JAPANESE KITE COLLECTION
Last up date:1998/08/01
’History’ was copied from "KITES" written by David Phlham and published by Penguin Books
Even though its origins are obscure, it is generally accepted that the kite was first invented in China long before the beginnings of written history. It seems probable however that some cultures discovered the principles of kite flying quite independently, whilst others developed existing patterns to suit their own requirements. Silk was being produced in China as early as 2600 B.C. and as bamboo cane was in abundance it does not seem an unreasonable conjecture that kites were being flown by the Chinese around 1000 B.C.
Many theories have been put forward as to the original inspiration of the kite, ranging from runaway sails from a fishing boat to a Chinese farmer's hat being carried off by the wind. While all theories must remain speculative, in an early text the famous Chinese engineer Kungshu Phan of the fourth century B.C. is credited with the invention of a wooden bird that flew for three days without descending.
This is generally accepted as having been a kite; while another well documented account from the second century A.D. refers to the wooden bird of Chang Hang, which appears to have been a rudimentary ornithopter with mechanized wings.
It is interesting to relate this story with the first western account of kite flying, recorded by Aulus Genius in the second century A.D., which refers to the `'flying dove' of Archytas of Tarentum, and in which the same basic type of aircraft is described.
Chinese folklore abounds in stories of kites flown for both pleasure and purpose, the more expedient applications answering mainly military needs. One of the more ingenious uses of the kite was demonstrated by the Han general Han Hsin in the year 169 B.C. He is said to have used a kite to gauge the distance between his forces and the walls of a palace, in order to measure the distance that his suppers might have to dig, so that his troops might enter.
Chinese legend also tells us that Liu Pang, founder of the Han Dynasty in 202 B.C., was opposed by a general Huan Theng, a fierce defender of the previous order. Huan Theng and his army were eventually surrounded by the usurper's forces, and were threatened with annihilation.
It is said that a fortuitous gust of wind carried Huan Theng's hat from his head, giving him the idea of building a large quantity of kites fitted with sounding devices. These would probably have taken the form of finely shaved bamboo strips held taut between the ends of a bow, and were flown in the dead of night above the army of Lou Pang, who, on hearing the mysterious wailing in the sky, supposedly panicked and fled.
Though man-carrying and man-lifting kites have apparently been used in China in countless military and civil applications since the earliest times, accounts also exist of enforced manned flights. As a method of punishing prisoners, Emperor Wen Hsuan Ti of the Kao Yang Dynasty is recorded as having derived great pleasure from ordering his prisoners to `'fly' from a tower while harnessed to large bamboo mats, offering them freedom should they survive.
Marco Polo in 1282 not only gives a graphic account of the cruelty and hazards involved in manned kite Frights, but also gives an extremely accurate description of kite flying technique.
`And so we will tell you how when any ship must go on a voyage, they prove whether her business will go well or ill. The men of the ship will have a hurdle, that is a grating, of withers, and at each corner and side of this framework will be tied a cord, so that there be eight cords, and they will all be tied at the other end to a long rope.
Next they will find some fool or drunkard and they will bind him on the hurdle, since no one in his right mind or with his wits about him would expose himself to that peril. And this is done when a strong wind prevails.
Then the framework being set up opposite the wind, the wind lifts it and carries it up into the sky, while the men hold on by the long rope. And if , while it is in the air, the hurdle leans towards the way of the wind, they pull the rope to them a little so that it is set again upright, after which they let out some more rope and it rises higher. And if again it tips, once more they pull in the rope until the frame is upright and climbing, and then they yield rope again, so that in this manner it would rise so high that it could not be seen, if only the rope were long enough.
The augury they interpret thus: if the hurdle going straight up makes for the sky, they say that the ship for which the test has been made will have a quick and prosperous voyage, whereupon all the merchants run together for the sake of sailing and going with her. But if the hurdle has not been able to go up, no merchant will be willing to enter the ship for which the test has been made, because they say that she could not finish her voyage and would be oppressed by many ills. And so that ship stays in port that year.
From China, via Indo-China, the kite soon appeared throughout Japan, probably brought into the country by Buddhist missionaries in the early years of the Twang Dynasty
(A.D. 618-907), and subsequently spread to the Pacific generally, appearing in various forms in Korea, Burma, through Indonesia, Melanesia and Polynesia, acquiring ever greater religious and ceremonial significance as it went.
Fear of invasion from the air may well have been a reality to the ancient Orientals. It is said that there was once a Japanese law forbidding the construction of kites capable of carrying a man. As in China, there are many stories in the folklore
of Japan, recounting the daring exploits of brave individuals being borne aloft on kites for both national glory and personal gain.
A degree of ambiguity still exists today when manned kites are referred to, though the difference between a man-carrier and a man-lifter seems obvious. The early eastern giants invariably bore the passenger within or upon the kite itself, and consequently are classifiable as man-carriers. Subsequent western pioneers discovered that a load within the structure of a basic kite interfered drastically with the aerodynamic
properties of the craft, and therefore employed kites to provide initial lift and stability only, the passenger being hoisted some way up the kite line when this had been attained. This technique is referred to as man-lifting.
Nevertheless, in kite flying there always appears to be an exception to the rule, the exception in this case being Alexander Graham Bell, whose Cygnet, because of its
remarkable stability, proved itself to be easily capable of supporting its passenger within the structure of the kite itself.
A well-known story from Japan relates how the famous robber Kakinoki Kinsuke used a man-carrying kite in an attempt to steal the scales from the golden dolphins atop the towers of Nagoya Castle. Fate seems to have been against him however, for although he appears to have landed safely after successfully dislodging a number of scales, he was later arrested and punished by being boiled in oil together with his entire family. Approximately two hundred years later, in 1927, another thief had more luck. He succeeded in making off with fifty-eight scales from the same dolphins, though his method in no way resected the panache of Kinsuke.
Another early example of man carrying is described in the story of Minamoto-no-Tametomo, a famous samurai warrior of the Genji clan who, together with his son, was exiled to the island of Hachijo. Not wishing that his son should spend the rest of his days in such a desolate spot, Tametomo constructed a large kite which successfully, so the legend goes, bore the boy aloft across the sea to the mainland. As a consequence the Hachijo kite traditionally bears a likeness of Tametomo upon its surface.
A more prudent Japanese application of the kite's lifting properties was demonstrated by the practice of lifting tiles and bricks to workmen involved in constructing towers, by means of large baskets supported by enormous kites flying overhead.
Certainly the high-water mark amongst the Japanese giants was the famous Wan-wan kite, developed by Nagajima Gempei around the turn of the last century. With an overall width of 24 m (60 ft), and a tail of 146 m (480 ft), it weighed approximately 2-80 metric tonnes (6160 lb), and required a team of about 150 men to launch and fly it.
On the fifth day of the fifth month, the Boys' festival is celebrated in many areas of Japan. Households which have been favoured with the birth of a male child in the preceding twelve months become the centre of attraction, and huge kites are flown to celebrate the births. All households with male children fly highly coloured windsocks from poles in honour of their sons. Usually these take the form of fish, representative of the carp, a particularly hardy fish that annually battles upstream to its spawning grounds against almost overwhelming odds, symbolic of the sons progress through the 'river of life'.
Probably the most famous fighting kite is the Nagasaki Hata. This is an exceptionally manoeuvrable kite capable of flying at amazing speeds with considerable directional control. Equipped with cutting devices such as ground glass or porcelain glued to the line below the bridle by means of egg white, rice or other natural adhesives, it is a fearsome opponent in competition. The object of a kite fight is to sever the line of an opponent, resulting in the loss of his kite.
