Getting to know the ITW 9′ Levitation delta


After reading the success of Mike le Duc with the Levitation delta I thought I’d get hold of one and try it for myself. I know this is a favourite of many, particularly ‘Kappix‘ Ramon who was very helpful with advice on up-rating the spreader spar. It is reasonably priced but a bit awkward to get hold of in the UK. I ordered mine from Into the Wind (ITW) of Boulder Colorado for $75 which seemed reasonable but the cost of shipping and taxes soon dented the advantage over a German supplier. The kite is available in 2 formats, one with fibreglass spars and one with carbon (known as the Levitation Light) I have the cheaper glass fibre sparred one.


I replaced the 3 piece glassfibre spreader with a 2 piece 8mm carbon fibre Skyshark 8P one.SkysharkI had to wait for the wind to calm down before I could give it a try and, sadly once agin I missread the wind trend: I launched in what I thought was a lull in the bluster and found the wind building in force as I flew.

Wind 15062013_02

The record shows I missed the lull at 4pm and I was out in gusts of 30mph. This explains the movement of the kite: it was weaving about with a strong tendency to heel to the right. I checked the balance of the new spar (I reversed it) but this was not the problem. Next I swapped back the spreader for the fibreglass original  (kite flyers will know what happens next and I was ready for it but I wanted to see the difference in performance) …immediately the flight was smoother, its plan shape sharpening as it absorbed the air pressure on the sail, it flew smoothly with less weaving and a much steadier pull on the line without jerking. I could see the spreader spar bowing in the gust and couldn’t resist pulling on the line to watch it work. A flexible spreader spar is far better than a stiff one!

Levitation_snapped spar

One tug on the line too many and the centre section of the spreader snapped like a twig …ploof!…and the kite dropped to the ground.

So in a very short flight I have learned 2 important things:

  1. The spreader spar on the delta should be flexible.
  2. A glassfibre spreader is not up to the job.

By using the high strength carbon fibre spar the upper wind speed of the kite is increased at the cost of its flexibility. Experience with the PFK Nighthawk shows a massive tawa hardwood spreader allows the kite to fly in up to 40Kt winds and seeing the effect of a flexible spar now reveals to me why the ride is so rough: despite flexing its leading edges the rigid spreader spar won’t let the arrow shape ‘sharpen’ to ride the fluctuation in airflow smoothly. Up to now I always found the Nighthawk a bit erratic, tending not to sit on the wind too well with its nose ‘hunting’ the slightest variation in flow…the PFK works but it drives me nuts with its weaving and swooping so I have kept the delta at the bottom of the pile, only flying it when nothing else will go. Now I know why: a rigid spreader spar= high top wind speed with low flexibilty. Now I’d had a hint of how well a delta works with a flexible spar I wanted to know if the stiffer replacement was a reasonable light wind option. It certainly held up ok, if a bit skittish in the 30mph gusts but would the extra stiffness kill the light wind performance?

I waited for the lull and read the instructions to check the advertised wind range for the kite:

Leviation Label both sides4-20mph eh? well it just about flew in a 30mph gust ok so what about the 4mph?

Launched into the next pause in the wind I discovered this thing likes to float! Provided there is some movement in the air its posisble to fly it and, with a long lead on launch, it can be flicked into the air, towing it gently to keep its nose up, it takes ages for it to drift back down again!  It is possible to find the slowest towing speed and keep it in the air in almost no wind at all. FloatingIn the lightest air the slow movement of the kite becomes dance like and the balance between paying out line and pulling it in can keep it turning in to the wind from its apex overhead to the ground in slow sweeps across the face of the wind- this kite works almost like a free wing! With enough height it will simply hang in the air as the line slowly slackens beneath it, I can see how it got its name and also what sort of KAP I can achive with it: it’s never going to be a nail in the sky for a directed camera but I think it will make a match with my lightest rig in one form or another.

Levitation_04Trials in a steady 5-7mph find this kite smooth as silk its trailing edge fluttering with a gentle crackle to let you know its there. In Bft2 the Levitataion lifted 500g for an hour or so as the light faded I can see why its such a well recommended kite.

