Fighter Kite Basics

Written by Richard Gareau

Introduction to Fighter Kites

I have been asked many times “What makes these little kites so addictive” and struggled to find an answer that can really describe this wonderful form of kite flying. I truly love all kites, but I always find myself pulling a fighter out of my kite bag first and putting it away last. To find the reason for that, I had to analyze the basic behavior of all my kites.

Although all my sport kites have their own personalities, they are obligated to turn when ever I dictate it by pulling or pushing one of the lines. They have no choice in the matter I make the decision and they obey my every command.

On the other hand, my stable single-line kites have a mind of their own and don’t really care what I do at the other end of the line, they just keep flying. They’re in control and they don’t care.

The Fighter Kite’s uniqueness is single line maneuverability. It can’t really fly without a good pilot to guide it on a safe journey. It is impossible to dictate it’s path. You can ask a fighter kite to turn but you can’t tell it to.

Fighter Kite Construction

Traditional fighters are made of paper, bamboo, thread and glue. With care, paper fighter can be flown a few times before they disintegrate. Mylar is a modern film material with no stretch used in some designs.

Many modern fighters are now made with ripstop sails and fiberglass or carbon-fiber spars. They are usually easily disassembled for transport (a BIG advantage) and offer the flyer the opportunity to fly the kite many times with the same performance.

You can fly most ripstop nylon fighters in a very wide wind range with the best flying being in lighter winds. You can enjoy them flying all alone or challenge a friend to a game of tag. With practice, an ultra-light fighter can be flown in no-wind and even indoors.

Flying Line

Like any other kind of kite, the proper line is very important. A 9-12 lb. cotton line is good for paper fighters and lightweight nylon fighters in very light breezes. A good quality slightly waxed 15 - 20 pound test linen line is appropriate for most regular size nylon fighters and medium (5-12 mph) winds. Most use an India-style spinner or a “Yo-yo” winder for quick line retrieval. Anyway you look at it, I am convinced you will truly enjoy this type of kite flying.

Launching the Kite

Let out some line (maybe 50-75 feet) and pull the kite smoothly into the sky. A helper is a big asset. They hold the kite nose-high and release on the flyers command. Propping the kite against something is also used. Experienced flyers can fly the fighter right from their hand.

Flying a Fighter Kite

The key to a successful flight lies in a three way cooperation between the kite, the flyer and the wind. This is what makes flying a fighter so addictive.

Leave the winder on the ground with the line scattered about in small piles. Big piles make big knots. Winding the line is left for later when the kite is down. You need both your hands to work the line and the kite.

Controlling the Kite

You may have heard kite flyers describe fighter flying as: “Pull on the line to make it go straight, and release it to make it turn”. The difference between “pulling” and “releasing” is a whole world of different line tensions that will make the kite go slower or faster, curve a graceful arc or spin on a wing tip. This very “world” is the language one must learn and practice to truly master the Fighter Kite. Pulling on the line makes the fighter go in the direction it is pointed. Releasing the tension in the line causes the fighter to spin. Timing the next pull to cause the kite to go in the direction you desire is the key. If the kite always spins in one direction, the balance might be off. Check the spine and cross spars. Tails may be added to slow the kite down or make it stable.