Articles

  • A stint in Texas while on active duty with the German air force got Ulli Draheim turned on to things American, so when he later took up collecting old, historic kites he naturally turned to Gibson Girl kites and Paul Garber target kites from the World War II period.
  • A student of early historical kites, Jan Westerink of Zutphen, Holland, was searching patent databases when he found a design by Matthew B. Sellers, an American flight pioneer, that caught his fancy. The kite has wings like a glider and an eye-catching tubular tail. It was patented in 1908, meaning its 100th anniversary was due this year. Westerink, a former industrial designer turned handicraft teacher who has built replicas of several dozen largely unknown kites from the first half of the last century, decided to build this one.
  • A busy Lake Constance ferry port in the south of Germany, Friedrichshafen is inextricably linked to the stately Zeppelins built and flown there for the last century. The link to inventor Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin remains strong. Throughout the city, streets, schools, cafes, even a dress shop are named for him. A children’s slide near the sprawling waterfront Zeppelin Museum is shaped like an airship.
  • THE BEGINNINGS OF A NEW SAILING ERA A millennium ago, daring Polynesian sailors made use of kites to tow their canoes between nearby islands. This was the prehistory of kite navigation, an unusual means of transportation that has not been able to show its full potential until very recent years. As the energy crisis and global warming urge us to find alternatives to oil, high-tech synthetic materials, computer assisted steering, and satellite observation of the earth now allow for brand new developments in kitesailing.
  • Mr. P. Poirier spoke of towing bicycles with the help of kites. Having had several experiences with this concept ourselves, we believe that making our results known will be useful to our readers. The idea to use kites for the traction of vehicles is not new. It is only necessary to refer to Mr. Lecornu's book to find the story, sufficiently documented, of the first experiences of this type which took place in England (Pocock's car in 1828), and then during Colonel (then Captain) Cody's 1903 crossing of the English Channel in a canoe pulled by a cell kite.
  • Samoans and other island sailors of Polynesia used kites to propel their canoes throughout the vast Pacific. (Although I have it on good authority that using kites in this manner by Polynesian sailors is a fact, I haven't seen the documentation. Grist for one's own mill and, perhaps, another article.) Because he wrote about it (we'll take him at his word), we do know that in the early 1700's, a young Benjamin Franklin, while floating on his back, employed a kite to pull himself across a pond.
  • Reading Istvan Bodoczky's small, elegant volume titled Hidden Symmetry proves to me the value of individual expression in kite-making. Istvan explains in the preface that his recent works "have irregular asymmetric outlines" and that "I make line drawings first, and only later decide which lines will be 'real'(painted) and which ones will be 'only' part of the physical structure."
  • Patents are a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" for kite designers. They take huge amounts of time (which I'd rather spend kitemaking), they are horrendously expensive, like more than US$ 50,000 for just a few core countries (plus at least the same again in a defense fund to establish credibility), and, even after considerable investment, won't necessarily be granted or be defensible because of legal vagaries.
  • Nearly 250 years after Benjamin Franklin flew a kite to sample the electric fields in a Pennsylvania thunderstorm, meteorological kites are again flying high as platforms for scientific research.
  • One of the prizes of my kite collection is an original Steiff Roloplan that came to me because of the great people at the Into the Wind kite store in Boulder, Colorado. They were called a few years ago by a man in Nebraska, who asked if they'd be interested in buying two old box kites, rescued from his attic. Whatever they thought of the offer, they politely referred the man to me.