From Blake Pelton...
Got the call a few weeks ago from Scott Skinner, "Modegi-san is taking the Mega Moon to a Japan Kite Association event in Okinawa. You and I are being called to duty to head the crew and fly it. Blake, are you in?".
I had flown the Mega Moon five or six times prior to this, but other than that, I had no idea what I was getting into. Scott's short explanation, was all I had until our flight landed on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa, Japan.
We arrived on the sunny island of Ishigaki Thursday Morning and headed directly to the flying field with Mr. Modegi. A fairly large open grassy area adjacent to the ocean with steady on-shore breeze greeted our arrival. We decided the best location for our anchor (a 51 ton Komatsu Excavator) after walking it off to ensure the kite would not end up on the road if the safety was pulled. Everything looked good and right on schedule for our pre-flight-flight on Saturday.
For Scott and I, it was nap time! So after a bit of sight seeing, meeting the local kiteboarders and some power shopping, we dove into our rooms for a quick nap before the welcome dinner that evening.
Saturday began with Peace Bell ringing ceremony in Ishigaki's city park marking the anniversary of the end of World War Two. As Americans, we felt honored to participate and had the opportunity to personally thank the Mayor for having us as guests. It was an awesome feeling to know that kites were the means that brought us to this historical peace ceremony.
Once the ceremony wrapped up, we shook hands with the Mayor one last time, agreed to meet again at dinner and headed off to the field for some Mega Moon flying!
Even though it was the day before the festival, the field was being set up and JKA members had kites in the air! We had lots of help unrolling the giant mass of super ripstop and prepared it for launch. The wind was fairly strong (the most the Mega Moon has ever flown in) and storm clouds loomed on the horizon on both sides. I contemplated a launch for a few minutes and after communicating with some locals about the weather patterns, decided that while the wind was strong, it was steady and the storms wouldn't be a threat. The leading edge was opened, the kite filled and headed skyward with a surge of power. It was a combination of the strong wind and the surge of power that broke a bridle line, deformed the kite and put big stress loads on some of the wrong areas. I released the main power line collapsing the kite and bringing it safely to the ground. After inspection, due to those stress loads there was some damage that required repair before we flew the next day. I don't know how, but within a matter of seconds Modegi-san made arrangements for us to use the local high school's gymnasium as a repair center, the crane truck loaded the kite on it's bed and he asked, "Blake-san, would you like an industrial sewing machine or domestic?".
"Industrial!" I quickly replied.
We were whisked away to the magic repair center where the magic crane lifted the 500lbs of Mega Moon up a flight of stairs, under a roof and delivered it just outside the gym's door. Inside, there was helpers carrying in the heavy industrial machine and someone at the door handing me a cold bottle of water to prepare me for my night of sewing. The team effort was nothing short of poetic. We spread out the kite and began searching for tears. Any time one was found, the "repair request" was in and two people delivered the sewing machine to the damage with one person following behind carrying the extension cord and plugging it in. Another would neatly place a chair under my ass while two or three others manipulated the kite to bring the repair to ME. It was like a finely tuned orchestra that had thousands of hours of practice!!! Never have I been treated like royalty while sewing. Truly an experience I will never forget.
Sunday. Show time. After the spectacular opening ceremony, we again unpacked the Mega Moon and straitened out the bridle mess made from packing it up in a gym. I quickly figured out a way to ensure the previous day's bridle problems would not reoccur no matter how strong the wind got. Sure enough, the wind was even stronger than Saturday! But this is Team Mega Moon...wind doesn't scare us!!! The media was set, the mayor was present and the Mega Moon powerfully took to the Ishigaki sky. With a crew of people on each side anchor, we orchestrated controlled flight for about a half an hour...but they just couldn't last any longer in the immense heat and humidity. Everyone let go and the Moon flew unaided for several more minutes despite some fluctuation in the wind speed and direction.
Success!!! Scott and I flew half way around the world, repaired one of the world's largest kites, pulled through and made it happen at a one day event!
If you ever have the chance to attend a kite festival in Japan, I highly recommend it. As a guest, I have never been treated with such fantastic hospitality. The Japanese kiting culture is rich in history and tradition while staying innovative and inspiring. The Mega Moon is a prime example of this philosophy...it stays true to its Japanese heritage while pushing the limits of what is possible.