Family History of my kites
Here is a rare look into the success and failure of how commercial kite designs develop. Most of my designs are based off of one of my other kites with major changes. I will not describe the many failed and test sails. I generally find it takes 8-12 sails to take a concept from good flying prototype to production kite.
First kite, never named it. This was a 7' kite based on the Fire Dart, framed in 1800's I made it since I could not find a UL that I liked and could afford at the time. The standoffs on this kite were placed really close to the spine, this offered a large sail area to improve lift. The sail was also very flat, this improved forward speed. The kite was made in 3/4 Nylon and had a wind range of 1 to 6mph.
The Spirit was my next design, this was a full sized version of my first kite. I increased the sail depth a bit, added another stand off near the center of the wing, and winglets. Originally the kite was framed in Prospar Comp 15's, resulting in a wind range of 3 to 18mph, the ultra light was done in Sky Shark 3P's and had a wind range or 1 to 12mph. Later I re-framed the standard version in Sky Shark 5P which resulted in a wind range of 2 to 25mph. The kite was replaced by the Radix, which was easier to make and offered similar preform-ace.
At the same time, I also took the first kite increased the aspect ratio to develop the Free Spirit. This was my first 1/2oz Icarex kite. Also framed in 1800's for the UL version, the kite proved to offer a much more trickable kite in light winds. Also I developed a normal wind version of the kite, framed in 2300's and 3/4oz Nylon, the kite offered a fast, loud, hard pulling, precise kite.
After many requests from customers and friends for a entry level stunt kite, I developed the Flash Fire originally called the Flash Point, the kite was designed around a 2300 frame and a 6' wing span. The kite was designed to utilize materials good, and be easy to produce. The kite was designed to have a large keel, and respond well to over control. I also developed a full sized version of the kite, this was a very nice team kite. But I dropped it since it competed with the Radix and it required 2400 rods in the lower spreaders, this required me to stock more different parts.
The Radix originally started out as a low cost radical kite, but after the design was finished and customer feedback was in I decided to remarket it as a team kite. The Radix incoperated a very deep billow, this gave the kite a very even speed across the wind window. The UL version was also very good indoors, but it's 8' wingspan made it rather large.
In 96 I decided to that I needed a good trick kite in my product line. I decided on a 7'5" kite and used the Free Spirit I as a basis. I tried many different aspect ratios, winglets, no winglets etc. Built a full sized Free Spirit I, nothing felt right. Then I took the 3/4 Flash Fire and grew it to 7' wing span, changed the keel, and flatend the sail just a bit. This became the Magic, while retaining some of the precision of the Flash Fire, the kite proved to be very fast and responsive.
Taking the Magic and growing it to 8' to make a melower version suitable for Ballet flying, after adding winglets and venting in various places resulted in the Expression. The venting allows for the kite to have a light pull in almost all winds.
Deciding to take one last stab at the Free Spirit design before dropping it. Reason being, because of the frame being based on 1800's installing a Sky Shark 2P frame would have required lots of cutting which might has resulted in a weaker frame. Also several attempts at converting the design to flat seams did not result in a kite that handled even similar. Increasing the sail billow and growing the wing span from 6'5" to 7'7" resulted in a very nice handling kite. The larger wing span slowed the kite down and reduced the pull, it also allowed for utilizing Sky Shark wrapped rods.
I have since done some tweaking on the Free Spirit II, this includes changing the lower spreaders and a new bridle. This greatly improved the kite, making it a much more trickable design. I have also made a Sky Shark Vp version of the kite and find it to pull harder then the 2300 version, but it is currently my favorite kite.
Other ideas I tried
I will see what I can do about getting pictures of some of these kites onto this web page.
The Elf, this was a 5' kite I developed, I made one sail. The kite proved to be a fun kite, fast, and nearly uncontrollable. Major problem was that if you failed to catch the wind on launch the kite would die. The Elf was panel like the Flash Fire. This was tested while developing the Free Spirit I. Many of the lessons learned with the Elf were used to produce the Flash Fire.
I tested a 4' Flash Fire, this was to be a low cost entry level kite and to be stacked in front of a 3/4 or Full sized kite. When framed in 1800 and 1/2 oz Icarex, the kite preformed ok. Testing with 1960, resulted in a kite that was kind of heavy. Since performance was not that great and pricing indicated that it would cost about the same as the 6' version. So the idea was shelved.
I also tested a 3'5" Free Spirit in 1/2oz Icarex and Fiberglass standoff rods. The kite proved to be to fast to handle on short lines, but did seem to offer a really large wind range ~2 to 20mph. I plan to test a 1/2 sized Free Spirit II and see how that handles.
I did a test kite which would have become the Spirit II, this was a much deeper sail then the original Spirit. I never continued the design since the Radix was a better product, and the market for team kites was drying up. The paneling ideas were used in the Expression.
I tried a full sized Free Spirit I this was a 8' Free Spirit II. While the kite flew well, it was slow and did not axel cleanly, so the idea was abandoned.
I did several test sails with a 4' or less wing span entry level kite. The object was to provide a simple to make, easy to fly kite. Results were not promising, in high winds the kites had a tendance to shutter which I was unable to remove either with bridle adjustments or sail changes. I may continue to play with the idea and try with some small fiberglass rods.
I made up a 8' test kite based on Radix, Expression and Spirit. Test kite flew good, was fast and very hard pulling, but would not axel or do other tricks. I'm not sure wether I will make other prototypes along this line. Since I am very happy with the Free Spirit II.