Wind 17062013Given a good lead over the rig in very poor light I got my 1st results from this kite and I think they are a good hint of things to come:

Mike LeDuc has demostrated an answer to the strength/flexibility problem on this kite and, in time, I’ll adopt his method: the ‘dynamic spreader’. Having cut my precious Skyshark 8p to get safe top wind performance I’ll get more flying time in its designer  Christoph Fokken’s original design state, and adapt a KAP method to it before tinkering further!

I’m not a delta addict yet but I can see how it can happen!


About billboyheritagesurvey

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38 Responses to Getting to know the ITW 9′ Levitation delta

  1. Ramon says:

    This kite needs to grow on you just a weeeeeeee bit more. You’ll see…..

  2. z1ggur4t says:

    your analysis is much more technically focused than mine but I have two Deltas now and they are usually the first cab off the rank. easy to setup and fly, no fuss type of deal. the light version is Carbon all round but does the out to the right thing also. I’m yet to push the envelope with wind conditions but its on my list and having a much heavier spreader now I expect good things. in light winds its very, very good as you say. beyond my expectation indeed. stay with the Delta. good things will come.

    • Tristan,

      Thanks for having a look.
      It’s early days with it and it takes me a good while to get to know a new kite. The kite/line/wind/rig match takes quite a bit of ‘feel’ and a lot of (dull) shots of my test field to learn what I can expect in a given wind speed. I’m using fairly heavy gear so the margins for error are not so wide!

      So far I have found the delta outflown by the Jones 8′ rok in 3-5mph but I have had a fantastic evening walk with the Levitation (see Sunset shot above) lifting 400g like a nail in the sky in 6-7mph.

      One thing I’m already impresed with is the ‘slack line’ potential of this kite, Simon Harbord is something of the master of this technique and his kite of choice is the Dan Leigh R8 delta- I can see why, as they loose lift they ‘float’ and you can gain pull by tracking across the wind, something that the rokkaku can’t really do.

      As ever I’m stuck with the weather: its either no wind or no light: like the farmers it never seems to be right for me!


      • z1ggur4t says:

        I had a great 45 minute session right on dusk tonight with it. too dark to have anything of merrit but that wasn’t really the point. had it up at 120m in an 8mph breeze. wasn’t quite a slack line but it just hovered overhead lazily but solid. I had a 3m fuzzy tail on which I always use by default often without thinking wether its actually required or beneficial. I used to use a small drogue. I’m going to attempt to lift my DSLR tomorrow weather permitting. same rig minus the third servo (shutter is triggered via IR) but twice as heavy at 1.3kg. in the right wind I’m sure this kite can lift it. so much less fuss than setting up a Rok, well my Rok anyway!

  3. Let’s hope the wind is right for you, I’m just back from a 15-17mph efffort, and although the kite rides it fairly well it’s rough on the camera. ..and my favorite trains are cancelled for the weekend too! 8mph sounds perfect for the job. I have had problems with the camera dropping out of IR trigger mode if it suspends while its up there. IR works well in AutoKAP though as the camera dosn’t get a chance to go to sleep!

    Looking forward to seeing your results from the big camera,


    • z1ggur4t says:

      I’m keen to know the load weight your lifting in various wind conditions. not sure if you change your rig in anyway from flight to flight or if the payload stays constant.


      • I have 3 rigs and 2 line weights so I can try to wring what I can from the lift.
        The rigs are:

        1. AutoKAP Harbord SP with (CHDK) Canon 2300 at 200g in Bft 2 with the 3m delta (I hope, I have used a 4m O bird in Bft 2 so far)

        2. AutoKAP fixed tilt with Canon Eos M at 400g Bft 2 with the 8’rok Bft 3 with 3m delta

        3. RC pan & tilt with video relay Leica X1 at 800g Bft 3 with 8’rok, Bft 4 with 2.7m flowform

        My favourite is the 800g option and I can swap in a Nikon D5100 with some big glass if the lift allows. The easiest option is the AutoKAP and that’s what I use for testing or if I’m a bit wind shy.

        If all goes well with the 3m delta I will be able to retire the O bird and use it in Bft 2 & 3.

