air it's not obvious how big they actually are!

It became clear to me later, when completely inexperienced people asked for such large deltas as their first kite, that some people wanted a kite that matched their ego; this sometimes meant that both the flyer and innocent bystanders were at very real risk. Big kites do all the moves smaller ones do, including dives in gusts. Without sufficient flying skill, a neophyte wouldn't be able to handle this - he'd most likely pull on the line in a panic reaction, just making things worse. I have seen exactly that happen a with a normal-sized Clipper. The flyer yanked the line instead of letting it out and the kite accelerated down, hitting a woman on the collarbone and knocking her down. Luckily there was a registered nurse handy.

High performance kites can be quite a handful in certain situations. (This is a bit of an understatement.) Experienced kite flyers like a kite that allows them to use all their kite flying skills, but beginners might be better off with a more sedate flyer while they develop their kite flying skills. Unfortunately, merely telling people that isn't enough to make them order wisely, so when frame materials became no longer available, I haven't bothered to update these bigger designs. The Skyhook and R10 are the biggest kites in the current catalog. These are still powerful kites, but they're less prone to unpredictable behavioral quirks.

16" x 106° deltas

photo P. LeipzigThis is my first 16 footer, a scaled-up scalloped 106 degree nose angle design. This kite has no wing reinforcements and a raw trailing edge, but I've heard it's still flying.

In the photo at right, Bev is barely able to hang on as the breeze picks up.

There was a case of a customer losing one of these and being hospitalized after the line cut through leather cloves and then through the skin and tendons of both hands. He was Australian and ordered a replacement the following week.

The next one was the same - raw trailing edges; minimal reinforcements.

These kites have long, thin wing spars for light winds. If, as often happens, the wind does pick up, it could be quite a chore bringing one down. The frames easily get bent out of shape, which leads to instability and damage to the frame and fabric.

This led to the next step, the scaled-down 14ft 4in version, with shorter - and therefore that much stiffer - wing spars:

16ft14ft 4in
Left: 16 footer; right: 14ft 4incher. The second of these two features the customer's own graphics. Incidentally, the 16 footer shown here won all ten first places at the 1980 Japan Kite Association kite festival (admittedly helped by the fact that there was no wind).

14'4" x 106° deltas

These photos show the progression from no reinforcements to a simple strip of binding to multi-layer reinforcements.

This last picture illustrates the pattern of reinforcing currently in use on any big deltas. If the fabric had zero stretch it would probably still be necessary, for there are lines of stress concentrated at certain places where stitches would otherwise pop. Taping the fabric this way keeps the wings flatter where there would otherwise be stretch bulges.

Other big deltas with battens are shown elsewhere.

12 to 14 footers

12ft battened deltaAt right is the early 12 foot battened delta mentioned elsewhere; my first fabric kites were made using an ancient hand-crank sewing machine, which sewed nice straight lines and did perfect corners. It went up and over any old thick tapes. Because of the one-handed sewing, the kites were glued together prior to sewing, both sides together, flat on a board. I still do them this way.
The old machine is visible in this photo. The kites are smaller versions of the bigger one below.

There has been a number of larger kites with 90 to 98 degree nose angles; although their spans are shorter, it doesn't mean they are smaller - their wing area is still huge and so is the pull. The advantage of having a less radical nose angle is that the kites cope with a wider range of winds. This one is about 12 foot span, circa 1979, at the Round Pond.


Two SkyhooksThese 100 degree nose angle deltas are scaled-up Whirlwinds, a bit over 12ft 8in span; one has 10mm fiberglass wing spars, the other 8mm carbon. Both fly sweetly in a light breeze. I hope to some day acquire some large diameter carbon for spreaders. These kites are big enough to generate plenty of pull; if the wind picks up when big kites are out a long way, it might not be possible to retrieve them single-handedly, and this is about as big as I care to fly for that reason.


11ft 11in Custom R10R10 Workhorse
These two are an inch under 12 foot, nominally, but they fit into this section. This design is one of my latest even though it looks just like the deltas from the early 1970s. They are fairly heavy-framed, with a slightly relaxed towing point, and so are for sitting motionlessly all day long. No anxiety.
Again, one has 8mm carbon wing spars, the other 10mm fiberglass.


Big Trooper

This is my scaled-up Trooper, a design for strong, steady breezes. I emphasize "steady" because the wing spars are exceptionally long on this one, which limits the kite's responsiveness in turbulence.

The normal-sized Trooper pulls plenty hard enough in brisk winds.

Big Clipper

Last but not least...

6 x 10ft Clipper

6 x 10ft ClipperAt first glance these may not look as impressive as the other big kites, but those familiar with the Clipper's pulling power will appreciate that the working part of the wing on this one is about the same size as that of a standard delta in the region of 14 foot span. Unavailability of correct stock sizes for frame parts meant only two or three of these were ever built. With new sizes of carbon tubing that situation may be improving.

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