Issue 8: Kite Tests – Gecko & Black Jack


Manufacturer: Progressive Line
US Distribution: Skyburner Kites
Wingspan: 60 inches
Height: 34 inches
Wind Range: 4-20 mph

The Gecko is manufactured by Progressive Line, formerly known as Sunny Kites. The Gecko seems to be quite similar to the famous Voodoo, but in ¾ scale.

The Gecko comes in a cloth bag with the colors of the kite on it and a zipper closure. The kite is quite attractive, a seven panel sail with four overlaid panels to make it look like it has eleven panels. These overlaid panels are finished off and quilted down. All the seams are rolled over and finished off and the trailing edge is finished off with a strip of nylon instead of a hem. There is a tension line (leech line) running through the trailing edge, providing increased sail tautness. The kite has reinforcement in the areas where it is needed; such as the nose, standoffs, leading edge, and down the full length of the spine.

The Gecko is framed in 5 mm pultrude rods and fitted together with FSD and Jaco fittings. The lower spreaders are loaded for reinforcement also. The spine is held with a Velcro release, and there is a “bounce” line to enhance the trickability. The bridle is of the standard three point variety, and is made of a dacron line with a spectra core. One unique thing about the bridle is that there is an extra line that runs from the top line of the bridle to the line that goes to the T, to prevent the bridle from wrapping around the end of the spine. Nice touch. When the kite is assembled it has a nice look to it with a tight sail, and a silk screened gecko graphic.

On first flight, the Gecko was impressive. For a ¾ size kite it has a big kite feel. It is solid in the sky and holds a straight line well. It will cut nice corners, but not snappy. Its turning radius is inside the wingtip and the speed is fairly fast since it is a smaller kite. There is not much pull, again, because of its size. When coming out of turns there is some oversteer, but some of this can be eliminated by moving the bridle up a bit. It is easy to get the kite to hold a stall. The kite remained quiet the entire time also.

The thing that really impressed me about the Gecko is that it is a trick machine. It will do every trick in the book. Axels are easy and it flattens out very easily for flat spins and pancakes. It is a bit touchy in fades but will hold them. From the fade the Gecko will flic flac very well, and also does great fade to 540’s. It will even do some lightning fast rotating fades too. It will do backflip tricks as well. To me, it tricks like a large kite, despite its diminutive size. Faster hand movements are required for some tricks, though. The Gecko is very recoverable from most positions, and from flopping around in the sky. Initially, I did get some wing wraps, but it did not take too long to learn how to adjust to the small size of the kite.

Overall, I liked the Gecko. To me it is a small kite that will do most all of the tricks and has a very solid flight profile. It is durable and seems to have a good wind range. It needs about 4 mph of wind to get it flying, but then it can handle up to 18 to 20. It is a kite that you could take with you on planes and not have to break down the leading edges. I’m not sure how it would do for beginners, but for someone that knows the basics, the Gecko is a kite that could keep you entertained for a long time.

Black Jack

Manufacturer: Level One
US Distribution: Feline Kite Productions
Wingspan: 78 inches
Height: 48 inches
Wind range: 2-20 mph
Price: $145.00

bj[1].jpg (41265 bytes)The Black Jack is available in two models, the standard and the Celtic. The standard is framed in Avia .2300 pultruded rods, the Celtic is framed in a combination of Avia pultruded and wrapped rods. This review is of the standard Black Jack.

The kite comes in a nice cloth bag with a zipper closure. Assembly is easy. The fittings are a combination of FSD and APA. The nylon sail is sewn together with folded seams, but they are not finished off on the back of the kite. The sail features six panels and three overlaid colors. These are a unique gold material and also are quilted down. The Black Jack is reinforced very well with Dacron on the leading edge, at the standoffs, the T, and upper spreader. The nose is reinforced with Dacron and webbing.

The Black Jack is a very low aspect ratio kite with a very deepbj1.JPG (40905 bytes) sail. There is one standoff on each side and they measure 12 inches long. The upper spreader runs through a molded fitting that is connected to the spine, providing support while flying. The lower spreaders are not loaded. The wing tips are tensioned with a length of line that is tied off and held in place by a rubber stopper, rather than using bungie cord. There is also a tension line (leech line) running through the trailing edge to keep it quiet in flight. The bridle is a turbo type, constructed of Dacron with a Spectra core. A knotted adjustment point is provided at the upper spreader connector. This allows for quick adjustments. Angle of attack adjustments are also possible at the tow point.

Overall the construction of the Black Jack seems to be very good. It is made of high quality parts and all seams are straight and neat.

Now, how does it fly? I mostly flew the Black Jack in winds of 5 to 10 mph. This kite will fly in 2mph and starts to pull quite a bit in 15 to 20. It really excels in precision. It tracked very straight, solid, and wasn’t twitchy in flight. When doing corners, I could really feel it lock in after the turn. It was a unique feel but I really liked it. Turning was good. It would turn inside its wingtip but sometimes it would lose a lot of the wind and decreases in pull and speed. This may have been an adjustment problem, though. It was very easy to get it to stall and then to maintain the stall. It also did very nice graceful side slides.

The Black Jack can also throw out some very nice tricks. Axels and flat spins are very nice; the kite flattens out with ease, and in light wind, rotations are slow and graceful. Cascades are possible and fades are very stable. They also rise without any problem. The Black Jack has no problem with fade to 540’s and I even got some rotating fades out of it. I did have some wing wraps but nothing major. I felt that overall, the kite was quite recoverable.

To sum up, the Black Jack is a very good all-round kite. It is a very good precision tool and really locks into a line after a turn. It also is able to do all the latest tricks. It is a joy to fly and I would be very interested in trying the Celtic version to see the difference. With its high quality construction, wonderful all around flight characteristics, and very affordable price, the Black Jack is a kite that I would definitely recommend.