By Had Robinson
Kiting is learning to control the glider while you are on the ground – how to inflate it, keep it overhead, and bring it safely down. Pilots who become expert kiters are the safest and best pilots. Kiting must become second nature. That is, it should be like riding a bicycle. You do not think about how to do it, you just go!
If you cannot kite at launch, you should not fly from launch.
This is because the same skills used in kiting are necessary in order to launch, fly, and land your glider safely. It also helps the student to start experiencing the sensation of becoming one with the glider – it becomes an extension of your hands and arms. You can greatly advance your early skills by practicing kiting. It can be done almost anywhere, such as a local park, field, or other open space.
Remember: You must always wear a helmet when you are attached to a wing. You can suddenly – without warning – be lifted off the ground by a gust so you must always be prepared. You can use a simple bicycle helmet that is available for under $20 at Wal-Mart.
A. Reverse inflation
Everyone must be perfect in the reverse inflation technique. (See variation #3 in chapter 3 of the Pilot's Manual). This means:
- Bringing it up overhead without diving to the right or left
- Holding it there a few minutes
- Turning and facing forward (letting go, of course, of the risers)
- Kiting in the forward position for a minute with only the brakes in hand
- Turning back and, finally, bringing the glider to the ground
Variation #3 is the most important technique to use because it is the ONLY way to safely control a glider, for example, in high winds at a mountain launch site. An error at these kinds of sites can be a disaster.
B. Moving an inflated glider from point to point
Being able to guide your glider "at will" is also an essential skill. If alone, set up two markers on the ground that are 15 yards apart. The markers should be upwind/downwind of each other and cross to the wind. Practice going from one to the other and touching the marker with your foot. If you have a companion, play "tag".
C. High winds control
When kiting in high winds and the glider is on the ground, remember that you must not only pull on the rear set of risers (the C's or, in older models, the D's) but also add a little bit of pressure on the A risers. The pressure on the A's prevents the wind from getting under the glider and lifting it off the ground.
Can you bring the glider up without being dragged? All pilots should have the goal of being able to kite in 12 mph winds. A secret for bringing a glider up in high winds is to have it rosetted. A sudden pull on the eyes when ready will inflate the center of the wing but not the tips.
PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!
A student being coached by instructor Had Robinson on how to handle her glider on the ground. This is the secret to being an expert and safe pilot while in the air.