The Nagasaki fighting kite, however, bears little resemblance to other traditional Japanese kite forms. It is highly balanced, extremely light, virtually square and flown diagonally, as opposed to the traditional Japanese configuration which is basically rectangular and flown longitudinally. It bears a close resemblance to the classic Indian Fighter, differing only in the absence of the Indian support fin at the tail, and in having its two leading edges supported by a guideline of string, while the Indian version has its leading edges unsupported.
It is fairly certain that the Nagasaki fighting kite is a derivation of the Indian Fighter. Considering that the first Westerners who set foot in Japan in 1543 were restricted to Nagasaki alone, it seems likely that these early Portuguese, Dutch and English traders introduced the kite from India.
This conjecture is strongly supported by the fact that the Nagasaki Hata (Hata is the Japanese word for flag) is traditionally coloured red, white and blue, in the manner of the Dutch ensign. Whatever the origin, kite flying remains an obsession in Nagasaki even today, with the whole month of March being appropriated for kite flying festivals.
In Korea, at the beginning of each new year, it has long been the custom to write the name and date of birth of each male child on the surface of a paper kite. These are then flown in the air. When they are at their highest the line is released and
the kite is borne away with the wind. The object is that they should drift as far as possible before coming to earth, the kite drawing away with it any bad luck or evil spirits which might adversely affect the chord's future. To pick up such a
kite, if found, is to attract the owlet's ills to oneself.
Kites were most probably introduced to Korea, again by Buddhists, about the middle of the first millennium A.D. The Korean kite is similar to the Japanese rectangle, though it traditionally has a circular hole in its centre. It is large and fast, flown tailless for fighting from a coloured silk line.
Another weight-lifting application of the kite comes from Korea. In the Samguk Sagi, written in A.D. 1145, appears an account of how in the first year of Queen Zindong, the twenty-eighth ruler of the Silla Dynasty, a general Gim Yu-Sin (A.D. 596-637) was given the task of quelling an uprising. While he was engaged in this task a shooting star fell. This was considered to be an extremely bad omen, and consequently the rebels, together with Gim Yu-Sin's own forces, became dangerously agitated. The status-quo was only restored after the general was inspired to hoist a fireball into the air by means of a large kite one dark night. This was accepted by all as the shooting star returning to the heavens, and a violent situation was avoided.
Thailand also has an ancient association with kite flying, not only as a source of entertainment but also as part of magical folklore. Kites are flown at the time of the monsoon in an attempt to invoke the winds to blow hard and long, blowing away the rain clouds of the monsoon in order to save their crops from flood.
As has been said, it is quite probable that kites were independently invented in other Asian countries. In Malaya particularly there is a widely held belief that the Malayan kite was invented and developed quite independently from any outside influences. The facts on these matters will probably never be ascertained ; however, what is certain is that each general area developed its own particular form for the kite, individual characteristics arising from the various roles that the kite played in the different cultures.
Fighting and fishing kites appear to have been prevalent throughout the Malay Archipelago long before its recorded history. The cruder form of fishing kite was little more than a large leaf, threaded with strips of fine bamboo for rigidity,
with a hook suspended on a good length of line at the tail end. This technique, still used throughout Asia today, not only gives the fisherman an extraordinarily long cast but also ensures that no giveaway shadows fall on the water.
The kite so well known in the West as the Malay was being sown throughout Malaysia, Indonesia and Java many centuries ago. This is the classic trapezoidal shape which
was sown sat or bowed. The bowed version, an extremely efferent and buoyant design, is sown without a tail in a light wind. This is virtually the same kite as the one William A. Eddy introduced into the West in the 1890s.
Also throughout Malaysia, and particularly in Java, another kite has been sown for centuries. This is the plane-surface arch top, flown with a tail, similar to the shape which became so fashionable in England in the eighteenth century, known as the English arch top. This is a very close relative of the most popular French form, the pear top, which is virtually identical, but for a small protrusion at the head of the kite.
As these appeared in Europe around the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it seems plausible that they were introduced by the same traders who were responsible for introducing the Indian Fighter to Nagasaki.
According to European tradition the invention of the kite is attributed, as we have seen, to the Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum, who, around 400 B.c., is said to have constructed a wooden bird, based on his studies of birds in Ought. It has been suggested that his invention may well have been inspired by seeing Chinese bird kites ; however there is little reliable information on Archytas' contribution to either the invention or the development of the kite.
In his definitive study Kites.- An Historical Survey, Clive Hart describes how, throughout Europe, as far back as A.D. 105 the Romans were flying decorated windsocks as military banners. These were usually in the form of animals, wide mouthed and mounted on poles in order to catch the wind.
Flowing cylindrical tails of finely spun cloth gave them the appearance of being alive, writhing like dragons above the horsemen. They were intended not only to inspire awe in an enemy, but also to provide archers with a vane, in order that they might determine the strength and direction of the wind.
These windsocks were adopted quite extensively throughout Asia and Europe, being occasionally depicted in medieval illumination and tapestry. As early as 1326 dragon's are to be seen bearing wings, no longer supported on poles but flying free from lines. These may well be the earliest known ancestors of the modern box kite. It is also possible that some of these early depletions represent not windsock kites
but a form of hot-air balloon. A source of flame may possibly have been placed in the mouth of the dragon, giving it the appearance of breathing fire, while the hot air passing through the body lent it support.
The first recorded account of the hot-air balloon principle comes to us from as early as the second century B.C. In the Taoist compendium The Ten Thousand Infallible Arts of the Price of Huai-Nan we learn that 'Eggs can be made to fly in the air by the aid of burning tinder... Take an egg and remove the contents from the shell, then ignite a little mugwort tinder (inside the hole) so as to cause a strong air current. The egg will of itself rise in the air and fly away.'
Towards the end of the fourteenth century the Europeans appear to have discovered for themselves the high drag ratio and general inefficiency of the windsock kite, whether supported by hot air or wings, and Hart, in his highly detailed study of early aeronautics, The Dream of Flight, suggests that the earlier inefficient kite had either evolved into or had been ousted by the considerably more buoyant pennon kite by the early years of the fifteenth century.
This pennon kite was in effect a basic Oat or plane-surface kite that supported a long colourful tail. As with present-day kites of the serpent variety the kite itself may well have been painted to resemble the head of a dragon or some other ferocious mythical beast.
The first accurate and reliable European description of the pennon kite appears as a captained illustration in Conrad Kyeser's account of military technology, Bellifortis, of 1405.
Though the illustration at first sight appears to represent a wingless windsock kite, the method of attaching a three-legged bridle characteristic of that used with a plane-surface kite is both described in the text and illustrated in a sketch to the right of the main figure 3 When one compares Kyeser's account of the pennon kite with the first written description of a plane-surface kite to be published in Europe, contained in a Viennese manuscript of 1430, there seems little doubt that the same basic configuration is being described.
The Viennese manuscript details the method of constructing a parchment plane-surface kite supporting a tail of cloth and silk, together with a description of three alternate harnessing points for use in different wind conditions. Whether this
configuration was arrived at as a direct evolution of the winged windsock kite, or whether it was influenced by imported plane-surface kites is unlikely to be ascertained.
