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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