Monday, January 19, 2015

Last Saturday Was Ben Franklin's Birthday... A Belated Happy Birthday Ben!

I had this blog ready to go three weeks ago; somehow I got distracted and forgot to post it last Saturday. So, here it is, two days late.

Benjamin Franklin - Born January 17, 1706

Ben Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, civic activist, statesman, diplomat, scientist and inventor

In 1750 he published a proposal for an experiment to prove that lightning is electricity by flying a kite in a storm that appeared capable of becoming a lightning storm.

On June 15, 1752 Franklin may possibly have conducted his well known kite experiment in Philadelphia, successfully extracting electricity (in the form of sparks) from a cloud.

Though Franklin has been most noted kite-wise with his lightning experiments, he has also been noted for his ideas of using kites to pull humans and ships across waterways. On one occasion he tied a kite to his boat and let the kite pull him across the pond he was on.

Today "Traction Kiting" is enjoyed in many ways:




Extreme Snow-kiting



And just pilot and power kite

Thank you, Ben Franklin, for all the fun we're having!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wednesdays are good for kite flying too!

Bright skies, moderate temperatures in the mid 60s and NNW winds blowing at 15-20 mph. It had to be a kite flying afternoon. My kite buddy, Jim Stainback, and I had seven kites up from 1:30 til about 4. Wished the day was longer.

 Kids had fun chasing the tails

 Big Boy

150 ft windsock

Friday, January 2, 2015

Wind Energy and Kite patents

Besides good 'ol Sol, the wind offers an almost limitless supply of renewable energy. But how to harness it effectively is the challenge. I invite you to visit A blog about kite patents & wind energy.
There are some very interesting patent descriptions on this site plus a great video on alternative wind energy. I invite you to check it out... it's good food for thought.

Here's a video of the latest kite-powered electrical generator. Absolutely awesome!

(in case someone gets the wrong idea,
those aren't engines on the wings,
they're electrical-generating turbines)

Imagine all the isolated ares where a concrete & steel pylon could be installed , so one of these 'power-generating kites' could take advantage of the winds in the area to produce almost free power. Whenever the winds are sufficient, the kite would produce power which would be stored in batteries and converted to AC whenever needed.

Friday, December 26, 2014

'Twas the day after Christmas...

The day after Christmas dawned bright and chilly with northerly breezes as predicted. Jim Stainback and I arrived at Wildwood Park about noon. The temperature was around 55 degrees and the winds were blowing at 12-18 mph (as reported at the airport just 2 miles away). Within an hour we had seven kites in the air. Several families with kids were out with their kites, so the park had very festive look.

For the rest of the afternoon we enjoyed the aerial display and did a little two-line flying. We were off the park and headed home before 4:30. Just another walk in the park.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Solar Powered Flight

Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew the first heavier-than-air aircraft one hundred and eleven years ago. In 2015 Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg plan to fly a solar powered, fixed-wing aircraft, around the world with only the power provided by the sun (Piccard, along with Brian Jones completed the first non-stop balloon flight around the globe in 1999).

Solar Impulse 1 conducted its first test flight in December 2009, and first flew an entire diurnal solar cycle including nearly nine hours of night flying, in a 26-hour flight on the 7th and 8th of July, 2010.

In 2013 they conducted a multi-stage flight across the U.S. from Moffett Field in Mountain View, CA. to John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport in New York.

Starting in March of 2015, Solar Impulse 2 will circle the planet in the northern hemisphere, taking around 5 months. The starting and ending point will be Masdar in Abu Dhabi. It's not a non-stop flight; obviously the pilots could not stay aloft long enough to complete the journey. The idea is that they fly an aircraft around the world during day AND night hours without ever 'fueling up;' from the initial charging of the batteries to the end of the flight, the only power comes from stored solar energy.

Solar Impulse 2

These videos are inspiring!

It's the beginning of a new era in powered flight!

For more information:

Wikipedia (another thank you to Wikipedia for aiding my research)

Solar Impulse

How Solar Aircraft Work

Solar Powered Motorglider

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

One Hundred and Eleven Years Ago Today...


Those were the headlines the day after Orville Wright flew a heavier-than-air flying machine a distance of 112 feet over the sands of Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

December 17, 1903

On December 14, 1903, after winning a coin toss, Wilbur made a three second flight attempt, stalling after takeoff and causing minor damage to the flyer. Three days later, having repaired damages, they made history with four successful flights. The first was a twelve second flight by Orville; the last flight by Wilbur covered 852 feet and lasted 59 seconds.

3-Axis Control - one of three major break-throughs
Wilbur and Orville Wright had been scientifically experimenting with the concepts of flight since 1899. They based the design of their kites and full-size gliders on work done in the 1890's by other aviation pioneers. In 1900, the brothers traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to begin their manned gliding experiments. They made over a thousand flights from Kill Devil Hills in their gliders. The fundamental breakthrough was their invention of three-axis control, which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain it's equilibrium.

One of their kites 

A Wright glider

A Lightweight Engine
Besides 3-axis control, another key development for a heavier-than-air flying machine was a lightweight engine. Their shop mechanic, Charlie Taylor, built them an engine in just six weeks. To keep the weight low enough, the engine block was cast from aluminum, a rare practice for the time.

Wright Brothers engine serial #17, circa 1910
on display at the New England Air Museum

The Third Break-through... Propellers
Their library research on propellers disclosed no established formulae for either marine or air propellers, and they found themselves with no sure starting point. After much debate they concluded that an aeronautical propeller is essentially a wing rotating in the vertical plane. On that basis, they used data from miniature wind tunnel tests to design their propellers; two contra-rotating blades (no torque) to push the plane, rather than pull it through turbulent prop-wash. Wilbur made a March 1903 entry in his notebook indicating the prototype propeller was 66% efficient. Modern wind tunnel tests on reproduction 1903 propellers show they were more than 75% efficient under the conditions of the first flights, "a remarkable feat", and actually had a peak efficiency of 82%.

Were the Wright Brothers First?
There are many who say the Wright Brothers weren't the first to fly a heavier-than-air machine successfully. Supporters of the post-Wright pioneers argue that techniques used by the Wright brothers disqualify them as first to make successful airplane flights. Those techniques were: a launch rail; skids instead of wheels; a headwind at takeoff; and a catapult after 1903. Supporters of the Wright brothers argue that proven, repeated, controlled, and sustained flights by the brothers entitle them to credit as inventors of the airplane, regardless of those techniques.

Me? I'm pro Wright Brothers... but regardless, it was a magnificent feat by... well, you finish it.

If your journeys take you to the east coast, why not plan to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial, run by the National Park Service.

From the air

The Monument

Sculptures of the first flight

First flight marker

What the Wright Brothers achieved changed the world forever... and being a pilot, I am forever grateful, for up there in the air... well, it's just a magical place to be.

I'd like to acknowledge Wikipedia for much of the research I did for this entry. If you'd like to know more about the Wright Brothers and other manned flight pioneers, here's some links you can follow:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Zen Glider... Single-line Indoor Kiteflying at it's Best

I have watched this video countless times, and it still gives me goose bumps. The music, "Once Upon A Dream (Lisa)," is so appropriate, and Daryl Yeh has such incredible control of his Zen Glider. The end will give you shivers... at least it does me.

And if you enjoyed that video, you'll like this next one. You may think the video was shot in slow motion, but it was not; the Zen Glider flies ever so slowly.