Giambattista della Porta described a 'flying sayle' in his Magiae Naturalis of 1589, a simple though very beautiful rectangular kite, apparently based on the traditional Chinese form. He advocated that the kite be used for lifting fireworks, lanterns at night, and even kittens and puppies. V
The latter he suggested might be a spur to the idea of human flight. An illustration in John Bate's The Mystery's of Nature and Art of 1634 is by way of a diagram, showing a lozenge kite lifting a tail liberally spiked with `fire crackers... which will give divers blower in the ayre'. This diagram is held to be the first illustration of the conventional kite ever to be published in England, and only the second to appear in Europe. The first appeared in 1618 in an engraving of Middelburg, Holland, giving further support to the idea that Dutch merchants played a large role in introducing the kite into Europe. By the seventeenth century the kite had become quite
commonplace throughout Europe, though apart from its occasional use in firework displays and various public spectacles it was mainly seen then, as now, as no more than a harmless diversion for children.
With the exception of Isaac Newton, who appears to have made some virtually unrecorded experiments concerning the most economical form for a kite while still a schoolboy, the seventeenth century failed to recognize the scientific potential of the kite.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century kite flying was an enormously popular pastime throughout Europe. But even though it was developed extensively for scientific research throughout the latter half of the eighteenth century, as a pastime it was still almost entirely limited to children.
It was not until 1749 that the first scientific application of the kite was recorded. This was in the form of a meteorological experiment conducted by Alexander Wilson at Camlachie, in Scotland. Wilson measured the variations of temperature at different attitudes by raising thermometers on half a dozen kites flying in train to a height of 915 m (say 3,000 ft).
Flying in train is the technique of flying two or more kites from a common line. Willow's experiment was also the first recorded account of the train technique being used.
Willow's efforts preceded by three years what must undoubtedly be the most famous scientific application of the kite of all time. In June of 1752 Benjamin Franklin lifted his electric kite in order to prove that lightning was the same 'electric matter' as that obtained from generation. Soon after his success he described how his experiment might be repeated.
` Make a small Cross of two light Strips of Cedar, the Arms so long as to reach to the four Corners of a large thin Silk Handkerchief when extended ; tie the Corners of the Handkerchief to the Extremities of the Cross, so you have the Body of a Kite; which being properly accommodated with a Tail, Loop and String, will rise in the Air, like those made of Paper; but this being of Silk is fitter to bear the Wet and Wind
of a Thunder Gust without tearing. To the Top of the upright Stick of the Cross is to be fixed a very sharp pointed Wire, rising a Foot or more above the Wood. To the End of the Twine, next the Hand, is to be tied a silk Ribbon, and where the Twine and the silk join, a Key may be fastened. This Kite is to be raised when a Thunder Gust appears to be coming on, and the Person who holds the String must stand within a Door, or Window, or under some Cover, so that the Silk Ribbon may not be wet; and Care must be taken that the Twine does not touch the Frame of the Door or Window. As soon as any of the Thunder Clouds come over the Kite, the pointed Wire will draw the Electric Fire from them, and the Kite, with all the Twine, will be electrified, and the loose Filaments of the Twine will stand out every Way, and be attracted by an approaching Finger. And when the Rain has wet the Kite and Twine, so that it can conduct the Electric Fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the Key on the Approach of your Knuckle. At this Key the Phial may be charged, and
from Electric Fire thus obtained, Spirits may be kindled, and all the other Electric Experiments may be performed, which are usually done by the Help of a rubbed Glass Globe or Tube; and thereby the Sameness of the Electric Matter with that of Lightning completely demonstrated.'
Other electrical experimenters followed, but their kites were basically crude and inefficient, mainly made of paper, and the combined disadvantages of compensatory tails and heavy wire lines restricted their experiments to attitudes of no more than 300 m (say 1,000 ft).
The earliest significant experiments made with the form of the kite were undoubtedly those of Sir George Cayley made between 1799 and 1809. Even though his development of the shape of the kite was virtually a by-product of his devotion to the concept of heavier-than-air-flight, in his classic pronouncement `The whole problem is confined within these limits, to make a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of air,' he expressed the essence of aeronautic theory. He had discovered the essential separateness of thrust from lift.
Cayley's first model glider, made in 1804, incorporated an English arch top kite as a wing unit. Had he had an adequate source of power there is little doubt that the aeroplane would have been invented much sooner than it was. Of this kite, or glider, he recorded, `I have made surfaces of this kind carry down weights as high as 80 or 90 (lb) with perfect steadiness and sewerage to either side at pleasure.
Fourteen years later Cayley designed a model glider incorporating two kites, a large one for the wing unit, and a small one for the tail. The wing unit was set in the form of a dihedral angle, which he discovered gave the glider greater stability. W. A. Eddy made this same discovery seventy-three years later. In 1852 an article appeared in Meehanies' Magazine
entitled `Sir George Cayley's Governable Parachutes' It is likely that this prophetic configuration formed the basis for his so-called `new flyer' of 1853 in which he sew his coachman across a dale at Brompton. Cayley's grand-daughter, Mrs. Thompson, recorded the occasion thus:
`Of course, everyone was out on the high side and saw the start from close to. The coachman went in the machine and landed on the west side at about the same level. I think it came down rather a shorter distance than expected. The coachman got himself clear, and when the watchers had got across, he shouted," Please, Sir George, I wish to give notice. I was hired to drive, and not to fly" ... That's all I recollect.
The machine was put high away in the barn, and I used to sit and hide in it (from Governess) when so inspired.v
This was the world's first recorded man-carrying glider flight.
The use of kites as a form of traction dates back to very early times. The Samoans used kites to propel their canoes, and much later Benjamin Franklin recorded how he used a kite to propel himself, whilst floating on his back, across a pond. Probably the most flamboyant use of the kite to provide fraction was that devised by the English schoolteacher George Pocock, whose famous char-volant was patented in 1826.
Drawn by two adapted English arch top kites arranged in tandem, Pocock's lightweight carriage was capable of carrying four or five passengers at speeds of up to thirty-two
kilometres per hour (20 m.p.h.). Considerable control was provided by four lines which governed both the lateral and longitudinal angle to the wind, allowing the kites to fly "... to the right or the left of the wind's course". Pocock relates many amusing adventures with his char-volant, amongst them how he was exempt from toll-fees as, though the toll-keeper had specified fees for carriages and carts drawn by horses, mules, donkeys and oxen, no such specifications existed for vehicles drawn by kites.
Pocock appears to have been obsessed with the lifting and pulling properties of the kite, and recorded how he combined the two in an amazing experiment that took place about 1826, when . . a large wagon with a considerable load was drawn along, whilst this huge machine at the same time carried an observer aloft in the air, realizing almost the romance of flying.'
A little earlier than this Pocock had lifted his daughter Martha to a height of 90 m (say 300 ft), seated in an armchair suspended from the kite line. His son was similarly lifted from a beach to the top of a 60 m (say 200 ft) high cliff. After a safe landing on the bluff, the boy climbed back into the chair and, releasing the necessary tackle, caused the chair and its occupant to slide down the line to the operator on the beach.
Some rather ingenious experiments involving kites were made in Switzerland by Dr Colladon during the first half of the nineteenth century. In one experiment made at his parents' country house near Geneva in 1827 he repeated Newton's famous electric experiment.
In order to establish enough lifting power to support his `silver strings', he employed three kites attached successively
one to the back of the other, apparently discovering for himself the benefits of flying in train. He knew his subject well, and took some rather sophisticated precautions to eliminate risk in his dangerous experiment, which included a winding reel made of glass.