  4. Tristan says:

    Now that’s what I call a setup. I think i need to look at my rig as it seems heavy by comparison. Lipo battery may contribute. I’ve been gradually accumulating parts for a second rig which will be RC controlled which is where I started so I have most of what is needed. The weather this weekend is looking favourable (it being winter) so i’m looking to fly the Levi on Sunday. I need to put aside my fear of sending my Nikon aloft. I have all the intentions but when I get to the site I chicken out and put the old faithful Lumix point and shoot on the rig. Having said all that my rig is in bits to address the poorly fitted cogs that drive the pan. It had come so lose it wouldn’t drive the weight of the Nikon anyway.

    • It comes down to practice and building confidence with as many options as is practical. Like you I’m wary of the new kite and stick with what I know works in a given wind. I’m now confident the Levi won’t fall over, spin or smash about the sky like wild amimal. So far I have only used it with a 400g load and its fine. I know it will fly in up to 20mph and probably lift a DSLR with the 8mm carbon spreader spar but at that speed it was a bit of a handfull ( too much weaving). I thought I would spare myself the stress of hurling a big chunk of metal and glass around the sky- so I didn’t.

      The power you need to lift a 1.3kg rig requires a smooth air flow and a big kite, the 8′ rok in Bft 3 is still my best choice for the job. The Levi dosn’t pull like a train even when the wind picks up so I’m unsure of its lifting capacity- the reports are good but I’m tip-toeing towards finding out!

      I rarely fly the DSLR now because I have found the resolution (at 60m AGL) of the mirrorless APSC cameras ( Canon EOS m, Leica x1) to be roughly the same as the D5100 with a 35mm lens so the only advantage is if I feel the need to fly a 10.5mm fisheye to get extra width.

      All I can say is try it and see: if it rises- let it go if it sinks- reel it in!


  5. Piotr says:

    Very interesting is the discussion ITW 9′. I am the owner of homemade version of the R8, this is a brilliant design. As I watch the pictures, ITW 9’Levi, I think that the jet worth $ 75. Requiring the R8 level kite is immoral. It’s a little bit I would not compare with JA rokkaku or dopero. It is cheap kite for amateurs, and none of it will not make an eagle.


    • Poitr, yes, an original by a master builder is a very different experience.

      The difference is in the detail and durability: the mass market kites often have loose threads, miss matched bridles and are heavier than the artisan examples. This is why ( when we can afford it) it is always worth paying more for the hand made original. The difference may be as much as 10% increased wind range simply because the fabric joints are exactly matched to the load and wear for a given design- the same join on a mass market kite is often ‘over engineered’ for ease of manufacture. The light wind performance of a kite from a master builder will always exceed that of a mass market one.

      Of the mass market kites there are some which are well designed by proven designers, and, within thier limits, they give us the opportunity to aspire to the originals!

      Chritoph Fokken has done a really good job for ITW and, for the money it’s a great flyer!
      I bought this kite to explore its use in community KAP projects and I think it will do well, provided I upgrade the spreader spar.

    • z1ggur4t says:

      I’d love to have a Porsche too but budget and priority dictates otherwise. My Subaru however is a more than capable vehicle.

      I’ve always worked on the premise that it’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it that counts never more so than in creative Indevours.

      Horses for courses but there’s no doubt that the artisan, crafted product is of a higher quality and in an altogether higher league. So is the price.

      • Tris,
        The Porsche analogy doesn’t quite fit here: any car will get you down the road but a big bespoke lifter will lift a camera when many others won’t, perhaps it’s closer to an artist choosing an instrument to hit the required note, if you don’t have it you can’t play!

        Having worked my way though a fair number of lifter options over the last 4 years I came to the conclusion the critical end is the light wind (Bft2) case. This is where I decided to make the investment in quality. It makes a difference to know I can lift 1kg in Bft 2. Once you get into gentle breeze (Bft3) your options widen and there are many good, affordable kites available.

        Compared to the price of cameras kites are very good value, not to mention comparison with the cost of a microcopter!


  6. Piotr says:

    Is DL R8 is an older design than ITW 9′? These two kites are very similar.
    PS Today I had the opportunity to fly at 25 – 40 mph. It was an extreme test of my new delta Stealth Kiwi. I consider him a very successful the kite is great.
    Stealth Kiwi BKT, after hour session 25 - 40 mph.

