Into The Wind's Flight Blog

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Parallel Life

That's what I'm always reminded of when I think of Jim Christianson. He started as an intern at Go Fly A Kite around the time I started working for Into The Wind. He devoted many years of service to GFAK, becoming General Manager when the founder, Andrea Skwarek, sold the company to Jakks Pacific in 2002. When Jakks reorganized last year, phasing out the separate GFAK division in Connecticut, Jim took the opportunity to launch his own company. Sky Dogs became a reality in 2009. Although Sky Dogs is the new kid (or should I say, pooch) on the block, the company is comprised of familiar faces. Dodd Gross, another long-time kite flyer and designer joined Jim along with a few former GFAK coworkers. Since they're just getting started, we didn't have a chance to test fly any of their new designs in time for the 2009 catalog. But we hope to add their products as they become available. In the meantime, we're going to clear out some of our parts for, oldie but goodie, GFAK products. Here's how it works. The parts are free! You only pay for the shipping. If you request just one or two of the parts we have, we'll charge you the $6 minimum shipping. If you get carried away and order the whole lot we'll charge you $14 for shipping. Here's what we have:

6 New Unopened Get'n School'd VHS Traction Flight Training Videos featuring Paul Menta
3 Stealth Stunter Nocks
1 Boomer Stunt Kite assorted parts package (lineset on handles, bridle?, 5 spars, fittings)
1 Mini Edge Stunt Kite assorted parts package (line on handles, 5 spars, standoffs, fittings, bridle?)
1 Bandit Stunt Kite assorted parts package (4 spars, lots of fittings)
1 Unknown GFAK Stunt Kite assorted parts package (4 spars, standoffs, bridle, fittings)
1 T-Rex 4 1/2-ft. Delta frame, flying line and 2 tails
2 Blue 59" Ripstop Nylon Kite Cases printed with "Joel Scholz Signature Series for GFAK"
2 Cardinal Windwheel wings only
1 Damsel Fish Windwheel body only
1 Sea Lion Windwheel body, with most if not all hardware including ground stake, but only some spinning ball panels
1 Flamingo Windwheel body with 5 of 6 tail fins, and partial hardware
21 Cat Windwheel Canary bird wings
3 Reef Fish Spinning Wings
3 Flower Windwheels each with 3 rainbow wheels and 3 stake petals/fins but no hardware
1 Lighthouse Windwheel body with 6 Yellow Fins but no hardware and no vane
6 Assorted Windwheel Fins: 1 each Pink, Blue, Yellow, Lime, Orange, Teal
12 Assorted Windwheel Fins with Streamers: each Pink, Purple, Grape, Blue and 2 each Turquoise, Yellow, Lime and Green
8 Biplane Windwheel Props: 2 Purple, 2 Blue and 4 Green
6 Piglet Windwheel Flower Petals, Assorted Colors
4 Dragonfly Whirler Wings

The fine print: If you purchase multiple items, shipping will be adjusted to a reasonable amount.

We also have some Go Fly A Kite kites and wind products that are in various stages of disrepair, some samples that we've never carried, some kites that don't fly to our standards (think: room decoration or fix it up project) that we'll sell "as is" for the prices indicated to move them out of here. The prices below include shipping:

3 24" Diamonds (1 each Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob & Spider Man), photo samples $10
3 Mini Super Flyers (1 each Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob & Spider Man), new samples $10
1 Tie Dye Pinwheel Complete, new sample $10
1 Marilyn Mermaid Windform (3-D Windsock) used for display $10
1 Fred Flounder Windform (3-D Windsock) used for display $10
1 Golfer Guy Windform (3-D Windsock) used for display $10
Buy all 3 Windforms for $25 (includes shipping)
2 strings of 10 Fish Lanterns (14" fabric fish with a string of 10 blinking lights that fit inside each fish) $12 each string. Buy both strings for $20 (including shipping).
1 Winnie the Pooh Windwheel Complete $8
2 Neon Flower Twists, 1 used for display, 1 used for photo $10 for both
1 Classic Deluxe Twisterwheel, new sample $10
1 Valentine's Breeze Thru Flag, used for display $8
1 Panda Bear Shaped Flat Kite, sample $10
1 Teddy Bear Shaped Flat Kite, sample $10
Buy all 4 Shaped Flat Kite samples for $30
1 Pikachu Critter Kite, sample $10
20 pairs Handles (1 pink/1 blue) with sleeved Spectra or Dyneema (50-lb.? 80-lb?) $14
1 pair Mini Edge Line on Handles (1 pink/1 blue) with about 100-ft 50-lb. Dacron line $6
2 Go Fly A Kite light up display signs, new in box , 24" x 12" $14 for both
1 Powerfoil 4.0 (2003) Dual line foil, flown often by our staff back in the day, $14

