Quad Line Kites

Three line kites allow the sail to be tilted from side to side to control turning, as do two line kites, but they also allow the angle of attack to be controlled, so controlling the speed, and even allowing reverse motion.

In addition, four line kites allow the sail to be twisted, causing it to spin like a propeller. Four line kites have caught on far more than three liners and so have benefited from more development and refinement.

Quad line flying is quite different from flying a two line kite. Rather than pulling the lines differentially to perform a turn, they have to be tilted differentially, and rather than pulling them together to control speed, the handles have to be tilted together. Experienced two line flyers normally take a little while to adjust as they have to counter all their acquired habits. Since a quad line kite can be made to go backwards as well as forwards, if it crashes upside down, it can be relaunched as easily as the right way up (provided you can work out which way to turn the handles!) A four line kite can do things no other kite can, and it's an experience not to be missed.

Quad line kites are by no means a new invention. In 1822, English schoolteacher George Pocock used two large arch-top kites flying in train and controlled by four lines to draw a carriage at speeds of up to 20mph. On one occasion, he overtook the Bristol to Marlborough stage coach. On another, he committed a serious breach of etiquette by overtaking the Duke of Gloucester's carriage. The indiscretion having been noticed, he slowed to allow the Duke to pass, which he did, graciously acknowledging the gesture.

Amongst modern four line kites, two main classes have emerged: the Revolution and its cousins, and four line parafoils.


[Revolution-type kite] The Revolution, or "Rev" for short, consists of a horizontal spar beneath which are suspended two triangular sail sections, side by side. One pair of lines is attached to each triangle, at the bottom and the middle of the top. Each pair of lines is controlled by a handle which can be rocked back or forwards to control the angle of attack of that triangular section. Here's a nice photo of team flying Revs, with a very busy backdrop, from the Revolution website. The Rev is very much a precision kite, often used in highly skilled and very precise multi-flyer displays. They have even been known to be used for stunts such as flying up behind an unsuspecting person's head and removing their spectacles with a hook attached to one end of the spar! (Not to be recommended, but you could try picking up small objects from a table if you wanted to.)

Fairly detailed plans exist on the net for Rev-type kites, such as Peter Peter's.


[Symphony kite] The Symphony is similar except that it has sail both above and below the spar, as in this photo. A similar kite is Bob Neitzke's Golden Gate Bridge, held together entirely with structural adhesive tape.


The Rev has dominated its field for quite some years, but just recently, the Airbow has entered the frame. (See the Airbow website.) In fact, neither really competes with the other since the Airbow was not designed so much for precision flying, but rather as a trick kite. Until now, the sort of tricks performed by some 2-line kites have been completely out of the question for the Rev and its stable-mates, but Tim Benson, famous for his pioneering 2-line kites, and Andy Wardley, equally renowned for his trick flying and bridle design, set out to change all that. The Airbow, like the Symphony, is symmetrical about its centre line, but unlike the Symphony, it has a 3-dimensional shape. In fact, it looks a bit like a bra, although it would take a funny shaped woman to fit it! This video clip of Andy flying an early prototype gives a good idea of its appearance, shape and capabilities, or if you can't wait for that to download, here are several airbows at Bristol 2003, and an extensive review, both from the Aeolian website.

4-Line Parafoils

[Quad line parafoil] Quad line parafoils are not dissimilar to other parafoils, but have their bridle legs brought together in four groups, which again are controlled by two handles. Large examples are used in the growing sports of kite-buggying, kite-boarding and kite-surfing. They have the advantage over two line kites in this application in that the pull can be controlled by tilting both handles together. The Peter Lynn Peel is a good example. In recent years they have developed from relatively flat structures with complicated bridles to highly curved arcs with lines attached at the two ends only. This Peyer Lynn Phantom is a good example.

There are several manufacturers of very highly developed quad-line parafoils, some of which are very powerful indeed. Power-kiting is an exciting sport, but it's very important to start with a small kite that you can handle, and move on to bigger things as you gain experience.

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Copyright © 1999 Philip Le Riche
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