About the Richmond Air Force

Who We Are Kites and Kite Flying Kites are for Kids, Right? Kite Festivals
Membership RAF Events Regional Events Kite Teams
RAF Demonstrations Where we Fly

Who We Are

The Richmond Air Force was founded in 1986 when a group of kite fliers began to congregate at Innsbrook Office Park in western Henrico County, near Richmond, VA. In the beginning, there were no competitions and few community kite flys. Fliers met on Saturday and Sundays, mostly flying Hawaiian Team kites and Spin-offs. Growth was slow and erratic although the membership role grew steadily. There was no attempt to build any formal organization and news of events was transmitted by one newsletter and by word of mouth. Appearances were made at the Smithsonian Institute in March and at Wildwood, NJ in May by various members of the group. Members competed at the Outer Banks, NC, Ocean City, MD and at Wildwood, NJ on a regular basis. Around 1990, commercial growth at Innsbrook began to squeeze out the kiting enthusiasts and a search was made to locate a new flying site. After much searching, the group discovered Dorey Park off Darby town Road  in Eastern Henrico County. It wasn’t as well kept in the beginning – the amenities were somewhat spartan - but improvements were made regularly as more people discovered the park. Today,  Dorey Park provides fields for soccer, football, baseball, softball, and rugby. The Richmond Air Force has adopted this park as its home field. While the field is criticized as a low wind location, most of the top competitors  in the Eastern League show up at the Old Dominion Stunt Kite Championships in late June each year for a top flight show of kiting mastery. Fliers travel from an area bounded by New Hampshire, Ohio, and Florida just to attend this particular event which is second or third in attendance in the Eastern League each year. In recent years, the Richmond Air Force has made an effort to carry kiting across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Events have been scheduled at Dorey Park in Henrico County, at Roanoke, VA, at  Newport News, VA,  at Orange County, VA.,  at Lignum, VA. at Winchester, VA,  Nags Head,  NC,  and at Beach Mountain, N.C. The club members demonstrate many different types of  kites, offer lessons to interested guests, hold competitions, and participate in kite making activities.

From the beginning, the concept of the Richmond Air Force has been to emphasize the recreational side of kiting while minimizing the restrictions and demands made by other types of clubs. The RAF has no officers, no meetings, no formal regulations aside from common sense safety rules, no age restrictions, and no dues. Participation in club events is always voluntary even though the activities of the club are hard to ignore because of the pure fun involved in our various pursuits. What we offer to our members is the opportunity to explore the many aspects of kiting including information about kiting activities, flying techniques and equipment, competitions and sewing workshops, and the companionship of others whose interests are similar to yours. We hope you’ll join us; we’re having a great time. It’s your move.

Kites and Kite Flying

If you have visited a kite store recently while on vacation or just watched and enjoyed a kite flying at the beach, you are aware that there are many different types of kites available today.  Kites are much more complex than the traditional diamond, box, or delta kite.  Today's kites are constructed of materials lighter, stronger, and more durable than the ones of our childhood.  Not only are the materials updated, but there are many different types of kite flying to enjoy.  Some individuals prefer single line kites which are beautiful in the sky and easy to fly.  Others prefer sport kites which can be maneuvered and controlled by two, three, four or more lines.  Still others enjoy the excitement of power kiting and fly their kites to feel the pull or use them to power their kite buggies, skis, boats, roller blades, or surf boards.

What is a sport kite?

Sport kites are maneuverable kites, under total control of the flier.  This control is exerted by the use of multiple flying lines manipulated by the flier's hands.  These kites are capable of spins, power dives, landings, and many other complex maneuvers.  Sport kites are fast and exciting, with some having been clocked at over 120 MPH!

Kites are for kids, right?

When you hear the term "sport kite", forget your notions of kites from your childhood.  Sport kites are made by dozens of manufacturers who have borrowed technology from such bastions of aerodynamics as NASA.  Ultra-light yet ultra-strong components enable sport kites to speed through the air, even in light winds.  If you haven't had a chance to try one out, attend a festival, stop in at your local kite store, or come fly with us at Dorey Park in Henrico County the first Sunday of each month or at any of the events listed on our calendar.  Kiters, as a rule, are happy to share their sport with others.

What are kite festivals all about?

Top teams and individual flyers travel across the country to show their skills.  At sport kiting competitions, events for teams and individual fliers are staged in two categories.  In precision events, fliers/teams are judged on their ability to precisely mirror a set of pre-determined compulsory maneuvers and showcase their prowess in a freestyle routine.  In ballet events, fliers/teams prepare a performance reflecting the mood and tempo of their selected musical piece.  Judging is done by qualified five-person panels, and the parameters are similar to those of Olympic figure skating.

Teams and individual fliers vie for national points toward regional and national championships.  RAF fliers compete in the Eastern League, which has events up and down the east coast.  Teams have an additional incentive to excel - the top two American teams qualify for an invitation to the World Cup, which has been held in such locations as Australia, Japan, France, and the U.S.

