Reviews of and Publications by TC

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Reviews are reprinted here by permission of:
American Kite is published quarterly by American Kite Co (ISSN 1045-3598), 13355 Grass Valley Ave, Grass Valley, CA 95945.  USA and Possessions: one year, $14 and two years, $25; foreign rates: one year $24 and two years, $45.  Used with permission.

Kite Lines copyright 1998 AEolus Press, Inc., publisher of Kite Lines magazine, the international kite journal, P.O. Box 466, Randallstown, MD 21133-0466, USA, $16 US for 4 - issue subscription ($22 for 4 issues outside U.S.).  Used with permission. (ISSN 0192-3439)

American Kite Reviews


Price: About $240
Size: 7 feet, 6inches, by 4 feet 2 inches
Weight: 12 ounces
Manufacturer: T.C. Powers/ Savannah Sails & Rails, Savannah, Georgia

Little about the Ultra resembles other kites.  Its shape, marked by a low aspect ratio, is what impresses the viewer first.  The pattern of the sail and the large, unusually formed vents in the wingtips come a close second.  The maker says the graphics ensure "no more boring geometric sail patterns."

There are other uncommon features, as well.  The deep curve set into the leading edge by tension lines in the sail and at the tail exerts a significant impact on the kite's performance.  The corded trailing edge adds stiffness and aerodynamic efficiency there.  The Ultra's bridles do not end at the spine, but cross to attach to the bottom spreader about 6 inches out from the center, boosting the effect of any pull on the control lines.

This combination of design elements would be more than enough to set the Ultra apart. But the big news is that the kite is designed to fly under four-line control as well as two.  Is that possible?  Are all of these design oddities integrated into a seamless whole that actually flies?  And does it fly well?   Those are the questions.

The answers are yes, yes and yes.

First, the two-line performance.  Hooked up by the middle two of the six available bridle points, the Ultra lifts off like a rocket - a real rocket, not a cliche.  It eases into the sky, slowly at first, picking up speed smoothly, as if it were flying out of oil into air.  Light pull and uncanny silence characterize its flight.  The corded trailing edge and vented tips probably explain why changes in wind speed have so little effect.  In that sense, the Ultra is very stable.

Using the factory bridle setting, the kite spins faster than just about any other, so that predicting its attitude on exiting a spin is a dangerous game.   The hard earth is always just a missed guess away.  Slipping the bridle points to a second position, indicated to accommodate a stiff breeze, eases the spin rate and makes the kite more manageable.  Bridling changes have a pronounced effect on the Ultra, and fine-tuning will take experience.  No matter how it's bridled, though, the Ultra is silent and efficient, flying ruler-straight passes with no stutter.

Piloting the Ultra in two-line mode requires attention to detail.   Control inputs are small.  Also watch for stick flexing, because pull on the lines remains light and smooth.

Next, the four-line performance.  Hooked up to four lines, the Ultra is transformed.  All fear is gone.  Intuitive action at the controls has precisely the desired result.  The kite holds its spot in the wind perfectly with a minimum of correction, and the big sail exerts only light pull.  Spins are no faster than in the two-line mode, but they center on the kite's spine, and they're controllable by lightly feathering the handles.

Backing down the wind, the Ultra behaves like Buck Rogers using his retros to land gently.  This suggests that the Ultra is unusually well balanced.   If the pilot loses orientation and reverts to two-line control (as I sometimes do with a four-line rig), the kite responds to two-line inputs just as it should.  I would never take this kite out of a four-line configuration.

Flown that way, the Ultra is as much fun as any stunt kite. With its shape resembling a huge smile in the sky, it puts a grin almost that big on the face of the flyer.  A rank beginner with a knack or anybody who has flown before might just fall in love, suffering little frustration beyond the unavoidable hassles caused by twice as many lines.

My only problem with the Ultra came when I dove it into the dirt.   No spar popped, no sail ripped, no rod even left its vinyl.  But the custom center T sheared into two pieces, ending my fun for the day.  I talked to the manufacturer, got a replacement piece and an assurance that the new, reinforced T will not break.  You can't ask for more than that.

With that problem fixed, the work on the kite is all first rate.   The sewing is accurate, with thoughtful reinforcing on quality fabric.  The frame is made of size-specific Beman light rods: 5 millimeters for more lightly stressed members and 6.3 millimeters for pieces that take heavy loads.

At least two kites in one (and maybe three,  if you count its dual capabilities in four-line mode), the Ultra is an innovative package that advances the sport.  If it's costly, it's still a bargain, considering all you get.  It's a good choice for anyone intrigued by a most unconventional kite that can work up and down the wind, apparently overcoming the laws of physics.  Before you know it, you'll be setting it down gently on park benches, walking it across the beach and halting suicide dives just inches off the deck. - T.B.K.
American Kite is published quarterly by American Kite Co (ISSN 1045-3598), 13355 Grass Valley Ave, Grass Valley, CA 95945.  USA and Possessions: one year, $14 and two years, $25; foreign rates: one year $24 and two years, $45.  Used with permission.

Kite Lines


Two lines or four?

