FLIGHTS and SHAFTS
The feathers, wings, or fins, which were called fletching in the early days, are now known as “flights” and have progressed along with the darts throughout the years. In the beginning of the game, feathers (typically from turkeys) were used for the same reasons they were added feathers on arrows. An American patented a folded paper flight in 1898. For many years, the use of different blends of plastic materials, nylon, or foil has been prevalent in the manufacturing of flights, which also allows for the addition of multiple shapes as well as colors and print graphics. Today, technology has advanced so far that there are now machine-molded solid plastic flight systems being imported from Asia. The use of plastics now gives players the chance to customize their darts with any type of design or icon of their choice or even their own names, as many top players do. The reasoning behind the use of feathers or a flight is to add drag to the dart, which prevents the rear of the dart from overtaking the point. The shape of the flight itself controls the amount of drag on the dart in flight and the choice you make will depend on your style of throw, along with the weight and length of your dart.
There are many differences in the flights that you can choose. “Hard” flights are made of from a stiff, polyester plastic where the layers are permanently sealed together by heat during the manufacturing process. These flights do not tear as easily as softer flights, however, when they do tear, they are ruined and will need to be replaced. Hard flights also do not have as much flexibility as softer flights, which may cause the flights to pop off more often when throwing close groups and also may cause more deflections of your darts in that the barrel will careen off the flight slightly and veer away from its intended target. Softer flights, otherwise known as “poly” flights are made of a more flexible plastic and then folded into the required shape with glue holding the layers of the plastic together. If the flight is slightly torn during use, it can be pressed back together. The softness or “give” in the flight will not cause as much deflections as with the hard plastic flights. Other flights out on the market today are Dimplex, or Ribtex flights, which have an embossed pattern on them, however they will provide more drag to your dart, so if you find that your darts are not flying like you want them to, you may want to try out a smoother texture of flight. There are also nylon flights, which are said to be amongst the most durable flights available.
Larger sized flights tend to be better for the player that has a softer throw, or lobs their darts.
Smaller sized flights tend to be better for the player that has a harder throw where the dart has a more direct path to the board.
These are some of the different shapes of flights available on the market today:
Standard: The largest and most commonly used flight, as it gives the most stability
Kite: Slightly smaller in side for added speed
Teardrop: Has a tendency to keep the tail end of your dart down
Slim: Will keep your tail end low for speed
Lantern: similar to a kite shape but more end heavy
#6 Shape: Standard style flight that is more narrow at the top
Check out the Wing Surface Area page at A-Z Darts.com for flight size information
Of course, don't forget to make sure your spread your flight out correctly before throwing. Make sure all the fins of the flight are straight and they should be at 90 degrees.
The choice of the length of shaft you use is also based on the dart you have and the way you throw. Shafts are made at different lengths to suit every style of player and every style of dart. They are manufactured from materials such as plastic, nylon polymer, or metals such as aluminum or titanium. Longer shafts can shift the weight of your dart toward the back end, causing the dart to tilt backwards during flight and land at a downward angle. Shorter shafts make the dart more compact, reduce the drag on the back end of the dart, and more often than not, your dart will land at an angle tilting upward.
The basic sizes for shafts are as follows: LONG-MEDIUM-SHORT-EXTRA SHORT
Long shafts, which are sized at around 2.6 inches (or, 66mm) add increased stability as the dart flies through the air.
Shafts classified as medium are sized between 1.5-2.0 inches and they are one of the most commonly used sizes.
Short and extra short shafts are gernerally under 1 inch in length and are generally used by those players that have a more direct and forceful throw to the board.