Festivals are not just about hard-bitten competition, however.  The skies are filled with many pieces of flying art, and the colorful ground displays of banners and pennants are a delight to see.  In fact, plenty of kite festivals eschew sport kite competitions and focus instead on kite building competitions, or just a simple celebration of the relaxing beauty of kite flying.

What is a Kite Team and what do they do?

Kite teams are groups of individuals who have committed many, many hours of practice to their sport.  Teams guide their sport kites through carefully choreographed and synchronized routines.  Routines are sometimes set to music, with the routines designed to reflect the rhythm and melody of the piece.  The easiest anthology to draw with team kite flying is to the Blue Angels Flight Team - both perform intricate formations, crossing patterns, and high-speed closing maneuvers.  One major difference:  a top-rate sport kite costs about 200 bucks, an F-16 goes for around 200 million!

Richmond Air Force Events

Club members display and compete at events up and down the east coast.  Official club flys are held the first Sunday of each month, and when we are not competing we can usually be found flying on weekends at Dorey Park near the Richmond International Airport.

We have several feature flys throughout the year at Dorey Park that you are invited and encouraged to attend.  They include:

The It's Too Darn Cold to Fly a Kite Kite Fly - New Year's Day 11am - 3pm

The SuperFly - Super Bowl Sunday 11am - 3pm

The Leave Your Lover Fly - Valentine's Day or the Saturday following Valentine's Day 11am - 3pm (you can bring your lover if you want to!)

The Spring Solstice Kite Fly - Saturday of or prior to March 21 11am - 3pm

The Old Dominion Sport Kite Championships - Last Weekend in June - Sat/Sun 9am - 4pm

Important Regional Events for Interested Kitefliers to attend - check the RAF calendar to confirm dates

The Smithsonian Kite Festival - held on the grounds of the Washington Monument, usually the last Saturday in March

Maryland International Kite Festival - held in Ocean City MD on the beach, usually the last weekend in April.

Outer Banks Sport Kite Championships - held at Jockey's Ridge State Park on North Carolina's Outer Banks, usually on Columbus Day weekend.

Sunfest - held in Ocean City MD on the beach, usually in mid-September

The Rogallo Kite Festival - held at Jockey's Ridge State Park on North Carolina's Outer Banks, usually on the second weekend in June.

The Wright Kite Festival - held at the Wright Brothers National Monument in Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks, usually the second weekend in July

Demonstrations

The Richmond Air Force is available for exhibition kite flying demonstrations in Virginia.  The format for an afternoon performance includes individual, team and pairs flying accompanied by selections of family-friendly popular music, safety instruction, question and answer sessions, flying lessons for the general public, and display of varied types of kites, including single line, two and four line maneuverable airfoils.

Our kiting club has been in continual operation since 1986 and maintains an extensive inventory of kites of modern design as well as some of historical significance.  The membership is skilled in aspects of kiting activities from construction, design and safety, to flying instruction and competition.  The club is active on a year-round basis and has conducted demonstrations for Isle of Wight County, the cities of Farmville, Lexington, Roanoke, Washington, and Bedford, as well as Chesterfield and Henrico Counties.  Many RAF members are associated with the American Kitefliers Association and most compete in the Eastern League Sport Kite Association.  Several members have won National Championships in their competitive events.  Some members have flown internationally in Europe, South America, and several Caribbean Islands.  Others have assisted in the annual Kite Festival sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute at Washington, D.C.

Requirements for an afternoon demonstration include a designated field, 600' X 300' (about the size of two football fields side by side), ideally located on a high point free of overhead wires and tree blockage, a source of electrical power, adjacent parking for up to eight vehicles, admission to the event for all club members, and authorization to sell kites and related accessories.

For more information about having the Richmond Air Force put on a demonstration, e-mail Adrianne Balmer at aebalmer@comcast.net.

Membership

Membership is open to anyone interested in kites, kite flying, or kite making.  There are no dues and no refunds will be given for membership fees (since none apply!).  We welcome everyone to come fly with us and share our enthusiasm for kites.  Check our calendar for details on when we are flying and come on out!

Where We Fly

Our favorite place to fly is at Dorey Park in Henrico County, near the Richmond International Airport.  A map will be posted here shortly, but here are directions to Dorey Park:

From I-64

From I-64, take the Laburnum Avenue South exit toward the Richmond International Airport.  Follow Laburnum to Darbytown Road.  Turn left on Darbytown Road.  Dorey Park is on the right on Darbytown Road about 2 miles from the intersection with Laburnum.

From I-895 (the Pocahontas Parkway)

From I-895, take the New Town Road exit toward the Richmond International Airport.  Stay straight on the road as it becomes Laburnum Avenue.  Follow Laburnum to Darbytown Road.  Turn right on Darbytown Road. Dorey Park is on the right on Darbytown Road about 2 miles from the intersection with Laburnum.