Monday 21 July 2008

NDP 2008

“Fly me on a jet ski”
21 July 2008

Singapore Kite Association (SKA) is proud to take part in this year’s National Day waterborne activities at Marina Bay.


Four members ride strapped onto the back of jet skis
while they fly a stack of three stunt kites each. The team moves in a diamond formation while they travel at speed from the Collier Quay end of Marina Bay past the huge floating display platform at the other end. You can view them at practice on U-TUBE

Flyers in the diamond formation are Chris Ng (lead), Chua Lin and Zulkifli (on the flanks) and Peter Teo (tail). They each fly three SilverFox 2.5m on Shanti Speed 300lb Spectra lines. Each kite carries a 96ft rainbow transition tail from Gomberg.

The SilverFox from Flying Wings Kites was selected because it is vented and combines strength and size with relatively less pull than similar-size kites  Manageable pull is important for the flyers. The jet skis travel at an estimated 20mph and in early trials, a 500lb line snapped. After practice, the team felt comfortable with 300lb line.

How do you launch four stacks virtually simultaneously from the water?
The SKA team came up with the idea of a floating pontoon 2m high. The four stacks are lined up side by side on a raised platform on the pontoon The jet skis line up in front of them with Chris, Chua, Zulkifli and Peter facing backwards. The jet skis power up and take off at speed at 5-second intervals.
 The lead jet ski with the kite airborne circles around until the remaining three kites have lifted off. They get into formation and rush to the other end of the bay. To get this far has taken six months of practice. From start to finish, the kites are airborne for about 15 minutes but the actual fly-past the platform is timed to take precisely 58 seconds.

Can the SKA guys fall off? The Navy jets skis were specially-modified to take restraining harnesses but some early-model harnesses snapped. OK, so we had some dunkings. In the event of a jet ski overturning, the flyers have to release the harnesses while they are suspended upside down under the craft. Deep breaths boys!

Wind and water, the two elements that make the display possible, can also work against the performers. When the jet skis turn from running with the wind into the wind, wind velocity changes but the fliers have to compensate for this.  
 Not all the jet skis travel at the same precise speed due to choppiness of the water caused by their wake and that of high speed power boats pulling wake-boarders. Peter Teo who rides tail in the formation find this a particular challenge.

In practice lines have become tangled and some have found their way into jet intakes. Water landings occurred in early trials and there is no possibility of re-launching from the water.
 Would they fly on a jet ski again?  Yes, they all say. Someone asked if SKA would invest in a jet ski for weekend flying and there has even been talk of buying a small second-hand aircraft carrier for water borne kite festivals, but that’s a long way off.