June 14, 2012
MegaFlag in Maine
Guest Update from Jeff Burka

Is there a merit badge for this?

The weekend of May 19th and 20th, 2012, I had the pleasure of accompanying Jim Martin, flight and safety manager for the Stars 'n Stripes Mega Flag, and his son James on a trip to Hampden, Maine to fly the Mega Flag.

A very large tow point

The display and flight of the kite was organized as part of the Penobscot Valley Spring Camporee, an event run by the local chapter of the Boy Scouts. The original plan was for Mike Agner of GKPI to be on the crew for this flight, as one of the organizers happens to be son of Mike's wife, Judy! Unfortunately, Mike suffered a medical emergency, and was unable to attend.

The flight was scheduled for Saturday, and from the kite's normal home in Charlotte, NC, Jim and James headed north on Thursday morning, towing a trailer containing the kite. They reached my home in Washington, DC after dinner, and after loading my own gear, we continued north to New Jersey before stopping for the night. Friday saw a continuation of the long drive, culminating in our arrival in Hampden around dinner time. While it may seem strange to drive such a long way to fly a single kite, the Mega Flag is simply too heavy to make shipping it cost effective in most situations.

Saturday morning, we drove over to the flying field to assess the field and wind conditions. Measuring the field is serious business, to ensure that there's not only enough room to safely launch and fly the kite, but also to bring it back down via its release mechanism (which, ideally, causes the kite to flip over backward and settle to the ground). We also wanted to get a look at the anchor we'd been provided, and determine the best way to attach the kite to it.

Anchors for large kites Stretching out the kite

After a little bit of further prep, including setting up a set of American flag banners, it was finally time to position the anchor and begin to unfurl the kite. Fortunately, we had the help of a group of Scouts, who joined us in pulling the kite from the trailer and stretching it out.

The Scouts had requested that they have an opportunity to take a number of photos of the kite on the ground, so when we first pulled it from the trailer and unfurled it, we actually set it up on its back, with the leading edge downwind. This had the effect of properly orienting the flag design with the field of blue at the upper left. The Scouts gathered around the kite while a photographer took overhead shots from a cherry picker. To make for what we imagine were even more spectacular shots, aerial photos of the Scouts arrayed around the kite were taken from a small plane!

American flag banner set Ring around the Mega Flag

Once the photo op was over, it was time to flip the kite over so that the leading edge was upwind, anchor the tow point (the trailing edge safety lines had been anchored before the photo op to ensure the kite couldn't get blown across the field!) and prepare our volunteers who would be helping work the steering lines. We carefully held the leading edge open to allow the kite to inflate before heading to the sides to work with the volunteers who would help stabilize the kite if necessary. Once nice thing about using the Peter Lynn flag kite concept for a mega kite is that the entire leading edge is used for inflation and deflation. This means that the Mega Flag inflates and deflates very quickly — sometimes even faster than I expect from some Peter Lynn maxi designs!

And then, there was lift-off. It's hard to imagine something so large, and definitely heavier than air, gently rising into the sky, but this kite does it.

Photo Op!! Inflating the kite

After about 20-30 minutes of flying in the somewhat turbulent air, the steering teams were losing their battle to control the kite, and Jim made the decision to release the flying line, allowing the kite to settle back to the ground.

For the next several hours, the Scouts went about their Camporee business. We planned for one more launch, once all of the Scouts had returned from various field trips. Of course, as the afternoon went on, the winds managed to improve while also shifting a full 180 degrees. Fortunately, our large pack of volunteers were at hand to help us turn the kite around so that it was once more facing upwind.

Ready to Launch It's a kite.  It flies.

Finally, we were ready to attempt another launch. After making sure that the kite was properly attached to the anchor via its quick-release mechanism, we again inflated the kite and sent it skyward. Again, the Scouts battled valiantly from the sides to keep the kite level. One Scout was heard to exclaim, "It's like a tug of war you can't win!" Still, we kept the kite aloft for a good flight before Jim gave the signal to prepare for tow point release.

After that, it was surprisingly quick work to get the kite stowed back in the trailer — the rapid deflation is a huge help — and the GKPI team retreated back to the White House Inn to relax for the evening.

I'm grateful to Dave and Jim for inviting me to crew on this Mega Flag flight, and pleased to report that Mike Agner is recovering well. This was a fantastic experience, one I'm sure the Scouts will find as memorable as I do!

Still waiting for that badge, though...

Packing away for another day

More pictures are available both from Jim's fotki album and at my own.

Flag Day Special!! It's Flag day! What a great Update for this specail calander date!

Do help commerate Old Glory, we're offering a 10 day mark-down on the Steamer Flag Set, our Lightweight Flags, or on a USA Pilot Parafoil.

Take 20% off if you order before June 24 nd mention the Update.

Thanks Jeff, Jim, and James for waving our very big flag in maine. Sorry we couldn't be there with you....

Streamer Flags

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