“LiteFlite Radial” retrospective

I have often described this kite as the worst that I have ever paid money for. Perhaps I ought to put this comment into some sort of perspective.

At the very beginning of the rise of modern stunt kites (the very late 80s and very early 90s) one of the main hubs for many things that occurred was The Kite Store in Covent Garden (sadly no longer with us). Their first step into stunt kite manufacture, the LiteFlite, introduced many people back then to carbon fibre frames and truly light wind performance. From there was spawned the LiteFlite S, the LiteFlite Heavy, arguably the MicroFlite and then, in 1992, came the LiteFlite Radial.

http://www.elisanet.fi/mike.emery/kites/LFRadial.jpgIn their own catalogue they introduced it as “probably the best freestyle/precision stunt kite ever“. Now that’s truly Prism-level ad. BS ! Let’s look at what the kite actually was:-

If you have/had a copy of Mark Cottrell’s truly ground-breaking book “Swept Wing Stunt Kites” of 1990 then you would have seen one of the early versions of this kite, called Mabel. One of the main design features of this kite and the Radial was that it had a sail batten on each side running from the nose to the trailing edge where the single-per-side standoff is attached. These battens are also then acted upon by standoffs coming from the upper spreader, which is tied to the spine with a connector. This means that the sail profile is “rigid” and doesn’t collapse when the kite is stalled. This was supposed to mean that the kite would always be easier to take off from odd positions. “Groundwork” was a major field of endeavour in those days.

In addition the Radial had a “Limited Slip Bridle” wherein the upper outhauls of a three point static bridle are connected with a continuous line and can slip back and forth (not all kites had this though). You could adjust how much slip was available and the more you allowed, the weirder the kite’s behaviour. If you ever saw the designer flying the kite then you would believe some of the hype that “with large amounts of slip, flight is more like that of a 4 line kite”. The trouble is…. if you saw anyone else, then you wouldn’t believe the hype.

Other than these aspects the kite was quite conventional and even a little out-of-date by the time it was released. It had a simple sail with straight lines everywhere whilst contemporaries were beginning to use curved panels and seams in their construction. As it was a result it was pretty noisy. It used Carrington K42 nylon hung from a Beman Strong 15 frame (that’s 5.9mm and quite heavy).

LiteFlite Radial So how did best freestyle/precision stunt kite of 1992 (allegedly) actually perform ?

The sad reality for me was that it was a huge disappointment, an enormous frustration and something of a personal insult. I liked the original, S and Heavy LiteFlites and was truly looking forward to the Radial. I found the kite difficult to make do even the basics (and these are 1992 basics we’re talking about here) and the ad. blurb that claimed that “this kite is not for beginners – you won’t break it, just get frustrated with the way it flies” (well I was frustrated so…. I was a beginner, right ?). The main issue was that turns were… leisurely… but it was possible to pull the nose of the kite so far into the wind that the kite stopped turning and started to glide into the wind – in a not particularly consistent nor recoverable manner. Overall it just didn’t seem to work for me or many other people the way it did work for Mark.

BTW the kite was flown in team competition by the Blast, formed from the remnants of seminal UK team, the Blitz.