Since I got back into flying trick kites in ’07 there have been a few kites that i really, really wanted to try. Kites with a legendary status in my mind. One of them was the Shawn Tinkham’s Vendetta which i eventually got my hands on and loved instantly. Another kite on that list was the Machine by Ron Graziano, an American competition pilot. I’ve read and heard about it a lot and watched Ron fly it in video’s but never had the opportunity to try it. Then last year, I got my chance, a kite on loan and I’ve flown it a bunch during the season and a few of my friends tried it as well.
The first prototypes of the Machine were created by Ron in the fall of ’03 and after 5 iterations it was finished. Precision, slow flight and trickabilty were the main design goals with the Viper (Shawn Tinkham), Nirvana (R-Sky) and STX 2.3 (Cavaliers du Ciel) as the main inspirations. I needed to match Ron’s flying style. These kites are very rare, Ron only made a few only for close friends or to be auctioned in support of kite festivals/events or for charitable cause. The scarcity has only added to the legend IMHO. The kite I have on loan is Machine #1 which was created for fellow US competition pilot Randy Greenway.
The Machine is build with industry standard materials. The sail is Icarex PC31 reinforced with large patches of mylar at the trailing panels. The mylar is sewn to the sail with straight stitches every few centimeters. The leading edge, center cross, rub patch and standoff reinforcements are made from dacron. The nose is fabricated with heavy duty webbing. Connectors are APA, R-Sky and FSD. The frame is a mix of Aerostuff and Avia and feels rather stiff.
Flight & Tricks
The first thing you notice when flying the Machine in moderate wind is the pleasant buzz generated by the trailing edge near the wingtips. You can see the fabric vibrating and it blurs against the backdrop. This results in a very precise and controllable feel with a good amount of feedback and very decent speed control. Turns can be flown both relaxed and snappy with a pleasing growl when you punch them. Those responsive Aerostuff lower spreaders spring back to their original shape very quickly so square corners feel really crisp. The kite needs largish inputs. When the wind picks up there’s quite some pull but never becomes unmanageable, just a constant presence on the other end of the lines.
The Machine looses pressure in stalls quite easily for a kite with such considerable feedback. Landings and spikes are a blast. One of the first tricks I tried was the Comete and it can perform them both slow and fast without loosing much altitude between the rotations. Slot machines are a bit different compared to most kites but they reminded me of the Vendetta. This is no coincidence since Ron and Shawn are friends and must have been inspired by each others kites and flying style. There’s a distinct nod when setting up the flare and it feels like the kite jumps slightly when the flat spin rotation is performed. Taz Machines are do-able but rotate very slowly. There is no obvious dead spot in the Flare/Pancake.
This kite sits a bit nose high in the nose towards you/belly up position which makes Fades a bit harder to hold but when it’s in it rises quickly. Backspins are easy to execute but hard to do nice and flat. Backflip tricks are all very accessible. Rolling Suzans, Rolling Cascades, Inverses, Multilazies are all there but there is no deep locking Backflip. Yoyo’s and other pitch based tricks are very fast. The kite rolls up without much effort and rolled up tricks like a Lewis or Yoyo-Multilazies feel very good.
One of the most important aspects I look for in a kite is character. Little quirks and strong points that make a kite stand out. The Machine sure ticks a lot of boxes in that department. It has a robust and strong presence in the sky and can be flown both aggressively and relaxed. Combined with the nice feedback, slow flight and good precision it is a very fun kite to fly. Very suitable for trick/ballet competition formats. If you can find one, that is…