    • I think Dan Leigh got there first, I believe he licenced his design to ITW and they sell it as a ‘Trooper’. Christoph Fokken has taken a slightly different approach to the lay of the fabric weave- by using a radial array of strips he introduces extra stiffness to the wing at the root and less at the trailing edge, something I suspect comes from his stunt kite ideas.

      One of the impressive things about Dan Leighs designs is the way he uses the absoloute minimum meterial: look at the keel- he reduces the profile by removal of all the unstressed part of the web.

      I like the kiwi copy it looks good indeed. I assume from the ‘Stealth’ description its a bit quieter than the original? I find the original PFK Nighthawk is none too steady in the big winds its designed for and I think this is down to the rigid spreader spar it uses. What do you think to Mike LeDucs ‘dynamic’ spreader idea?

  7. Piotr says:

    PFK Nighthawk, it really brilliant design! One should always remember, his destiny. This is a solitary warrior, working often at night, in extreme conditions, one mile away from his master! He’s a bit like a good hunting dog, out hunting. It is completely independent, but the hunt for their lord. In the KAP such extremes are not needed (only a few people), my aim is to light the domestication of of this “Beast”.
    Stealth little flutters, but it is definitely quiet kite. For more than one hour of flying, no moments of lack control, gusty wind 25 – 40 mph. I am very pleased.
    Mike LeDucs ‘dynamic’ spreader idea, is original, but it requires excellent materials and very good performance. Probably easier is have two spreayder, for strong and moderate wind, In the matter ordinary kite everything is invented, changing only the materials.
    For strong winds works DL formula

    • Ah yes that’s a great analogy: the PFK Nighthawk is like a hunting dog, It just won’t keep quiet! I’m gathering materials for the dynamic spreader for the ITW Levitation so we will see if there is an overlap with the PFK- perhaps with a bit less snapping and barking too!

      As you say its easy to swap the spar when the need arises.

  8. Piotr says:

    My R8, in the strong wind “barks” as PFK. It is associated with a loose sail, and the flaps on the wing.

  9. z1ggur4t says:

    Anymore flight time with the Levi Bill? The weekend is not too far away and i’m gearing up for some winter day Levi action weather permitting.

    • Yes! I have put in about 3 hours with it in variable windspeeds between Bft 2 and 3. The 8mm carbon spreader spar is earning its keep as I’ve had it survive 20mph gusts. The 9′ Levitaion seems to be best suited to lifting about 500g in around 5-10mph.

      This is the best of 370 frames ( some were better placed but in poor light) taken with the Canon Eos m 22mm pancake with X0.75 adaptor (all up weight on fixed tilt auto pan rig = 700g) lifted by the delta yesterday..I waited for the sun to return in vain:

      MG 5886
      I’m still experimenting though my main problem now is sunlight..


      or the lack of it..every time I think its worth getting it to lift the big rig either the light or the wind fails me!

      It is a very nice kite to use, very occasionally it will loop in a big lazy circle if it catches an updraught, this is controllable to a degree by paying out line and muttering profanity!

      • z1ggur4t says:

        Those look good. The top one is nice and rich. Light or a lack of is my problem as well it being winter here. I’m trying to get the best of the sunset but only have the weekend to do so as it’s dark by the time i get home from work. I’m glad your enjoying the Levi and a Delta. I’ve not had the looping (yet) but i’ll be on the look out. I have noticed though that when the wind picks up and looks to be outside the range of the kite it pulls hard and low to the right almost as if it’s being squashed towards the ground. I was flying it over an estuary at the time and yes, the profanity helped a great deal although not with the kite. 700gm is about my rig weight with the Lumix point and shoot and it lifts that with ease and i’m sure i can put my Nikon up and away in the right conditions (paranoia permitting). i’d be keen to know how far away from the kite your attaching your rig approx? i’m really not sure of an ideal for this kite (or any for that matter). Any suggestions welcome on that front. I like your ipernity icon pic. High contrast classic black and white always works well.