The experiment was spectacularly successful, producing zig-zags of `thunder' a metre in length, coloured red, white and violet, within a room in his parents' house. Colladon tells us that he ran to fetch his seventy-year-old father in order that he might enjoy the spectacle. However the old man didn't understand electricity, `and saw with other eyes than mine...', begging that the experiment be terminated.
In the summer of 1844 at Cologny, near Geneva, Colladon was amused by his brother-in-law's practice of flying a vast kite, up the line of which he sent an ingenious messenger, bearing flowers or fruit. This was blown up the line by a parachute which detached itself upon hitting a stop on the line, dropping its payload gently into the neighbourhood of friends or relatives. Colladon extended this idea by causing a dummy weighing slightly less than six kilos to be blown up a kite line by means of a huge umbrella. The dummy, seated in a wicker chair, travelled to a height of 200 m (656 ft), much to the amazement of the locals.
About this time Colladon also experimented with double-lined dirigible kites capable of moving through an arc of some 200 m (say 650 ft) across the sky. This technique was later used by an American, J. Woodbridge Davis, who devised a dirigible kite in 1894 with the idea of carrying a rescue line from ship-to-shore in cases of shipwreck.
Cologny being very close to lake Leman, Colladon next experimented with an ingenious arrangement employing the dirigible kite in a crossing of the lake. Threads of each flying line were attached to a board which, by dragging through the water behind the kite, supplied the necessary pull or resistance upon the line essential to keep the kite airborne. By making holes in one side of this board and thus reducing the drag
on that side, Colladon found it was possible to make a direct crossing from south to north, despite the fact that a nor'-nor' easterly was blowing at the time.
During 1847 a competition was arranged between a group of New York children in order to establish the first connection over the Niagara River gorge. An anonymous young boy succeeded in spanning the 240 m (say 800 ft) gorge with his kite line, and a series of heavier lines, and eventually cables, were drawn across, allowing work to commence on the first railway suspension bridge connecting America with Canada.
A dubious contender for the honour of being first man to be raised by a man-carrying kite in the west was Jean-Marie Le Bras, a sea-captain and amateur aviator, who in 1857 constructed a glider based upon the albatross, referring to studies that he had made of the bird during voyages. At Trefeuntec in France he was launched from a horse-drawn cart, kite-style, from the end of a line. His intention was to release the line when enough altitude had been gained, and drift gracefully down to earth. However, the horse bolted, causing a somewhat complicated and long-drawn-out accident. At one stage the filing line broke from the carriage, wrapped itself around the captain's coachman and bore him aloft also. Remarkably, the only injury sustained in the ensuing crash was a broken leg for Le Bras, who, undetected, went on to build another glider, which he wisely tested with ballast instead of a pilot.
Some two years before the experiments of Jean-Marie Le Bras, a resident of Dijon, Dr Jules Laval, made some interesting and partly successful experiments with load-bearing kites. Using a flat kite measuring 10 m (32-80 ft) by 6 m (19-69 ft) he elevated an eleven-year-old boy named Lieutet to a height of some 10 m (32-80 ft). The boy sat in a wickerwork chair suspended beneath the tail end of the kite. The apparatus was controlled by a team of five men. The attempt almost ended in tragedy. Friction from the line burnt the hands of the sides, who found it necessary to tether the flying line to a tree stump. The continuing friction caused the wood to ignite, severing the line, and the young Lieutet, descending in free sight from a height of 10 m (say 33 ft), luckily escaped unharmed.
The first successful lifting of an adult appears to be that of E. J. Cordner, an Irish priest who, in 1859, designed, built and tested a system of load-bearing kites for ship-to-shore rescue. Although the trials were recorded as being successful, there is no evidence to suppose that Cordner's system was ever put to practical application.
The technique used by Cordner incorporated a train of hexagonal kites which were to be raised from the stranded ship. The kites were used to provide fraction and additional buoyancy to an extremely light, small boat capable of carrying one or two people. From the stern of this a line was played out from the main vessel. When the survivors were safely ashore the crew of the main vessel simply hauled the boat back, and the process was repeated.
A number of life-saving kites were devised towards the end of the nineteenth century, most of which exploited the fact that a kite could be blown towards a lee shore by the same wind that had caused the vessel to founder in the first place.
In France, in 1887, C. Jobert devised an easily dismantleable life-saving kite capable of carrying a line from a crippled ship to the shore. Successively heavier lines could then be drawn across the water in order that a breeches-buoy system could be erected. Jobert's kite consisted of a cone, or drogue, situated above a plane surface, the whole of which, when set at an angle of thirty degrees, developed considerable pulling power while remaining no more than 40 m or so (say 130 ft) above the surface; though it was also capable of flying at various heights simply by altering the flying angle. The kite was quite stable even in heavy winds, and took out line at a good speed while dragging a secondary cable behind it in the water, this latter being within easy reach of the receiving party. To help locate the kite in darkness or in fog, and also
to summon help from those on land, Jobert devised signal lamps to attach to his kite, together with a simple but effective siren system. Across the small opening at the back of the cone ran a horizontal bar from which were suspended two metallic leaves. By vibrating in the wind these leaves produced a loud wail capable of being heard a good way off.
A strong supporter of the life-saving kite, Admiral Sir Arthur Cochrane, made numerous trials with kite-drawn torpedoes during the Russian War in 1855 while commanding a frigate. Using kites of 3-65 m (12 ft) to draw simulated torpedoes, heavy logs with percussion caps attached to them, he found that he was able to propel a `torpedo' over distances of some 3 km (1-9 miles) with considerable accuracy ; though careful calculations had to be made prior to launching, taking into account the deflection of the tide and the wind.
J. Lecornu, one-time President of the French League of the Kite, and Emile Wenz also experimented with life-saving kites around 1900, incorporating ingenious line climbers capable of carrying a reel of line, from the end of which was suspended a buoy. When approximately above the wreck the reel of line was triggered, causing the buoy to fall, taking with it line played out by the reel. Retrieval of the buoy allowed the crew to haul down the kite, employing the kite line proper as a link with their rescuers.
The use of the kite as an adjunct to meteorological experiment was first extensively developed by the British meteorologist E. D. Archibald in 1833. He succeeded in lifting anemometers on kites, measuring wind speeds at various attitudes. As well as reviving the application of the kite as a meteorological tool, Archibald scored a first in 1887 by taking the first aerial photographs from a kite.
Controlled meteorological experiments had also been made in the early 1830s by members of the first formal association of kite flyers ever to be formed ; this was the Franklin Kite Club, an American organization set up primarily to experiment, as its name suggests, with electric kites.
At New Observatory in 1847, W. R. Birt demonstrated his system for lifting meteorological instruments by way of a fathered hexagonal kite. A large hexagonal kite with a standard tail and bridle was stabilized by means of two lines, additional to the flying line, securing either end of the horizontal strut. These two lines, together with the flying line, were fathered on the ground at the points of a large equilateral triangle, the peg securing the kite line proper obviously being the windward point of the triangle. Having thus established a stable platform in the air, it was Birt's suggestion that measuring instruments might be raised or lowered from the kite at will.
In France, in 1886, Maillot used this same stabilizing technique for his load-bearing kites : though his kite also had a variable angle of incidence which could be adjusted by the 'pilot', who sat on a board like a swing, suspended beneath the kite.
At least that was the theory, but in fact control was always applied from the ground. Despite the fact that his kites were consistently stable, Maillot neither made an ascent himself, nor did he ever lift a man.