Spectators and judges at sport kite competitions in recent years have adjusted to the odd sight of a high-aspect delta doing the helicopter spins and reverse flight maneuvers and other quad-line kites.

The delta was the TC Ultra, designed for flying on either dual or quad lines.

A new addition to the Ultra line, the radical Ubanero (a play on the hot, hopt, hot habanero chili pepper) boasts a 20 percent reduction of the standard Ultra architecture and vented sail panels, aiming at light air and indoor flying enthusiasts.

We found the kite a dream date, a near perfect match for the light winds that tend to prevail over our flying fields in Maryland.

The kite sail is 1/2-oz polyester, spread across a chassis of carbon rods for the spreaders and standoffs.  The 6-plus-foot span "Ube" weighs in at just 6.2 ounces!

A striking kite, with curved leading edges and deep standoffs, our test m,odel was turquoise and black, and featured Ultra's familiar entwined "Flame" pattern in white and purple.

Construction was of high quality throughout.  We particularly liked the way the standoff rods attach to the sail; female clothing snaps on the trailing edge mate with male snaps affixed to one end of the rod.  The bridle of 80-lb Spectra line includes preset loop attachments for either dual or quad lines. (The manufacturer encourages experimentation with the settings and provides detailed instructions.)

On the field, we found we could switch line set from quad to dual and back with no need to adjust any settings.  As a dual-line kite, the Ultra was a standout performer.  As a quad, it was a star!.

Flown in that mode on 50-ft, 50-lb test Spectra lines, the kite responded precisely to control movements.  We could place it anywhere in the window.   It accomplished spins, stalls and sweeping loops with ease, and we became more adept at tip stands, side slides inches above the turf and other ground play moves than with other quads in our experience.

We also found the kite would take off from its back or, in quad-line mode, from a face-down, nose-forward position- the latrter thanks to the curved upper spreader that keeps the nose off the ground.  With a gentle tug on the lower lines, the nose lifted just enough to catch the wind and the kite stood up for liftoff.

We did our test flying outdoors in winds ranging from almost nothing to perhaps 15 mph. At low velocities, we judged the Ultra flew best on quad lines.   (We did not shorten up the lines to try indoor flying, but could foresee success in that mode too.)

In stronger wind the thin, tapered tubes tended to become overpowered- and in one sudden gust during a photo session the main spreader tubes split on both sides of the T-fitting.

Designer T.C. Powers says the lower spreaders of early production models, such as our test kite, proved too weak.  They were replaced with non-tapered spars, raising the wind range of the kite up to 15 mph.

The manufacturer says fliers cna change the kite's balance by reversing the installation of its tapered spine, noting that nose-heavy kites perform some tricks best and vice versa.

Can any kite be truly the ultimate? No, but under light wind conditions, the Ultra Ubanero leaves little to be desired.

-Steve McKerrow

Name of Kite: Ubanero
Manufacturer: TC Ultra
Suggested Retail Price: $264
Sail Material: RP
Leading Edge Material: n/a
Framing Materials: CFt/CFr
Fittings: MP
Dimensions: 75 in x 38 in
Sail Depth at standoffs: 11
Sail Area: 680 sq in
Weight (oz.): 6.5
Sail Loading (oz./sq.ft.): 1.3
Suggested Wind Range: 0 -12
Suggested Line: 50
Skill Level Required: I
Assembly Time(minutes): 3
Ease Launch/Relaunch: E
Ease Landing/Ground Work: E
Responsiveness: E
Ability to dwell: n/a
Straight Speed: M
Speed in Turns: M
Precision/Tracking: E
Amount of Pull: M
Amount of Noise: SI
Visual Appeal/Graphics: VG
Workmanship:  E
Portability: G
Durability: VG

Retail price is in US dollars as "advertised" or "suggested". Wind range (mph) covers minimum and maximum speeds deemed suitable by our evauators.   Dimensions are in the following order: width x height.  Measurements and (usually) drawings are made with the kite standing on the floor facing the viewer.   Materials: RN- Ripstop Nylon, RP - Ripstop Polyester, DT- Dacron Tape, WD Wooden Dowels, B- Bammboo, FG - Fiberglass, GR - Graphite, EP -Epoxy, CF - Carbon Fiber, PRF- Prizmafilm, r-Rods, T- Tubes, MP- Molded Plastic, V- Vinyl.  Speed: SL- Slow, M- Medium, F- Fast.  Skill Levels: N- Novice, I - Intermediate, SK- Skilled. Pull: L- Low, M- Medium, H- High.  Noise: SI- Silent, L - Low, M-Medium, H- High.  Other ratings: P- Poor, A- Acceptable, G- Good, VG- Very Good, E - Excellent, n/a - nopt applicable.

Kite Lines copyright 1998 AEolus Press, Inc., publisher of Kite Lines magazine, the international kite journal, P.O. Box 466, Randallstown, MD 21133-0466, USA, $16 US for 4 - issue subscription ($22 for 4 issues outside U.S.).   Used with permission. (ISSN 0192-3439)

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Last updated 01/22/99