A blog detailing our collection of Peter Powell kites, and chronicling our flying of these kites. Plus a bit of PP kite history thrown in. Our collection to date can be seen here. I am keen to expand the collection, so if you have an old Peter Powell kite, whether made in the UK or the US, gathering dust and looking for a new home, why not get in touch? Depending on the kite (does it bring something new or different to my collection?), its condition (is it flyable? how much TLC does it need?), and the price you ask (+ shipping if from outside the UK), we may well be able to do a deal.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

End of 2017 - overview of the collection

Exactly a year ago, I wrote a blog post summarising my collection of Peter Powell kites at the close of 2016, and I thought it would be nice to take stock of what I've been able to add to the collection during 2017.

So here goes!

Like before, I'll group the PP kites in my collection in four groups: UK-produced during the 1970s, 80s and 90s; US-produced; Caribbean Kite Company; and UK-produced during the 21st century.

At the close of 2016, I had nine PP kites produced in the UK during the 1970s/80s/90s. And during 2017, I managed to double that!


Specifically, I added a blue polythene/fibreglass Mk I, a Junior, two customised Mk Is (made for the Round Table for for BP), two polythene Mk II (red and yellow), a 3-stack of ripstop Mk IIs, and two single bicolour ripstop Mk IIs (blue/pink and teal/pink). As before, I count a stack as a single kite. So a total of 18 original UK-produced PP kites at the close of the year.

Moving to US-produced Peter Powells, at the end of 2016, I had six of these, and managed to add another five this year.


These five include a Mk I Stunter, a Mk II Stunter, a Skyblazer, a Skychaser, and an Omni. So almost doubled the number of US-produced Peter Powell kites, to 11 in total.

On to Caribbean Kite Company kites, I only had a single early Cayman at the end of last year, and got my hands on four more this year.


Two later Caymans, a Jamaica and a Trinidad raised the number of Caribbean Kite Company kites to five.

And the finally on to modern, 21st century PPs. At the end of last year, I had a total of seven of those (two for our pair and five for the team), and this year, I added two more.


One of these was a 'standard' Mk III, in a Dutch colour scheme, the other a special Poppy Powell. And those two bring the total of modern PP Stunters in the collection to nine.

And all that brings the total collection from 23 at the end of 2016 to 43 at the end of 2017; not a bad year at all, I'd say! And the collection has really taken off since our very first Peter Powell kite in 2013 ...


So what will I be looking out for in 2018? For older UK-produced Stunters, I'd love to get my hands on one with a wooden frame (fat chance!), and will keep an eye out for Mk Is with a different type of aluminium frame than the one I have, and for any Mk Is or Mk IIs with sails of colours or designs different from what's in the collection already. For US-produced PPs, I'm especially interested in the ultralight Mk III, different versions of the Skyraker, a 'Baby Blazer', a Skytoy, a Dragonfli and a Firefli. Plenty of Caribbean Kite Company kites still missing from the collection, so anything I don't already have is welcome. And when it comes to 21st century PP Stunters, Mark and Paul have a few plans up their sleeves, so hopefully one or two of these will see the light of day in 2018.

As always, if you have a Peter Powell kite for sale which adds something to my collection, please get in touch!







Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Yellow polythene Mk II

I've mentioned it before: for some reason, polythene Mk II Stunters are far less common on eBay than their Mk I ancestors. Whether that's because people are more likely to want to hang on to them, or simply because fewer are made (or both), who knows!

Nevertheless, I have been able to add a few polythene Mk II Stunters to the collection: earlier this year, I got my hands on a red Mk II and our very first Peter Powell kite was a blue Mk II.

And quite recently, eBay provided me with a yellow one!


Following the tail choices on my first two Mk IIs (red with red, and blue with blue), I decided to fly this yellow Mk II with a yellow tail.


Flight characteristics are not different from any of the other Mk I or Mk IIs in my collection.


Now having a trio of Mk IIs, with matching tails, does offer the opportunity to fly the three of them together. Maybe at a festival in 2018?