While a prisoner in Austria in 1870, Maillot had watched some abortive attempts at raising a military observer in a balloon. Because of the high wind the balloon was constantly blown towards the ground. Maillot realized that, if a suitable kite was used for this purpose, the stronger the wind blew the higher the kite would climb.
On 3 May 1886 Maillot prepared for his famous lifting experiment by raising approximately 65 k (143 lb) on a kite. On the sixteenth of that same month he repeated the experiment in the presence of members of the French Society of Aerial Navigation using a much stronger and larger kite. On this occasion he lifted a sandbag weighing 68 k (say 150 lb) to a height of 10 m (say 33 ft). It appears that during these
experiments Maillot had to be dissuaded from raising himself on the kite by members of the society, who felt that further development was needed before lives were risked. In order to encourage this development the society awarded Maillot 100 francs. He went on to build bigger kites, eventually attaining a lift of 270 k (595 lb), before discontenting his lifting experiments in favour of developing a lightning conducting system for kites. This lead to further meteorological applications, and during the late 1890s Maillot was associated with the observatory at Trappes before abandoning aeronautical experiments for some years.
With renewed enthusiasm after an outstanding success in the French Society of Aerial Navigation competition of 1905, he again set to work on a system of man-lifting. He now rejected his earlier octagonal kite in favour of a train of compound kites not dissimilar to the Conyne kite which had been patented by an American, Silas J. Conyne, in 1902. It was a form of this kite that was eventually adopted by the French army, and as a consequence has become better known as the French Military box kite. Again Mailbox's experiments were confined to the lifting of ballast, and it is said that he died deeply regretting that he had never taken to the air himself.
Throughout the 1890s numerous experiments concerning aerial photography were made on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite Archibald's success in 1887, a number of other claims for this `first' were still appearing during the following decade. In his remarkable work Parakites, Gilbert Totter Woglom states his claim as having made the first aerial photographs to appear in America.
`By the first expedition of the camera, on 21 September 1895, at three o'clock and thirty-five minutes, were secured... the first aerial photographs from glass elates taken on the Western Continent ; the writer is ready to be corrected if he misclaims conjointly with Mr. Henshaw to have taken these the largest kite line photographic views in the world.
'Parakite' was Woglom's name for his tailless kite, virtually a bowed Malay, similar if not identical to William A. Eddy's bow kite, which Eddy developed in the 1890s. It seems quite likely, however, that Woglom and Eddy rediscovered the virtues of the Javanese bow kite quite independently.
William A. Eddy was a journalist from Bayonet, New Jersey. He contributed a great deal to western kite development, and made extensive experiments in the raising of photographic and meteorological payloads. For this he needed good, steady lift to great heights, and turned to the technique of train flying to provide him with the required stability and efficiency.
His first experiments with train flying were made with hexagonal kites, sometimes flying as many as eighteen kites on one line. However, the tails of these proved to be unmanageable and inefficient in this application, and in order to combat these disadvantages he set himself the task of developing an efferent, stable kite, able to fly without a tail, resulting in his famous bowed kite. Eddy knew of the existence
of the Javanese tailless kite, but could find no information on it. He subsequently `invented his own version. He eventually did see an original Javanese kite at the Columbine Exposition of 1893, and was able to confirm his own findings, and with a few modifications arrived at his own version of the Javanese kite which he patented in 1900.
Eddy found that by bowing the spar to form a dihedral angle, and by using a looser cover than usual, the kite took on something of the character of a ship in water, giving good fore-and-aft stability by virtue of a keel being formed by the spine, with good lateral stability by way of the standard compensatory qualities of the dihedral set of the wings. Furthermore, when set into the wind, the loose cover over the bottom area of the kite billowed upwards, acting to some extent as an aerofoil, giving the kite increased lift.
Eddy bows were used at the Blue Hill Observatory, Massachusetts, and by the U.S. Weather Bureau during 1894-5, but were soon ousted by the introduction of Lawrence Hargrave's box kite, the stability and great lifting powers of which were to win it a place in meteorological survey continuously through to the mid nineteen twenties.
As was the case with Cayley, Hargrave's experiments with the kite form were a by-product of his ambitions towards powered night. Born in Greenwich, England, on 29 January 1850, Lawrence Hargrave emigrated to New South Wales in 1866. A scrupulous and remarkable man, he refused to patent any of his findings, preferring that they should be made common knowledge, in order that they might benefit anybody who could make use of them. He invented his box kite in 1893.
In order to further his experiments in powered flight Hargrave built a great variety of model aeroplanes and kites during that year, resulting in various forms of plane-surface, dihedral and box kites. He also made copious notes on all his trials, including his one and only kite sight, beneath a train of box kites, to a height of some 5 m (16 ft). A further contribution to aerodynamics stemmed from Hargrave's experiments towards the development of the cumbered aerofoil, that is the curved wing section for greater lift. While Cayley had guessed at the advantages of a cumbered wing it was Horatio F. Phillips who, around 1880, discovered and developed the principles of a double-surfaced aerofoil capable of producing a lower pressure above the wing surface than below. Hargrave was quick to experiment with Phillips's findings, and greatly increased the efficiency of his box kite, or `cellular' kite as he preferred to call it. The following year, after repeated failures in his attempts at powered flight, Hargrave retired from full time experimentation.
An important pioneer of man-lifting techniques was B. F. S. Baden-Powell, of the Scots Guards. He was a well-known balloonist, and brother of the founder of the Boy Scout
movement. He first gained recognition with his kites on 27 January 1894, at Pirbright Camp, England, when he lifted a man with a single kite, with the idea of providing the army with a means of aerial observation.
Working at a time when aerodynamic knowledge was in its infancy, Baden-Powell placed great store on plane-surface hexagonal kites, apparently refusing to acknowledge that the Hargrave kite had any theoretical advantage. This first success was with a giant kite, 11 m (36 ft) high, made of bamboo with a cambric cover. It was not unlike the traditional Japanese Rokkaku, though its spurs were flexible enough to allow it to
develop its own dihedral when set into a reasonable wind, giving the kite fairly good stability without recourse to a tail.
With this kite, sown from twin lines for greater stability, he raised men to 3 m (say 10 ft) or so, as any greater height was considered too dangerous for such crude equipment. Baden-Powell's faith in his apparatus can to some degree be measured by the fact that he generally made his ascents with an open parachute over his head. He consequently developed a system of flying in train, using smaller kites of approximately 10 m2 (110 ft2) in area, varying the number of kites between four and seven at a time, depending upon the wind conditions.
This system proved to be far more reliable, and Baden-Powell patented the design in 1895, calling the kite the Levitor. That same year he demonstrated the system to the British Association, lifting himself and others to heights of about 30 m (say 100 ft). Again, however, because of his kite's basic instability, he adopted a two line system of bridling, separate dines being connected at points on the ground some distance apart, in order to hold the kite firmly into the wind.
On 12 December 1901 Guglielmo Marconi made his first successful transatlantic wireless reception tests from Poldhu in Cornwall to St Johnny, Newfoundland. The receiving aerial was raised 122 m (400 ft) or so by means of the Baden-Powell Levitor kite. A strong wind was blowing, and the first attempt to raise the aerial resulted in the loss of a kite. Even though the second kite fared more successfully, its basic instability caused such violent movement in the aerial that Martini was forced to make some technical compromises to his receiving equipment in order to compensate for the kite's misbehaviour.
