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Old 02-20-2007, 10:12 PM
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RickI RickI is offline
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Default Towups Gone Wrong

It seemed like this practice might have faded after the story that appears above was circulated almost five years ago, perhaps not. Towing up using flimsy kiting gear came up again recently at: http://www.kiteforum.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=2336357

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Originally Posted by RickI
I've been doing tow ups since 1993 - properly, lots of people have worldwide. That is with boat tow hang gliding equipment using a glider that can structurally pull more G's than most single engine non-aerobatic aircraft. That is they don't break easily unlike kites which seem to break way too easily. Even if you have a tow line break the glider is so stable it generally will fly out of it without much pilot input. I had a lockout at 300 ft. my second training flight over land, I didn't do anything even though I was pulled into a vertical attitude, the glider flew out of it. With a kite, you would likely just slam in at full speed under similar circumstances.

We often start at about 1400 ft. over water and 2500 ft. over land by truck tow or 5000 ft.+ by tug. Towing up to 75 to 150 ft. with gear that might fall apart at anytime, why, minor altitude and zip margin for error? Went through USHGA certification for this 14 years ago for boat, truck and more recently for aerotow using ultralights. I bet lots of guys on here have done boat and truck tow hang gliding for a lot longer than I have.

What about weak links, lockout, proper towline tensions, does anyone use this stuff with kites? What about training, flight theory, emergency procedures like is routine with hang gliding and paragliding? You don't need it? Yeah right.

How many times have you had some load bearing component of kiting gear break? I have a few dozen I think since 1998, it can break commonly.

What would likely happen on tow if some of these common failures happened:

1. Broken flight line, kite spins, lift retards and you slam in.

2. Broken pigtail, kite spins, lift retards and you slam in.

3. Broken bridal, kite spins, lift retards and you slam in.

4. Broken spreader bar or harness attachment, kite spins, lift retards and you slam in. Unless your hook breaks or you accidentally unhook and let go, then see #9.

5. Corner rips from kite, kite spins, lift retards and you slam in.

6. Kite rips in two, lift vanishes and you fall like a lead balloon.

7. Broken leader, kite spins, lift retards and you slam in.

8. Leading edge plug blows out, lift retards, canopy may collapse and you guessed it.

9. Chicken loop or line breaks, grab it quick otherwise your flight just turned into a sky dive

this could go on a LOT longer, I hope you see that. I have had all of these failures, some more than once.


Towing too hard, whatever that is, can bring on these failures far easier than normal kiting. Weak links aren't commonly in use, nor are winch tension adjustments, just wing it I guess.

OK, now think about stalling the canopy and dealing with that for a while.

Are some of the new RAM air foils more durable than LEI's? You've got me. The ones I used to have, about 8, failed even easier but in fairness that was many years back. I understand that some are made by the same concerns that manufacture far more durable paraglider canopies but are they made to similar specifications? Who knows.

People copy what they see. Towing up with a kite is incredibly easy, almost anyone could go through the motions initially. Now deal with an inflight emergency, say a partial or complete stall, breakage, lots of unsavory possibilities with bare seconds to the surface. The problem is the gear, harness, lines, etc. aren't designed for it, it is misuse of traction kiting gear. Be careful what you promote by example or otherwise, we have a responsibility to others, like it or not. Manufacturers have such a duty in particular. Don't want the responsibility, keep it low key and try not to promote it. Better still, if you want to paraglide (or hang glide) use the right equipment as been said already.

What is "lockout?"

It is when your kite is flying in a direction away from the tether or tow line. As the line tension increases so does the warping of the kite increasing the magnitude and force of the turn in that direction. The kite is literally pulled at high speed into the surface as a result likely independent of control inputs the kiter might make. This can happen at blinding speed, faster than most can react.
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Last edited by RickI; 09-25-2015 at 01:23 PM.
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