Sunday, 24 December 2017

Omni

Were you aware that the US arm of Peter Powell Kites produced a quad-line kite? Well done if you were, but did you also know they produced two different quad-line models? If not, read on; and if you did know, you might as well read on, because I'll be testing both against each other at the end of this blog post.

In 1989, Peter Powell brought the Double Diamond (or "Double D" for short) on the market. Essentially two Stunters side-by-side, with their joint cross spars forming the leading edge of the quad. This design created a problem, as it was deemed to be too similar to the new Revolution quad, and Peter Powell Kites were forced to take the "Double D" off the market within two years of its introduction.

In 1991, they came back with an alternate design, named the Omni. The two Stunters were rotated 90 degrees, and positioned tail-to-tail, such that their joined spines now formed the long cross spar of the quad.


Needless to say, I had to add an Omni to my collection, and I'm happy to announce that I have succeeded in that. Meet my green-fluorescent-and-black Omni! Its previous owner lives on Hawaii, so a bit of a shock for the kite to find itself out in the British winter ...


So how does it fly? Well, it turns out to be a very twitchy kite, and it took me quite a while to get it under control; it tends to oversteer a lot. But with the 'arrows' on the kites, indicating which side is 'up' and 'right', it's certainly a striking kite in the sky!


Having managed to get one of both the Peter Powell quads, we of course had to try them both together. Not with the aim of a pair routine, but simply to compare their flight characteristics in the same wind conditions (4-10mph).


Besides the general shape, the Omni is also smaller (1.83m wing span) than the "Double D" (2.16m wing span).


Even though the Omni was advertised as an 'improved version' of the PP quad line kite in a 1991 catalogue, I must say the earlier "Double D" handles much much better. Far less twitchy, much more stable, much easier to control. It is a coincidence that the kite more similar to a Rev handles much better?

By the way, I doubt many pictures exist showing a Double D and Omni together in the sky!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Early American PP Stunter

When the American Peter Powell Kites company was set up in order to deal with the demand for PP Stunters in the US, they initially produced kites that were basically identical to the UK-produced Mk I Stunters. Although my collection of US-produced Peter Powell kites has gradually been expanding, it didn't contain one of those early American PP Stunters. Until now, that is; frequent checking of ebay.com paid off!


Polythene sail, fibreglass frame, 3-point bridle, tube tail; all looks very familiar.


And in terms of flight characteristics, it handles no differently from the UK-produced Stunters I'm familiar with.


I did say 'basically identical', didn't I? There is one sure way to tell such an early American Mk I from a British Mk I. Look carefully at the 'Peter Powell Sky Stunter' sticker on the kite: it carries a Fort Lauderdale address as opposed to a Cheltenham one ...


Saturday, 11 November 2017

'Poppy Powell'

Currently, Paul and Mark will make you a Stunter with any custom design, provided it's technically and financially feasible. Obviously, there will be an infinite number of possibilities to customise a Peter Powell kite, so I'm not going to attempt to collect them all ....

I do however make an exception for custom-designed PP Stunters which are officially for sale on the PP web-site. And the first of these to add to my collection is the 'Poppy Powell', made in support of the annual Poppy Appeal. So when that kite was announced, I pounced ...


The kite looks very nice and, just to be clear: the poppy is sown on the kite, not printed. Time to fly it!


We managed to fly the kite for the first time on Nov 11, at 11am.


Don't think I need to expand on its flying characteristics, which are identical to those of other Mk III Stunters.


The kite looks really great in the sky, and the green tail is the perfect colour choice.


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Jolly Roger

The Skyraker was the first of the dual-line delta kites produced by the US arm of Peter Powell Kites. It came in a range of versions, depending on the number of panels in the sail: 1, 3 or 11. The 11-panel also came in a special Stars 'n' Stripes version. On top of that, there was also a version with an 'Illusion' graphics sail. Incidentally, I have a 3-panel Skyraker in the collection.

Recently, I stumbled across a mention of a 'Jolly Roger' version of the Skyraker, but without any picture. Now look at this photo from SKQ 3-1 (spring 1991), showing Bill Baker (of Peter Powell Kites) with Billy Jones (then of the Kite Loft, later also part of Peter Powell Kites).


