A few months ago I was rescued from suffocation in a plastic bag by my mentor, Anthony Thyssen. When he saw me wearing the leather flying jacket, helmet and goggles, at a chinese market, he knew this was the friend he needed for kite parachuting. I myself didn't have much choice in this matter at that time, but the results was great and I wouldn't trade my protector for anyone else.
Well I came to my new home and there I sat on a shelf over looking Anthony's lounge which is more of a kite workshop than a lounge, for the next few months. Anthony is a very busy person, working on his computers, flying his kites, designing and building kites in front of the TV at night. Thanks be that koalas don't have to do very much.
Finally Anthony start work on a new messenger or kite ferry as well as a parachute and backpack for the parachute. I of course looked on with great interest in the proceedings.
The parachute was a simple Hemisphere Design.. Err.. Did I say simple? Anthony spent two hours doodling and calculating to figure out a template for a 1/6th gore (what a word) for the parachute. Then he used some 'taffeta' nylon, which he bought for some other kite project but which proved to be too soft, to make the chute (same material is used for umbrellas). I had my doubts about this but the material springs open easilly to fill with air at the right time.
The parachute backpack was found on the Internet and also works extremely well, though the first one proved too small for the parachute unless it was very carefully folded. If you or your protector has access to the world wide web, the plan is from the Netherlands and is called "The Chute Backpack".
The messenger however is what most interested Anthony as he wanted one which would 'lift' the payload (me), rather than just drag itself up a kite line. (See Anthony's Lifting Messenger)
The sails of such messengers are basically square framed or parachute like. What my protector was trying out was what would happen if the sail was designed to act more like a kite. The messenger body would pass through the center the kite-sail.
The messenger itself was designed in a similar fashion to Dorf's Ferry (no longer available on the web) though his version sail hinge was simpler and did not need retraction lines, nor a static line to hold the sail in place.
The innovation however was that rather than using plain square framed sails the sail was created as if it was a diamond kite with two spines, and extended above the top of the ferry body. The sail was attached to the body at the hinge just below where the spars in the diamond would normally cross, EG: the center of forces. The sail between the two spines was cut away above this hinge to allow the kite line the ferry is attached to pass through.
This arrangement seems very natural as the sail extending above the top of the messenger body regulates the angle of the kite-like sail, the same as diamond kite without a bridle would. And as the sail is a proper kite shape it provides much more lift than drag, just like a real kite does.
On sunday (October 26th, 1997) on the flying field a medium to strong breeze was blowing directly from the water, which meant good ground winds were available. My mentor launched a genki kite, and put a cork (the messenger stop) on the kite line 10 meters from the kite. The kite was then sent up to the legel limit of Australia (90 meters, or 300 feet).
Genki kites fly at very high angle flying angle (70 degrees or more) and a kite line no ordinary messenger can climb. The messenger was attached to the kite line, the sails set, and ZOOM... It went straight up the 60 degree angled slope at the bottom, all the way to the cork where the kite line was 70 degrees, hit the cork and came back down. Success! A lifting messenger was born. :-)
With some trepidation I allowed myself to be attached to the messenger, a final check was made of the back pack, and I was released. Slowly, very very slowly I was carried up the kite line. Obviously the messenger needs a little more sail, but the wind got stronger as I was lifted slowly up into the sky.
Up and up, the wind ripping through the fur of my ear tuffs (the reason for my name). Up and up and up, 5 minutes I have been rising, though it feels like it was longer, where was that cork, I couldn't see the line ahead though the sail. Hang on is that darker blue the kite? Where was the cork? Did it fall off in the test before?
Suddenly there was a thump, and the sails in front and above me collapsed to reveal the dark blue of the kite above me. A lurch and I was falling. Where is the parachute? Didn't it open? Another jerk from my back as the parachute release line went taut. I performed a sickening somersault and I could see the red and white fabric of the chute all around me.
The parachute filled with air and the harness slapped my ear tuffs. and there was peace and I was slowly descending, rocking back and forth, people on the ground looking like small insects with there faces looking up toward me. The wide blue sky all around with the great expanse of green below dotted with the triangular sports kites of Anthony's friends. This is incredible I thought. I wonder if I can go again.
Before too long the ride was over. The wind had carried me toward the far edge of the huge field the kite flyers were using, and the ground was coming up fast. Tuck and roll, I thought, tuck and roll.
One final big thump and I was down on the soft grass a half a meter from the log fence.
Moments latter Anthony came up to collect me, so I didn't have to take the long journey across the field on my short legs.
Gosh what an experience. I have to recommend kite parachuting to every koala and teddy bear and other friends out in the world. Quarter of an hour later I was asking to jump again, and I don't even mind the lying on my stomach to get the parachute re-packed into the backpack.
Anthony during my short rest had moved the cork a bit lower on the kite line so I wouldn't leave the park. Also the wind had also picked up a bit more. As such later journeys up the kite line did not take nearly as long as that first, but the jumps were still just as increadable. Local children started to take over the task of returning me to my mentor where the kite was staked to the ground.
First he was no longer the only parachutist in the club. Also as the `dropper' they used to release QK was a pull line device which needed to be pulled back down to set it up for the next drop. This of course means that on a good day he only gets to drop at most two or three times in an afternoon. I myself easily managed to make 8 jumps on my first day at kite parachuting! I can see why QK was upset.
Not too worry, Anthony said he was welcome to make a jump from the lifting messenger next time.All in all this was a great adventure for me. Especially as this was my first trip since I was rescued from the plastic bag. I can't wait for the next parachuting day. Anthony has even started making me a proper backpack harness with snaps so I can take it off easily, he also promised to add special loops so the parachute lines wouldn't clip my ears when it opens.
Ta ta from the land downunder to all the other parafauna (what a word) out there, and may your parachute always open.
-- Tuffy (I'm not a bear) Koala