  10. Tris,
    In this instance the delta and the Levi are one and the same.

    We are both getting to know the edges of the performance envelope for this kite! Each kite I fly has its own conversation with me and it can take quite a while to learn all the kite has to say. They are all different and learning which matches what wind speed seems to be a continuous process which shifts parameters according to load, site and airflow. As soon as I think I have the mix right I find flying angle, wear & tear, battery life, line weight and deployment speed come into the equation as I try and work in fleeting light or patchy wind.

    Your observation is correct, as the wind speed builds the kite is pushed to the edge of the wind window ( to the right horizon..mine as yours for some reason..perhaps the bias of the fabric weave/stitching?). I consider this a dangerous situation unless I have a lot of practice with the kite in this condition. Some kites (Jones 8′ rok, Didak Explorer 2.7, PFK) can hang on at the edge quite well and recover predictably while others will really kick you in the crotch without much warning (e.g. HQ Flowform 2.0, Didak Flowform 4m, PL Pilot/CiM Lifter etc etc). As the wind pressure pulses the kite will either turn and rise to the zenith in lull or spin, collapse and ….power dive in gust.

    The separation between kite and rig is a matter of judgement. For me it’s never less than 10m and often a great deal more. In general the longer the lead the kite has over the rig the better for camera stability. The amount of sky the kite needs to find clean airflow will vary according to location and windspeed. Unfortunately my max flying height is very restricted so the ‘light wind= long lead’ vs ‘strong wind=short lead’ rule tends to apply but with the important consideration of getting the kite well clear of the rotor zone around buildings and trees before you hitch the rig to the line. Remember when you add the rig to the line it will drag the kite down so there has to be clearance for that too.

    So far I’d say 20mph is really pushing it with the Levi, even with a beefed up stock length spreader. I reckon it tops out around 15mph….

    ..but this is a kite with great potential!

    • z1ggur4t says:

      I did realise they are one and the same. I got the impression you were not such a fan of the delta and thought it good you were enjoying this one, so far!

      I had two long sessions yesterday in perfect winter conditions. It was really great. I’ll put some output up and write a little about my findings.

      • About me and the deltas.

        My first idea for KAP kites was to exploit the flowforms, simply because they fold up small and deploy quick: the idea was to have a set in different sizes to suit a range of wind speeds, I spent a lot of time exploring their limits, and discovered they just won’t do Bft 2 at all well. The answer to the really light wind end is a super light framed kite like the big rok (or Dopero)…which I discovered was a brilliant low wind lifter but a bit of a fiddle to transport and put togetether. At this point it became clear to me the soft kites work best at the top end of Bft 3 and Bft 4 and above that they either rip your arm off or heel enter the PFK Nighthawk to meet the big bluster and thus I came to the delta kite family from the wrong direction. The highly recommended PFK Nighthawk is a very unusual example, it is something of a chainsaw (gets the job done but its never going to be a precision instrument) in Bft 4 and 5 compared to the lighter wind kites. It fairly drove me nuts with its weaving about.

        I decided to give the Levitation a try just to see if the ‘dynamic spar’ idea had legs as it would seem to replace a whole bunch of BFT3 and 4kites if it does. Up to now I have been used to a direct ratio between windspeed and pull. Deltas don’t do that. I’m getting the hang of it… far I have found the 9′ Levitation good..but I’m not quite confident enough with it lifting my 800g rig in Bft3.

        There are very few kites I’m adverse to: perhaps the Rowlands ‘Photokite’ is my least liked but its fun to fly all the same.

        Looking forward to seeing your results!

  11. Pingback: What is the best kite for KAP? | Billboyheritagesurvey's Blog

  12. Piotr says:

    I love dopero, deltas and large rokkaku. With a few kite is the ability to select the best option. Unfortunately kite for KAP, it must have an additional advantage, good cooperation with the rig. You need to try a few, it’s a bit like picking up girls.;o)


    PS Dopero is great, but a lot of assembling

    • Piotr, Tris..and Ramon,
      This is a great discussion and I think we are moving onto a new topic. I wonder if we should have a go at writing on why we like the kites we do?

