The Rocket Kite

Scott Skinner
Article type: 

One of the first archival discussions at the Drachen Foundation came from original board member Martin Lester. It was about a rather small and nondescript canvas tube with several surprises inside: a survival kite that was meant to be launched with a flare gun, automatically opening and becoming a rigid, winged-box kite. Additionally, closer inspection of the canvas tube revealed a sophisticated line-management system that encapsulated the flying line in the walls of the tube. The idea was for a downed airman or seaman to hold the flare gun overhead, fire, have the folded kite be carried airborne while the flying line played out to its maximum length, then the kite would unfold, find the wind, and fly, allowing a radio antenna to be lifted and used for communication. Needless to say, serious study of this kite could only be done by meticulous inspection and manipulation of the case and close inspection of the kite and its spring-loaded system. 

Enter Jan Westerink of the Netherlands. Jan was the lucky buyer of not one, not two, but three (!!!) rocket kites and their complete kits. I should note that the package containing all the kites arrived at Jan’s door having cleared customs and having been transported by at least two national postal services. Inside were at least three potentially live flares! With three examples, Jan was able to seriously study each of the kites and form a plan to recreate a real-time launch and flight. As an aside to American kite fliers, burdened with litigious lawyers and an abundance of less-than-bright thrill seekers, this demonstration could never have been accomplished on American soil.

Page Number: