- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 29, 2005

There are many shapes and styles of kites, but the forces acting on all of them are exactly the same. In fact, with the exception of thrust, the forces acting on a kite are the same forces that act on an airliner or a fighter plane. Like an aircraft, kites are heavier than air and rely on aerodynamic forces to fly. Kites have a solid frame normally made of wood or plastic, and this frame is covered by a paper, plastic or cloth “skin” to generate the lift necessary to overcome the kite’s weight. A kite must be made as light as possible for good performance, yet be strong enough to withstand high winds.

While the forces on all kites are the same, each kite flies a little differently. Some kites are highly maneuverable, and some are very stable. There are kites with multiple control lines that can perform stunts, while other kites can be flown to high altitudes. Here are a few of the most popular kites:

Diamond kite

Diamond kites are the classic kites you probably remember from childhood. High, attractive fliers with long trailing tails, these are perfect for those looking for a “classic kite.”

Delta kite

The delta kite is a light wind kite, particularly suited to thermal cruising. It is relatively easy to construct and conveniently quick to assemble on the flying field.

Box kite

One of the most popular kite designs, the box kite is renowned for strength and stability. Based upon fundamental geometric principles, box kites are designed to be strong and capable of getting a lot of lift. The three-dimensional nature of the kites also gives them an ascetic appeal.

Dragon kite

Dragon kites are among the most spectacular kites in the sky yet are simple to fly, so anyone, can enjoy them. They are surprisingly good fliers. Even the smallest will fly given a decent wind — and the larger ones need only a gentle breeze.

Parafoils

Parafoils are an alternative design to traditional single-line kites. They fly easily and give the flier control over where they go. They are designed without spars (the part that can break when a traditional kite crashes).

Dual-line kites

Dual-line kites respond to input from your hands. These stunt kites can perform loops, figure eights and general swooping.

Sources: www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/kite1; www.windweaverskites.com; www.airdynamics.co.uk/dragons

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