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2004 Testing Times
By April 2004, I had finalised the CASA conditions of my first high altitude flights at Cable Downs. The trailer was purchased and the following months the winch was constructed and tested. It is difficult to find a site to test the winch as it is resides in a box trailer drawn by my car. Almost all shire councils bar vehicles being driven on their fields. The only fields I could find were in Blacktown City at The Rooty Hill and John Aquilina fields just a short distance away. These fields were eventually closed off to vehicles so I was lucky to have that window of opportunity. The Rooty Hill is a designated field for the Australian Kite Society's monthly "fly in", not that there were anyone on the field on most days. It was good in that this field was on the top of a low, round topped hill and allowed flights to 400 ft and above with little danger of the kite coming down in trees. There was little turbulence but lack of wind was frequently a problem as any sea breeze took a long time to penetrate to the far western suburbs. It was also hot between October and March. The often light and variable wind was good training for Cobar but the constant switching of the electric winch motor exposed weaknesses in the control switches. I could also see some deficiencies in the winch design and I knew that eventually I would have to totally rebuild the winch. Confirming good design and faults is the main point of testing so it is good to identify these things before having to use the winch at Cable Downs. One thing I couldn't identify were things that proved critical in the failure of some flights over the next 18 months. These were the separation of line splices and the motor failure under high line tension. It is here that I flew kites to over 2,200 ft as I had advice from the air traffic manager at Bankstown airport that he had no problem with any altitude below 3,000 ft. This turned out to be incorrect advice but it is history now. I went to Cable Downs alone and the country was in the grip of a major drought. That region normally has marginal rainfall and the 4 years of drought meant stock numbers were at their lowest for 20 years. I went in October expecting temperatures in the upper 20's but for days on end 34 - 36 was the norm. The winds were also light and variable from the northwest quadrant. On day 2 the kite went down 1.5 km away in thick scrub. The Garmin Geko GPS was dislodged. Not a good start. I flew medium deltas to 3,000 ft. which was my personal best but well short of expectations. Day 3 a gust change came through and I delayed further flights until day 4. I flew to 4,200 ft. on my first good wind, then I retrieved the kite to inspect for any damage and relaunched. The kite reached about 7,500 ft. before a line splice separated with 3,000 metres of line out. The factory splices did not have enough overlap and this one had released under compression on the storage reel. It was the most important lesson I learned and required a lot of time effort and money to correct. After the test series at Cable Downs, I came away with a note pad full of modifications and analysis of techniques and self-evaluation. There were a few tips from Steve and Karen Viant about life in the field on Cable Downs and especially how to look after myself. I came back sun burned and my legs were scratched from the numerous thorny plants and bushes. My car was much damaged from striking a Kangaroo on the Louth Road outside Cable Downs. The Kangaroo expired instantly. The car expired on the way back to Sydney near Dubbo and needed towing and a $5,000 repair......ouch!. An unexpected train trip back to Sydney but it wasn't too bad I guess.
A lot of testing was done at Rooty Hill, a public reserve in the western suburbs of Sydney. My boys, Andrew and James are with the many different kites I was testing at the time. The red & yellow DT delta was a 1/4 size model of the 120 sq ft record attempt kites. (see image on right)
The big black DT delta resting on Rooty Hill. Then this kite seemed massive and intimidating to fly. In time these kites seem normal to me and have lost that wow factor. This particular kite rests somewhere in the wilderness to the east of the the mine railway about 45 km away from Cable Downs.
Cable Downs October 28th 2004 and the first flight reaches 4,870 ft. AMSL or 4,240 ft. above the launch point. The data table and altitude profile are part of the Garmin Mapsource software which resides on PC. The Garmin GPS unit is connected to the PC serial port via cable after each flight. The data is then displayed and saved for archive or presentation for record verification. On the right are horizontal tracks for the same flight. Then during the next flight about an hour later, 3,000 metres of line out and a spliced join separated. The kite drifted to the north east and eventually the line end snagged a tree in a neighbouring property. The kite continued to fly, reaching an altitude of over 7,000 ft. The tree could claim to have held the Australian altitude record, although only for a year! The purple line represents the estimated path of the kite and was a basis for a ground search. A neighbour to the east helped me locate the snagged line on a property to the north and I was helped by the farmer's two sons to start recovering the kite. However the kite again broke away and was lost to the north in fading light. I searched for two days, walking over 40 km in a zig zag search pattern. It was eventually located by the farmer's son after I returned to Sydney. I made another trip to recover the kite and the young fellow (in 2004) was keen to host the altitude record on his sheep station. The scale of the paths can be seen on the right which is 20 km from point 1 to point 3. Point 2 is where the kite line snagged a tre branch and continued to fly as shown by the cluster of black dots shown on the lower track image which has been enlarged for clarity.
Some testing was done at local fields such as crestwood reserve. here i am flying a kite on 30 lb high quality nylon line and the kite is flying almost directly overhead. probably one of my early 1.5 sq metre DT Deltas. here i cheated with a battery drill. The reel took a hammering from memory as the line tention attempted to crush it. That white line is a sports field marking and is not running between my legs!
Left: 5 versions of a medium DT delta and a slightly smaller version. All flown at various fields in the Baulkham Hills region to test telemetry and make some design changes. Four of the kites are 3.4 metre span and 1.5 metres tall to make approximately 3.5 sq. metre kites and one is smaller at 2.8 sq. metres and uses wood dowel spars rather than fibreglass tubes. These are capable of over 5,000 ft. using 80 - 100 lb Dyneema and perhaps 8,000 ft. with exceptional winds. It would be interesting to trial the larger of these kites with carbon spars, double spreaders and cell reinforcements. While it is helpful to trial smaller kites and some of the design features and flying strategies can be transfer to the big kites, some do not scale up exactly, for instance, spar flex is difficult to scale. The sail loadings are fairly close.
Kite Altitude World Record