      I’m just back from a test flight with a kite raised 40m antenna for shortwave radio and apart from an embarrassing crash..(my own stupid fault…never try and fly 2 kites hitched to the same point at the same time..I knew it was risky but I cut a corner and whump) occurred to me that communion with the wind is a fairly humbling experience- we never master the wind but it can allow us to work with it… if we are patient, persistent and inventive.

      I can re-compile this thread as a posting…it would be great if you could choose a KAP image (1000 px wide is best, email you feel would ilustrate the point and I’ll weave the words and pics together.


  13. Ramon says:

    Hi guys,

    First of all this is to let you know I’m still following all this. Just kept my biased opinion for myself to see you guys coming to the same ‘conclusion’ that this kite really has good characteristics for KAP (and for lifting wire antennas). Again, this Levi Light still is my favourite kite for the job – I used it the day before yesterday in a very mild wind. I think it was just hitting the 3 Bft scale when I was trying to use it for my AutoKAP rig. It was a no go but fortunately I managed to keep it aloft by boating against the wind to a point I couldn’t go any further. Took everything down and got back to the spot where I started. Put the kite back up again and tried to keep the rig in the air. Much to my surprise the Levi Light now managed to gain hight and took the rig with it. Another thing that amazed me: the wind had decreased to a point I didn’t feel it at ground level. And the kite was gently flying at about 150 meters agl. Quite special. All pics were razor sharp, even at 1/60.

    This is probably the reason why I like this kite that much, besides it can be assembled in less than 30 seconds and airborne well under 1 minute.

    Either of the pics I made on Saturday, July 6th, of the cows and that magnificent windmill ‘Het Prinsenhof’, can be used for what you intend to do, Bill. Pick the one that you like the most.


    PS the custom made Levi Light is on its way to Zaandijk!

    • Thanks Ramon, You guessed it…I used the Levi to raise the worked a treat we got contacts from France, Germany and Scotland before our Tx power supply ( an old car battery) pegged out. The wind was variable so our operator did not always spot he was not broadcasting all the time! Because of the lulls I thought I’d get the big rok up but I wrapped its line around the first kite with dismal consequences, I almost managed to walk the mess down before the rok tipped over…

      ..but it worked 40m of copper in the sky…and an iron rod in the dirt: magic!

      What I’m after is your reasons for liking this kite..and you have said much here: I suspect this is not unique to the Levitation but applies to deltas as a group: the soaring as they ‘hunt’ for lift is remarkable and because of this they can achieve results we don’t expect.

      Good news your special is on the way- it’s great to have a personal contact with the toolmaker!


    • Piotr says:

      I am very curious, what is the difference in detail between the production version and the original? You probably do not say this, Ramon ;o) I love the delta during summer time and the in seaside.

  14. z1ggur4t says:

    Just a quick note Bill, my standard auto KAP rig with my Lumix is 770gms (heavy i know but it is what it is :-)) so I would feel very comfortable with your rig weight and the Levi. I was out with it on Sunday in 13kmh winds and she was slack lining at 180m AGL with the rig approx 25m below. my spool holds 200m of spectra and it was all out so it wasn’t overhead or over flying but sitting pretty. There’s some new shots on my Flickr feed. I too have a range of kites including another 7′ delta, a Premiere Rokkaku and a PL 2m2 Pilot. The Pilot is without a doubt B3 and up. The rest below. Is there to be a “kites I use/love” thread/other?

  15. Ramon says:

    Nice, will start reading it shortly. Cool antenna part in this one

  16. Ramon says:

    too… (for some reason the above comment was posted just like that, but I hadn’t finished typing. So I continue here). Will try to add some HTML code that holds the picture of the ‘Special’ sent by Christoph.

  17. Tristan says:

    I’ve been getting some more time in with my Levi and just loving it. Talk about a light wind vehicle. I’ve been able to get it aloft (no wind at ground level) to where the wind actually is by means of some back and forth running and coaxing (rig attached). Great fun.

  18. Ramon says:

    Ha! Did the same here in Tuscany a couple of days ago. The (old) Levi Light was high up there before it really caught some good moving air. The rig was lifted up to say 30 meters, the perfect hight for the pics I had in mind for the guys we rented our appartment from for the 1st week. I traded a nice collection of pics for a cardboard box full of quality products – wine, olive oil and… music!

    How good can life be…


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