First of all, you can see part of the familiar Peter Powell logo. To the left is a bit of the typical chequerboard pattern of an 'Illusion' Skyraker. Look at the kite above that. It definitely has a Jolly Roger graphic, and what I can see of the shape and configuration of the kite is consistent with it being a Skyraker.

Do I need to spell out that I want a Jolly Roger Skyraker in my collection??

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Junior Stunter

Look at PP Stunters, whether they're Mk I, II or III, whether they're produced in the UK or the US, and you'll see the same basic design: central spine, leading edges coming together with the spine at the nose of the kite, and cross spars in front of the sail. Of course, there are minor variations in the materials used for the frame (wood, aluminium, fibreglass, or carbon) and for the sail (polythene or ripstop), and in the number of bridle line attachment points (3 vs 5). There are variations in size, with both smaller and larger versions being produced. And the US Mk II and Monster have an extra cross spar at the back of the kite. But despite these variations, all PP Stunters have the same basic design.

Bar one ...

This odd one out is called the Junior, a smaller Stunter produced in the UK. There is very little information on this particular version on the internet. Sleuthing by a member of the Peter Powell Kites Owners Group on Facebook unearthed announcements for prize draws in two comics magazines from 1976 where 500 Peter Powell Junior Stunters could be won.

One in Cheeky Weekly:


and one in Crazy Comics:


The drawings of the Junior Stunter in these two announcements suggest a fundamentally different design for this PP Stunter: no leading edges, upper bridle lines connected to the cross spars, and cross spars behind the sail. 

With thanks to Paul Powell, who alerted me to a Junior offered for sale on Gumtree, I managed to get my hands on this 'odd' Stunter! Wing span is around 3' (92cm), compared to the 4' wing span of a standard PP Stunter. And indeed, the kite does not have leading edges as well as cross spars. A single pair of spars performs both functions, is situated behind the sail, and the upper bridle lines connect to it through a circular hole in the sail.


Time to fly it to see how it behaves in the air. At some point in the past, Mark or Paul mentioned to me that Peter didn't particularly like the Junior; curious as to why ...


Of course, we did fly it with original lines and handles.


The Junior handled well in very blustery wind (mostly 14-27mph). It's faster than a standard-sized PP Stunter, turns quicker, and generally feels nimbler on the lines. 

I honestly can't think of why Peter didn't like the Junior based on its flying characteristics. And I'm very pleased to have been able to add a Junior Stunter to my collection. Thanks again, Paul!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Skychaser

The US arm of Peter Powell Kites produced a range of dual-line deltas, ranging in size from the 2.47m wing span Skylite to the 0.86m wing span Skytoy. So far, I've not been able to get my hands on this smallest of Peter Powell deltas, but I did manage to snap up the second-smallest PP delta, a 1.26m wing span Skychaser!


In flight, the Skychaser proved itself to be a fast and zippy kite, and a much better-tracking kite than you would expect from its size. And even axels and half-axels can be coaxed out of it.


In the ads of the day, the Skychaser was promoted as very suitable for flying in stacks.









So I'll keep my eyes open for further Skychasers, with the aim of gradually building up a bit of a Skychaser stack.

Watch this space!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Peter Powell Kites Adoption Agency

I seem to have acquired a bit of a reputation for being interested in Peter Powell kites. Three times this past festival season I was given a vintage PP Stunter by someone who clearly knew about my collection, and said he had this old PP, it was damaged or missing bits and pieces, they were going to throw it away, but if I wanted it ... here it is!

Throwing away a PP? No way!!! If there's any way to get it flying again, I will do my best. So I guess the Peter Powell Kites Adoption Agency was launched ...

So here is the first of these adopted PP Stunters: a blue Mk I, fibreglass frame. This was the kite that required the least amount of reconstruction. The t-piece was broken, but that was easy to replace. It had a few tears in the sail, but nothing that a bit of tape couldn't fix. And some glue dealt with the sticker having come off the sail. It didn't come with a tail, but I've got plenty of PP tails to hook on to it.