Products are represented as accurately as possible but let us know if you don't receive what you were expecting. We'll keep these items around for the next couple of weeks but then they'll head to kite heaven. Please call us or send an email to order these products (they can't be ordered on the website).

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Kite Links

Here are links to a couple of kite related articles that caught my attention this week and that might be interesting to you as well. The first is an article from the Los Angeles Times that reports that the ban on kiteflying in Pakistan was lifted for a day, for either economic reasons or to temporarily distract protestors, depending on who you believe. Either way, I'm not complaining.

The second is a link to an article I came across when I was trying to determine for the blog earlier this week, exactly how much stronger the wind can be at altitude. This article from an August 2008 edition of The Observer discusses the ongoing testing of large kites to generate power in the Netherlands, a project called the Laddermill.

Heading into the weekend, it seemed like a little good news was in order. Fortunately, kites are almost always associated with fun and whether it's the intended purpose or not, a distraction from what's going on in the world doesn't hurt now and then too.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kite Books Galore

Valerie Govig, editor and publisher of Kite Lines, a quarterly kite magazine published from 1977 to 2000, is retiring and moving. We received a letter today outlining her plans and requesting a new home for her kite book collections. Her archives are extensive including what she refers to as, "The Kite Lines Library which consists of one copy each (no duplicates) of over 838 kite books dating from 1827 and collected from 1967 through 2008. The books are arranged alphabetically by author. They are written in multiple languages (but mostly English)." According to Valerie, "The Kite Lines Library is a rare collection, perhaps unequalled in the world. I think it is safe to say that it is priceless." She is also selling back issues of Kite Lines magazine as well as her collection of out-of-print books and what she calls, "kite ephemera." She is accepting bids for the various sets of kite publications from now until March 22nd. If you would like more details or want contact information for Valerie, please get in touch with us . Like Valerie, we just want them to find a good home.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

The jury is out.

Jury duty Tuesday and Wednesday, then catching up with work after that, prevented me from posting on the Flight Blog last week. But once the trial was over, it occurred to me that there were some similarities between the deliberation process and a few of the calls that we receive from customers.

In fact, just last Monday a customer called and talked to Sean. He said he'd been flying his 9-ft. Levitation Delta Light and shortly after launch, in a light wind, the spreader in the kite snapped. He brought the delta down and wrapped the broken carbon spar in duct tape so that he could continue flying the kite. Not long after, the kite was flying at over 1,000 feet when the kite line broke right in the middle.

Our jury instructions from the judge explained that we had to make our decision based solely on the evidence that was presented. Since the defendant didn't testify and we later found out that the primary witness was unable to testify because he was in China, we were left with very little to go on. However, the instructions did say that we could use our life experiences to "infer" what may or may not have happened.

When a customer calls, we're in a similar situation. We can't get a firsthand account from the kite. Instead, we have the customer's observations and our experience. In the case of the 9-ft. Delta, it seemed pretty clear to us that the kite was being flown in too much wind. That's usually why spreaders break, although occasionally the spar can be defective. However, when the line snaps, it's almost always an indication of excessive wind. The problem though, is the concrete evidence; wind on the ground measured by the flyer with a wind meter versus the unknown winds aloft where the kite is flying.

It's common knowledge (at least to us ;-) that winds at altitude can be very different from winds on the ground. According to research conducted by scientists in the Netherlands, 11 mile per hour winds at 250 feet translate to 16 mile per hour winds at 2,500 feet. Keep that in mind when you take your light wind delta out for a flight. And if the spreader breaks, consider it a warning that the winds may be too strong. Likewise, if your delta pulls hard and loops or dives, it's a sign to take it down (and not just to apply duct tape) and fly another day. (For the record, we don't recommend duct tape as a kite repair solution...ever. We have tons of repair parts and can get you back in the air in no time; just give us a call.)