It was with the aid of a double train of Hargrave's box kites that Lieutenant Hugh Wise of the U.S. Army succeeded in lifting himself in 1897. Wise had made preliminary tests with a dummy weighing some 68 k (150 lb). This was raised on a single train of three box kites. A pulley was attached at the point at which the two upper kites joined the main line.
Through this pulley a line supporting a boatswain's chair was passed, and when sufficient height had been attained the dummy was hoisted up in the chair. The main line was then run out for some distance before a squall upset the whole arrangement, depositing `Jimmy', Wise's name for his dummy, and all three kites, somewhat unceremoniously into New York Harbour. Benefiting from the accident, Wise evolved a different arrangement of setting the kites. Two separate trains were used, each made up of a pilot kite, attached to a much larger lifter kite. The two flying lines were then gathered at the pulley point, and on this apparatus Wise duly ascended to a height of 12 m (say 40 ft) - and eventually descended five minutes later - with considerably more success than Jimmy had had just two days before.
Up to this point all recorded man-lifting attempts had been made with the aviator being suspended from the kite line at a point considerably below the kite itself. It was an American, Charles J. Lamson, possibly the finest kite designer of all time, who first succeeded in flying virtually within a kite. In August 1896 Lamson began a series of experiments, attempting to lift an observer with the help of a modified Hargrave box kite, flying from piano wire. The kite was fitted with a movable back cell, which allowed the rear of the kite to be raised or lowered by the pilot, thus controlling the angle of incidence.
Further control was gained by the pilot, suspended immediately below the kite in a nacelle, shifting his weight to right or left. During early tests with a dummy weighing 68 k (150 lb), weakness in the struts separating the biplane wings caused an accident which resulted in a fall of 18Om (590 ft), though in Lamson's words `.,, a man would not have been hurt, for the fall was as gentle as a dove's lighting on the ground.
Encouraged by his experiments, Lamson went on to build other man-lifters. These took the form of two pairs of biplane surfaces made of canvas, stretched over a framework of deal. At the end of each pair of upper wings, vertical direction planes were placed to help lateral stability. The efficiency of his final apparatus was proven in June 1897 when he soared at a height of 15 m (say 50 ft) for half an hour or so, repeating the experiment several times with complete success. Lamson gradually modified his kites until they took on quite their own character. His fine Aerocurve kite, so-called because of its pronounced use of the aerofoil in its wing structure, was designed and made in 1897 in both biplane and tripling versions, its form anticipating remarkably the shape that the aeroplane was subsequently to take.
Meanwhile in Germany, the great gliding pioneer Otto Lilienthal had already published his classic work Der Vogel Flug als Grundlage der Fliegekunst (Birdflight as the basis of the Flying Art) some eight years before. In this work he examined in meticulous detail the aerodynamic properties of birds wings as applied to the problems of human flight. In effect, Lilienthal accumulated all aeronautical theory known at that time, propounding it in his own terms, substantiating it by his own conclusions, pointing the way for subsequent aeronautical development.
A distinguished engineer, inventor and manufacturer of a wide range of marine components, Lilienthal became attracted to the soaring sight of seagulls, whilst working on the installation of a fog horn of his invention that was adopted for German lighthouses. From early experiments with `aeroplane' kites during the 1870s he made and flew a series of fixed-wing gliders from a specially constructed hill at Gross Lichterfelde near Berlin. The hill, some 15 m (50 ft) high, had a hangar for his gliders built into its summit, and was conical in shape in order that flights could be made
into the wind regardless of its direction. Lilienthal became the first man to achieve sustained controlled flight, often soaring for 230 m (say 750 ft), controlling his sight by shifting his weight in true hang glider style. He was fatally injured when
one of his most trusted and stable machines, his `standard sailing machine' designed in 1894, stalled and crashed at Gollenberg on 9 August 1896.
Another outstanding pioneer aviator, Octave Chanute, continued to develop Lilienthal's findings, building a highly sophisticated biplane hang glider incorporating a great many Lilienthal features. Chanute's glider later made a substantial contribution to the experiments being carried out on the other side of the Atlantic by Chanute's friends and fellow pioneers, the Wright brothers.
The Wright brothers' first glider, built in 1900, was virtually a biplane kite. Having built it mainly to confirm their theories of control by wing-warping, the Wrights in the main flew it as a fathered glider, or kite. The controls were operated either from the ground or, on the few occasions when there was enough wind to permit manned flights, from the machine itself.
Because of its remarkable inherent stability, the Hargrave box kite formed the basis of a number of successful power-driven aeroplanes developed in the first decade of the twentieth century. Its influence is obvious in the design of Santos-Dumont's 14bis which was very little more than a huge pair of motor-driven Hargrave box kites set dihedrally.
As the first public powered flight in Europe it aroused a great deal of enthusiasm for flying, and the race to develop ever more sophisticated flying machines on this side of the Atlantic had started in earnest.
The predecessors of the Santos-Dumont 14bis were the float-borne gliders of Gabriel Voisin, in co-operation with Ernest Archdeacon and Louis Bliriot. These two gliders had colourful careers, and were flown, in the main unsuccessfully, from a variety of destinations around Europe. They were basically a combination of Wright and Hargrave features, again closely resembling the Hargrave cellular kite, incorporating refinements of control and stability from the Wright experiments.
Just how closely related to the kite these craft were becomes very clear from the following contemporary accounts of sights from both land and water. At the military drill ground at Issy-les-Moulineaux in 1905...
`The method of operation was to place the aeroplane, without motor, but with a pilot on board, on suitable rails, attach it by means of a towrope to the motorcar, and pull it until it rose in the air in the same way as a kite.
And on the Lake of Geneva that same year..
" the only practical result of the visit was a little experiment made by Gabriel Voisin when the aeroplane was lying at anchor on the lake. In a very strong wind Voisin discovered that he could cause the aeroplane to rise from the surface of the water merely by operating the elevation rudder, and remain in the air, struggling at its cable until a lull in the wind, or the manipulation of the rudder, caused it to descend.'
The fact that Baden-Powell's military man-lifting work was never put to any practical use proved to be a stumbling block to Samuel Franklin Cody when he first put forward his more sophisticated system of man-lifting to the army in 1901.
Among all the pioneers of early aviation, probably the most remarkable was the flamboyant Samuel Franklin Cody. Born in Birdville, Texas, in 1861, from boyhood he lived the typical prairie life of a cowboy, catching and training wild horses in true bronco-buster style. He was also a highly skilled buffalo hunter, and became an expert with the rive and lasso. During 1883-4 he was gold prospecting around the junction of the Klondyke and Yukon Rivers, living in great hardship in a location which thirteen years later grew into Dawson City, centre of the Alaskan Gold Rush, the biggest gold rush of all time. Cody, however, made no strike, and after a few years spent touring America with a Wild West show, where he was billed as `Captain Cody, King of the Cowboys', he eventually settled in England in 1890.
He soon became a showman, forming his own company of entertainers, largely made up of his immediate family and close relations. With this company he toured the music halls, giving demonstrations of his exceptional skills in riding, hassling and shooting. As a professional showman he adopted the extravagant form of dress for which he was to become so famous from his compatriot, namesake and friend, Colonel William Fredricll Cody, alias `Buffalo Bill', whose hugely successful Wild West show he had seen and admired greatly. Apparently, with the help of the coincidence of their names, close physical resemblance, and Cody's affectation of shoulder-length hair, beard, moustache, stetson, fringed buckskins and cowboy boots, Samuel Cody quite deliberately nurtured confusion in the minds of the public, some of them genuinely believing that they were watching Cody's archetype `Buffalo Bill' himself, or at least the son or brother of the famous cowboy.