First of the Peter Powell Kites Adoption Agency kites, moments before take-off:


And back in the air again!


As I mentioned earlier, there are two more to follow, which need a bit more work (certainly one of them does). And if anyone reading this is ready to throw an old PP in the bin, please think again and contact the PPKAA ... If I can make it fly again, fly again it will!

Monday, 25 September 2017

Mk II 3-stack

First, take a badly damaged orange Mk II Stunter: missing cross spars, broken spine, but at least the ripstop sail shows no damage:


Add to that a pair of yellow and red Mk II Stunters, obtained at a very reasonable price (thanks Josh!):


Stir in a set of bridle and stacking lines (thanks, Graham!):


That then gives you a stack of three ripstop MkII Stunters:


Finally, mix in three custom-made banded tails (thanks Paul!):


And all that will then result in a flyable Mk II 3-stack!


Wind was perfect to try them out, 8-12mph most of the time. So they took off without any problem!


As you would expect, the pull from a triple stack is considerably more than from a single kite, but nothing we couldn't handle. With higher winds, this will definitely require stronger lines than the 100daN we flew them on, though.


The banded tails really look great, and add a bit extra to the spectacle, given that the kites are single-colour.


I love it when a plan comes together ...

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Trinidad

Besides PP-esque diamond kites, the Caribbean Kite Company also produced a wide range of dual-line deltas after it severed its links with the Peter Powell name. A few months ago, I managed to get my hands on one of these, a Jamaica. And now I've been able to add a second one to my collection: a Trinidad.


The Trinidad has a wing span of 1.78m and if you look closer, you'll see that it's quite an unusual kite. For instance, it doesn't have a spine:


This means that there is no t-piece for the lower spreader to fit into, and instead of via a t-piece, the lower spreader is attached to the sail through a bungee:


I said 'lower spreader', as if the kite also has an upper spreader, but it doesn't and the upper outhauls of the bridle are both connected to the nose, sort of similar to the configuration of a Speedwing:


Design details aside, how does it fly?


The wind range is officially given as 5-25mph, but it really needs at least 8mph to fly halfway decent. The Trinidad has a tendency to oversteer, and it doesn't like the edge of the window; it needs constant wind pressure in the sail. I sort of managed to axel and half-axel the kite, but it doesn't do these tricks gladly (although that might of course say something about my own abilities, or lack thereof).


To be honest, I'm not overly impressed with this kite, as I wasn't with the Jamaica. For a company that was explicitly aiming to be at the top of the market, the two dual-line deltas I've flown so far certainly don't match that ambition. Maybe others do? Such as their 2+m wing span flagship models Mustique and Martinique? The search continues!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Early tail attachment

It's always good fun to stumble across another piece of the Peter Powell puzzle. This particular piece came from Martin Fisher (thanks!) who posted a scan of the original instruction sheet of aluminium-framed PP Stunters on the Peter Powell Kites Owners Group on Facebook:


What was interesting to me about these instructions was how the tail was to be attached on these early Peter Powells: not at the bottom end of the sail, as I was used to, but on the cross struts!

When I got my alu-framed PP, it did not come with the original instructions, so I had added a tail in the usual way, on the spine at the bottom end of the sail.

Obviously, I had to try this out! I did not have a PP tail with two holes, so added two holes to an existing later tail. And this is what it looks like once fitted:


I have to admit that my first impression wasn't very positive. It looked and felt rather clunky. And it looked odd, but that's of course simply because I'm not used seeing a tail on a PP attached that high up ...


Clunky or not, odd or not, the proof is in the pudding. Or rather, in the air, so up went the kite!



I have to admit, seen from the other side of 40m lines, it didn't look bad at all! And certainly different from having the tail come off the spine. I was a bit worried that the tail would become entangled in the bridle, but that didn't happen at all. The tail nicely hung between the two sides of the bridle, and never seemed at risk of tangling.


Now that I know that this was the official way to attach the tail to an alu-framed Peter Powell Stunter, I will of course fly alu-framed PPs with the tail attached to the cross struts from now on. Gotta maintain historical accuracy for as much as possible!