Aside from that, it's important to realize that wind aloft can be substantially different from wind on the ground and that you risk breaking your kite, or worse yet, losing it completely like the guy last Monday, if you exceed the kite's recommended wind range. If that's the case, we'll have a hard time coming up with a "not guilty" verdict.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

The China Cycle

We received the "sailing advise" today, telling us that our ITW kites are leaving China. "Sailing advise" is the lingo to let us know that the container actually made it on the ship and that the ship has actually left the port in Shanghai. The vessel, Hanjin Phoenix, is sailing to Los Angeles with our kites. Well...some of our kites. Some are still being manufactured. We ordered the 80 boxes of kites that are on their way to us on September 24, 2008. We spent the following month preparing the instructions and tags and updating the worksheets used in production. But since October 21, 2008, we've pretty much just been waiting for it to happen. It's exciting to finally have product on the way to us, especially when we're running so low on inventory of so many kites. But this gives you an idea of how long it takes for us to get product from China. By the time it hits our back door, six months will have elapsed since we placed the order. Once it's here, we'll need to inspect a percentage (usually about 10-15%) to make sure the kites meet our quality standards. If it's a new product, if it doesn't pass the QC inspection with flying colors or if it's a product that we haven't recently ordered, we'll fly it to make sure it's A-OK. (That's George's job ;-) Fortunately, most products whiz through these steps and are ready to be sent to customers within a few days. But with 22 different kites arriving, it could still be 3 or 4 weeks before it's all in stock. Of course, we'll receive the products with the most backorders first and work our way through to the in stock kites, just in time for our next shipment.

I've been emailing our factory in China to see if the rest of our order will be leaving March 10th, which is looking doubtful at this point. To complete the cycle, or more accurately, to begin it again, we're hard at work with Christoph Fokken on new products for 2010. We had a meeting with him in January at the Kite Trade Show and have already exchanged several emails and phone calls as he gets to work on prototypes. Our goal is to accelerate the process (of course, that's been our goal for the last four years, as well) so that we can have kites on the way to us before Chinese New Year, when most factories in China shut down completely. I guess that means we'll be trying to place an order sometime this summer. So if you have any spare crystal balls lying around to help us predict what will happen in 2010, by all means send them our way.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Free shipping...

with an order over $200 is our way of thanking you for placing a large order with us. I know that sounds like we're patting ourselves on the back but the idea of free shipping is a new concept for us. It's not that it doesn't cost us more to ship orders over $200. (In fact, we can't figure out how companies can offer free shipping on smaller amounts, especially when they're shipping boxes the size of our kites as opposed to books or CD's.) It's our guess that they just aren't tracking their shipping charges because if they were they'd realize that the cost of shipping a parcel has changed dramatically over the last ten years. We ship most of our packages UPS but seriously considered switching to the U.S. Postal Service or FedEx this year. However, it didn't take long to realize that the UPS rates were competitive if not identical to the USPS and FedEx charges. So there was no way around it, we had to change all of our shipping rates for the first time since 2001 to reflect this across-the-board increase. It's not our intention to make a profit on shipping charges; we just want to break even. Unfortunately, we've been paying more for shipping than we've been taking in...especially in 2008. The charges for air shipments get REALLY crazy but that's the reality. (Think of it as a plane ticket for your kite.) And while there is a variable fuel surcharge that changes weekly and gets added to the base rate for every package, the other UPS charges are fixed; for residential deliveries (+$2.05 for most of our orders), delivery area surcharge (+$2.40 for many of our packages), oversized or dimensional box sizes (around $10 now and then), and additional handling (+$8 a few of our shipments). When you read all that, it sounds like we're getting "nickel and dimed" by the shipping charges but I think it's closer to "dollar and quartered." In any case, we tried to soften the harsh shipping blow by passing on free shipping with orders over $200. Take that UPS.

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Thanks to those of you who inquired about the Top of the Line parts. They're outta here.