In 1898 the turning point in Cody's life occurred when the family's latest production, a gory melodrama called The Klondyke Nugget became wildly successful. Based largely upon Cody's experiences in the Yukon, it was an extravagant, somewhat piecemeal affair, which was basically a vehicle for the various skills of the Codys. Cody's son Leon was a keen kite flyer about this time, and father and son competed with ever larger kites, capable of ever increasing heights. By 1900 Cody's enthusiasm for the pastime was eclipsing his other interests, while The Klondyke Nugget continued to play to packed houses, financing his exhaustive experiments with a series of kite configurations. He finally settled for a winged variation of Hargrave's double-cell box kite, which he patented in 1901. With this kite he devised his remarkable system of man-lifting, and gave a demonstration of the apparatus to the War Once in December of that year, with a view to its military application.
Cody's man-lifting system involved first Flying a small steadying pilot kite, then a team of lifter kites, the number used depending on the condition of the wind. These lifter kites were attached to the main Flying cable by two cowing rings, one at the head of the kite, the other at the cowing point of a four-legged bridle. Upon being released the kite would be blown up the Flying cable, which was provided with a number
of conical stops at predetermined mooring points along the length of the cable. The conical stops were progressively larger towards the top of the cable, corresponding to a variation in size of the cowing rings.
Consequently, as the first lifter kite travelled up the cable, its large cowing ring would pass over the smaller cones, and its free travel would only be halted when the kite reached its prescribed mooring point. And so the next lifter would be released with a slightly smaller cowing ring, which in turn passed over the smaller cones until halted against the penultimate mooring point. Finally the carrier kite was attached to a trolley, the wheels of which ran against the top of the cable. From this trolley was suspended the basket-work car in which the passenger travelled. The carrier and its load were released up the cable towards the lower lifter kite. The passenger was able to control the ascent and descent by working a complex system of lines and brakes. The lines adjusted the inclination of the kite to the horizontal, in order to give the kite greater or lesser lift.
In a military situation it was proposed that the passenger should be equipped with a telescope, telephone, camera and firearm. If a telephone system was impractical a system of messengers was used. Communications were blown up the cable by the wind, and returned in a weighted bag which was allowed to simply slide down the cable.
Despite his flamboyant exterior, and the fact that he was said to be illiterate, Cody was a man of great intelligence, with an extremely practical outlook which was supported by apparently unlimited reserves of courage, strength and perseverance. Nevertheless his image was against him at the outset of his aeronautical career, and initially there was a general reluctance to regard his achievements in the air as anything more than an extension of his show-business activities.
Consequently nothing came of his first approaches to the British military authorities, though they were so impressed with his skill as a marksman that they offered him the post of Shooting Instructor at Aldershot, which Cody declined.
In an attempt to publicize the fraction potential of his system Cody successfully crossed the English Channel in November 1903 in a collapsible boat, drawn by kites. The boat, Cody's own modification of an existing collapsible dinghy, was approximately 4 m (13 ft) long, had its deck covered with cork for maximum buoyancy, and its keel well ballasted. A drogue anchor was towed behind the boat, providing resistance to the pull of the kites in order to keep the kite line taut. This attempt, which was made from Calais to Dover, had been preceded by several unsuccessful attempts from Dover, all of which had been thwarted by adverse wind conditions. The triumph pleased Cody, and the resulting publicity, which included a number of public demonstrations of his invention seems to have had the required effect.
Despite the War Office's earlier reluctance to adopt Cody's invention, they eventually expressed interest. Extensive trials were carried out in 1904-5 on both land and water, the Admiralty having put some warships at Cody's disposal.
During these trials Supper Moulton reached the possibly record height of 792-6 m (2,600 ft) on the end of a cable 1219 m (4,000 ft) long. The War Once finally adopted the system in 1906 for Army observation, and Cody was given Officer status with the post of Chief Kite Instructor at Farnborough, where his basic responsibilities were for the design and manufacture of kites, together with providing instruction in their operation. For this he received a salary of 1,000 pounds per annum, together with free fodder for his white stallion, his favourite and famous means of transport.
Cody's War Kites, as he called them, were to remain a part of military equipment for some years, until they were overtaken by the rapid advance of the aeroplane. Cody's courage and enthusiasm led him on to experiment with powered night, and in October 1908 he became the first man to build and fly an aeroplane in Britain. The slang term 'kite' for aeroplane is said to have been derived from this period when aeroplanes
were virtually power-driven kites. On 7 August 1913 Cody and his passenger were killed when his last creation, the Waterplane, broke up in the air over Lafran's Plain, Aldershot.
Not all of Cody's kite experiments were directed towards military ends however. During a kite display held at Cobham Common in 1907 he gave a demonstration of an instrument developed by the Meteorological Office, the meteorograph, capable of registering height, temperature, humidity and wind velocity. Cody had already been made a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society for his valuable contributions to weather research, having on one occasion lifted instruments to the then record altitude of 4,268 m (say 14,000 ft).
A considerable number of kite competitions were being held throughout Europe during the first decade of this century, the more significant English meetings being organized by the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain. Though the competitors' lists invariably included Cody, his son Leon, and Major Baden-Powell, it was usually Charles Brogden, possessor of a six-winged lightweight giant, who took first prize for altitude.
Lieutenant Schreiber of the Imperial Russian Navy was also experimenting with a man-lifting system similar to Cody's during 1903. Schreiber had adopted a kite that was virtually a Hargrave original double box, incorporating a spring bridle which automatically adjusted the angle of incidence to the prevailing wind conditions. Schreiber's apparatus proved to be highly dangerous however, and after a number of fatal accidents the system was abandoned in favour of the more reliable methods developed by a Russian army offset, Captain Ulyanin, who achieved lift with a train of double Conyne kites.
Cozy's flamboyant character had done a great deal to popularize the work of the aeronautical pioneers in general, and as a result of the interest that his experiments caused in France, Charles Doleful held a competition in 1909, to establish the most successful man-lifting techniques, so that they might be considered by the French Military Authorities. Captain Maddox took the prize with a system similar to that of Cody, but he died in a Flying accident before the system could be fully developed. Consequently the French army adopted the system proposed by Captain Saconney, which again was very similar to the Cody original.
In the meantime, on the other side of the Atlantic, a far less warlike attitude towards man lifting was being developed by Dr Alexander Graham Bell, whose first aeronautical experiments were undertaken purely for entertainment and amusement. Gradually Dr Bell's experiments assumed a more serious character as he realized the potential of their contribution to man's conquest of the air.
Like so many of the early pioneers of flight, Bell made many observations and notes on the sight of birds, and was initially preoccupied with the safe vertical ascent and descent of a craft, seeing these characteristics as being somewhat divorced from forward velocity. In consequence a great many of his early experiments involved rotors and winged fly-wheels, sometimes propelled with rockets at the rotor tips, capable of achieving heights of 45 m (say 150 ft) or so.
Bell was born in Edinburgh in 1847, into a family prominent in the science of speech. In 1870, after the death of his two brothers, he moved to Canada in search of a more healthy climate. His passionate interest in speech, and his knowledge of the properties of sound, led him to a series of experiments which climaxed, but by no means culminated, in his invention of the telephone in 1876. With this success came moderate wealth, and a move to Washington D.C. where he soon adopted U.S. citizenship. From Washington he continued his researches, achieving further success with his contribution to the development of the gramophone.
