May 14
A Really Really BIG Kite

It isn't a kite until it flies. So last week, we dispatched GKPI associate Jim Martin to New Zealand for the first test flight of the Mega Flag.

Jim will be heading up the Flight and Safety Crew for traveling exhibitions of our newest acquisition. His daily emails quivered with excitement. "It's big. It's really, really BIG!!." And yes, it flies too!

Here's a bit more news of the initial flight.

Mega Flag

Plans to create a giant American Flag Kite were a collaborative effort of world famous kite builder Peter Lynn of New Zealand and David Gomberg, co-owner of Gomberg Kite Productions, International. Mr. Lynn built the three kites that previously held the world’s largest record in Guinness. The Mega Flag is roughly 25% larger than the current Guinness record Mega Ray.

Packed and Ready Packed and Ready Packed and Ready

The kite was contstructed over the first five months of 2005 and completed just prior to Jim's arrival in Ashburton. His first introduction was helping stuff the behemoth into a transport bag for the trip to a local flying field. The kite weighs almost 500 pounds and fills a full-size mini-van.

Layout and Prep Layout and Prep Layout and Prep

The first stage of any launch is to spread the kite, clear all the bridles, attach the anchor, and set the quick-release collapse lines. Safety is a paramount consideration in flying any large kite.

Following layout, the Flag was partly inflated by the wind and all attachments and through cords checked. Light filtering through the fabric creates an eerie atmosphere. With other large kites, the public has been allowed inside to share this incredible experience. However, we have decided not to allow the public to walk on this huge American flag and access inside will be limited to crew members and approved volunteer staff.

Looking Inside Looking Inside Looking Inside

With all systems checked and anchors set, the Mega Flag was ready for an inaugural flight.


May 8, 2005: Crew members hold the front of the kite open to partly inflate the sail. The wind does all the work and the three-dimensions airform slowly takes shape.

The Mega Flag is a wind-inflated kite. It is not filled with gas or lifted with support kites. If there is enough wind for initial inflation, there is also enough wind for flying. And as we keep saying -- it is BIG.

  • Over 10,000 square foot when stretched flat
  • 9,000 square foot lifting surface when flying
  • 130 feet wide x 82 feet deep
  • 25-foot ceilings inside the kite
  • Weighs 500 pounds
  • Flown on 20 ton line
  • Over a mile of nylon fabric
  • Could hold two dozen full-sized School Busses
  • Each Star on the flag kite is over four feet tall
  • Required over 300 hours of sewing time to complete

Safety lines at the outside edges enable the kite to fly reliably and safely in areas not much larger than the overall dimensions of the kite plus lines. The practicable minimum space is a rectangle 200 feet wide and 300 feet deep. The Mega Flag was designed with built in safety and deflation systems.

The breeze is perfect -- about 5 mph. The kite eases off the ground and into the air. Success!

First Launch
First Launch
First Launch

I asked Jim what he thought when the kite first took flight. "It's a bit corny" he replied. "But I got a little choked up. It's not just well engineered. It's a really beautiful kite. And being close to something that majestic -- and symbolic, you can't help but actually get a bit teary eyed."

Closer View Closer View Closer View

After three days of testing in a variety of winds, the Mega Flag was packed for transit to the USA. It is scheduled for delivery on May 15th and is already booked for two shows.

Ready to Travel Ready to Travel Ready to Travel

We will continue to look for flying opportunities around the country. The Mega Flag is in fact a 'show kite' designed not just for kite festivals but also for Air Shows, NASSCAR races and other special events. (Check here for more details.)

We plan to support it at each showing with two or three trained Flight and Safety Crew members, and 10 to 20 qualified volunteers. Volunteers are needed to help position the fabric for launches, to open the vents for inflation, manage the side stabilizing lines, and to help pack up at the end of the day.

Compare

I'm going to close this report with one last photo. It is a study in contrasts -- a miniature Charlie Sotich American Flag kite -- just two inches across -- positioned against a single four foot star from the Mega Flag. Kites can be as small as a whisper or as big as your dreams.

In the coming months, we hope you'll have the opportunity to see our big dream -- the Mega Flag at a festival or event near by. Thanks for joining us on this very first flight.

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