Some housekeeping and then some kite talk
Housekeeping: Peter & Elwyn & the Kaixuan Team
Yes I know, something I've never shown any facility for, nor interest in, but useful and necessary: things work better when they are organised and tidy:
So, some housekeeping first; of the business sort:
The customer interface with AIRBANNERS, supplier of aerial banners and accessories, is moving from Peter Lynn Kites Ltd (Peter Lynn brand licensee for single line kites) to the Weifang Kaixuan Kite Manufacture Co., Ltd., Weifang , China. In most respects , this is barely a change at all; Kaixuan have been the manufacturers of the Airbanners letter systems since they were first developed.
But up until now, Kaixuan manufactured letters have been shipped to PL Kites Ltd in NZ, then sent out to distributors and end users worldwide.
An obvious question arose; how was this structure, with it's inherent more than doubling of prices, adding value for customers? Kaixuan Group
In two years of sometimes intense discussion about this, it became very clear to me that it wasn't - hence the change.
From now, letters and other Airbanners products will be supplied directly from China to customers worldwide.
Peter Lynn Kites Ltd will manage this new licensing arrangement on behalf of Airbanners Ltd, though Stefan Cook ( letter system inventor) and myself (Airbanners Ltd's principal shareholder) will be taking a keen day to day interest as this new structure establishes.
I am very confident that Kaixuan will be good operators of the Airbanners license:
They have the necessary scale- and the skills; colloquial English (Jessica see attached photo), a print shop, laser cutting , very competent sewers and excellent management. Most importantly of all though, they are a family business and the relationship between them and Peter Lynn Kites has been developing now for 7 years, with personal ties at every level getting stronger all the time. Elwyn and I were In Weifang for meetings about Airbanners and other things last month in conjunction with the 30th Weifang Kite Festival. Peter & Jessica
The Airbanners website now connects customers directly to Kaixuan and they can also be accessed at www.kaixuankite.cn
OK, done and dusted; so now I can rabbit on about something much closer to my heart than administrative matters- and it's central to the Airbanners initiative, so I'm not sliding off-topic here;
Better lifters: Elwyn Peter and Tan
The original Airbanners product is Stefan's demountable letter system; currently available in just one font and one size (1.5m high). With the move to Kaixuan, specials become easier to source and a range of smaller letters is being considered. Printed banners are also now an option
But, though not all air banners are, or will be lifted under kites (balloons and structures are more suited in many applications), lifting kites are also central to this business.
And these kites are very much my personal interest- having spent a fair proportion of the last 40 years trying to get them to fly better- and sometimes to fly at all. That I haven't always been entirely successful is because I still don't fully know what I'm doing (does anyone?!), but also because 'flying well' encompasses such a multitude of competing virtues and 'not flying well' a multitude of sins. But, two steps forward and one backwards, progress has been made.
Now the Airbanners shift has provided an opportunity to put into effect a dream I've had for a long time.
Which is that reliable lifter/pilot kites should be cheap enough to be basically disposable; cheaper than the cost of the fabric that an average person would need to buy to make the same item- like for clothing. With sufficient scale this is definitely achievable because ripstop purchased in volume costs less than half it's single roll price, and less than a quarter of it's cut-roll price. Volume also enables efficiencies in labour. There is a rough rule for manufacturing (similar to Moore's law in electronics), that every doubling of volume reduces the cost (labour and material) by 20%. From the beginnings of mass production (Venice's Arsenale in the 16th century?) through the industrial revolution to contemporary post industrial societies, there is not the slightest indication of a drop off in this as yet- hence the great increase in prosperity that globalisation has provided the world. 22 sq.m Pilot
But I digress.
Until now, Airbanners lifters have been 4 cell, 4 bridle kites with somewhat higher aspect ratio than the PL standard Pilots- enabling them to fly at a slightly higher angle and with more pull- though at some small cost to reliability.
Stackable 22 sq.m Pilot Kite
22 sq.m Pilot
In particular they had a tendency to invert in turbulent conditions and were not especially good at recovering from partial collapses.
Many times during the last 5 years I've tried to stop them from sometimes turning over by adding ever more reflex to the side profiles (ribs) - but without success.
Then, after leaving this problem aside for a year while doing other things (don't breakthroughs often come with this back story!), I tried making the side rib leading edge profiles symmetrical (from conventional nose down camber) instead- and inversions immediately ceased. Not only has this cured inverting, it has also made them more collapse tolerant than other lifters/pilots we have.
The 4th bridle also became redundant with this change; they are now 3 bridle kites (which is a useful cost saving at the manufacturing end, and very helpful when pulling them out of trees and things).
And a stacking line has been added as well (excellent collapse resistance makes them the most reliably stackable kites we have).
From now they will be called PL "Lifter" kites. This is to differentiate them from the 8 bridle PL Kites Ltd "Pilot" kites which are more about stabilising lower kites than providing raw lift, and from the stackable pilot series that can be built from plans published on the peterlynnhimself site. 3 Bridle 9sqm Stackable Pilot in Sardinia 2012
"Lifters" will be available from Airbanners/Kaixuan direct to end users everywhere in the world at VERY competitive prices, and the target market is not just for lifting banners and flying above show kites. I also expect a market for boat rescue- being so easy to fly, cheap, and stackable, even a non-kite flier should be able to launch a stack of them from any small boat or yacht in case of engine failure or dismasting- to get themselves back to land (provided there is some in the downwind quadrant).
Currently the only size available is the 22 sq.m, but even as we speak I'm working on 15 sq.m, 10 sq.m and 7sq.m versions. Unfortunately, soft kites don't scale directly, but the changes required within this size range seem reasonably straightforward.
After this I'm planning to develop a cheap-to-make design that will work in 4 sq.m, 2 sq.m and 1 sq.m sizes; to service the low end cheap-as-chips beach shop market with a kite that DOES fly reliably in a wide wind range, even for first time kite fliers. Such a kite would go some way to reversing the put-off that so many aspiring kitefliers experience at their first attempt. But it's not going to be easy because even tiny panel and sewing inaccuracies have huge effects for small kites, so such a design will need, above all, to be tolerant of variations.
Could be a few years work in this I reckon.
Kelantan, Malaysia, June 1 '13
Peter Lynn Kites Ltd
105 Alford Forest Rd
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