In 1893 the Bells moved back to Canada, buying a peninsula near Baddeck, which they named Being Bhreagh, which is Gaelic for Beautiful Mountain. Three years later Bell
attended a demonstration Ought of a large propeller-driven model aircraft given by his friend Samuel Pierpont Langley, and became determined to construct a flying machine.
Bell was a very gentle and humane man, whose concern for the safety of the aronaut is amply illustrated by his choosing to make his first man-carrying attempts over the waters of Baddeck Bay in craft that would float, piloted by men who could swim. He advocated that flights should be first made at moderate elevation in order to allow the pilot to develop skill in the control of his apparatus.
He embarked upon an exhaustive programme of kite tests directed towards establishing the most reliable form capable of carrying a man and an engine with maximum stability and lift. Carrying out experiments with a great variety of kite configurations he eventually decided upon the tetrahedral cell, or regular tetrahedron, covered on two of its four sides in silk. This structure he found to possess an extraordinary ratio of lightness to strength.
Having established his norm, he proceeded to make further comprehensive tests with various combinations of these cells. His earlier findings that kites so constructed possessed remarkable stability in varying wind conditions were confirmed, and in 1905 a combination kite made up of 1,300 such cells, and known as the Frost King accidentally lifted one of its handlers approximately 10 m (say 30 ft) off the ground. The kite, including its tackle, weighed some 57 k (125 lb). The weight of the handler was 75 k(165 lb), and a 17 km per h (10 m.p.h.) wind was recorded. Bell concluded
that a larger structure, carrying an engine capable of imparting a 10 m.p.h. thrust, would certainly carry a man.
His first controlled man-carrying project took place in December 1907, when the Cygnet, a larger version of the Frost King, made up of 3,393 cells and equipped with floats, ascended to a height of 51-2 m(168 ft) whilst towed behind a steamer across Baddeck Bay, carrying Lieutenant Thomas E.Selfridge of the United States Army as volunteer passenger. The sight lasted for seven minutes, during which time the Cygnet displayed admirable stability and lift.
As the steamer played out slack line the kite descended slowly and evenly, settling so gently upon the water that Lieutenant Selfridge was not aware that contact had been made. Unfortunately though, the winding crew aboard the steamer were not quick enough in releasing the kite's cowing line, and the beautiful craft quickly broke up as it was dragged behind the steamer. Selfridge suffered no more than a ducking, though only nine months later he was killed while flying as passenger with Orville Wright. Wright crashed on what was only his third passenger-carrying flight, and Lieutenant Selfridge became the first fatality in the history of powered sight, while Wright sustained no more than a few broken bones.
Fired with the success of the Cygnet, Bell's next step was to build Cygnet II, a modified version of its predecessor capable of carrying a man and an engine. In the same year of Cygnet's success Bell founded the Aerial Experiment Association, whose sole purpose was a to get into the air'. The other founder members of the association were two Canadian engineers, John McCurdy and F. W. `Casey' Baldwin, the famous American aeroplane manufacturer and aviator Glen Curtiss, and Lieutenant Selfridge.
Emphasis now turned to the construction of a suitable engine, and during the course of its development the members of the A.E.A. decided that it should be housed in a more conventional aeroplane configuration. The group developed and built four aeroplanes in all, the last of which was Cultist's June Bug, which won the Scientific American trophy in 1908, for the first public flight in America to reach a kilometre in distance.
Cygnet II was the culmination of Bell's kite programme. Unfortunately the engine that was eventually fitted was incapable of developing sufficient thrust to lift the kite. Nevertheless, the objectives of the A.E.A. had been achieved, and the association was disbanded in 1909. A number of Dr Bell's kites, along with many other relics of his remarkable imagination, can still be seen at the Akxander Graham Bell Museum at Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
Considering the pace at which aviation technology accelerated into the second decade of the twentieth century, it seems hardly surprising that the kite was virtually forgotten for a period of thirty years or so. Apart from isolated military, meteorological and advertising applications during and between the two World Wars it was to lie, in the main, neglected by all except children. It was only in the mid fifties, through the work of Francis Rogallo of the National Aeronautical and Space Administration that the simple kite was once again reinstated as a potentially important tool of science.
In 1911 the U.S. Navy carried out target practice at kites `with the object of determining the chances of repelling aerial craft "2 Again in the Second World War a highly manoeuvrable target kite was developed by Commander Paul Gerber, also for American naval gunnery practice.
In order to increase their range of observation at sea, the Germans used man-lifting kites flying from their submarines while surface cruising in both the First and Second World Wars. The 8 km (5 miles) visibility at sea level was increased to approximately 40 km (25 miles) at an altitude of 120 m (say 400 ft) or so. Huge box kites were used in the First World War. These were towed behind the submarine, and consequently were not dependent upon a favourable wind. The observer was hoisted up the kite line in a nacelle, when sufficient height and stability had been attained. The kite was box in form, similar to the more familiar British survival kite used in sea rescue in the Second World War, though very many times larger.
The British kite was designs to be flown from a fine aerial, acting as a beacon capable of transmitting a distress signal. The signalling properties of kites were also exploited in other ways during the Second World War, as was recorded in an article that appeared in the London Daily Sketch in 1939. Under the gripping headline `Kite flying spy caught at work - East Coast arrest in Christmas round-up' we learn how counter-espionage agent arrested a spy while transmitting coded messages to the Nazis by means of a kite bearing automatic signalling equipment.
The Germans devised a far more sophisticated method of lifting an observer during the Second World War. In 1943 they put into service the Focke-Achgelis F.A.330 rotating wing, or gyroplane kite. This was a highly manoeuvrable autogyro, again achieving lift by means of the fraction supplied by a submarine. Directional control was provided by a rudder, operated by a conventional rudder-bar, and its rotors were capable of being jettisoned in an emergency, the pilot descending by parachute. The whole apparatus could be quickly dismantled and stowed by virtue of a series of quick-release pins. Gyro-gliding with modified versions of the locke-Achgelis is currently a growing sport in the U.S.A.
Another war-time application of the kite was as a barrage protection for U.S. convoys in 1941. The kite used was that developed by Harry C. Saws of the U.S. War Shipping Administration over a period of twelve years. Saws extensively adapted an existing kite hitherto used for advertising purposes. Some 6 m (say 20 ft) wide and basically double box in form, Sauls's huge kites were flown on wire lines 609 m (2,000 ft) long from which further wire lines were suspended. Capable of shearing wings and fouling propellers, they provided a formidable deterrent to enemy pilots bent upon strafing the merchant vessels below.
The Admiralty had also introduced an ingenious lethal barrage kite for protecting destroyers from aerial attack in 1940. The object of this kite, a modified Hargrave double box, was to suspend a wire on the end of which was a bomb. The impact of an attacking aircraft upon the wire caused a chisel, fired by a 0-22 cartridge, to sever the flying line below the bomb assembly, thus releasing the kite wire, allowing it to slide over the wing of the aircraft. Assisted by the drag of the kite, and the forward velocity of the enemy machine, the bomb was drawn quickly up to the aircraft, exploding upon impact. Even when flown without its lethal assembly the Admiralty regarded the kite as a valuable deterrent to aerial attack.
One of the most significant contributions to the development of a truly modern kite was that of Francis Rogallo of the U.S.A. The invention and subsequent development of his Flexible kite, which was filed for patent in 1948, resulted in the famous delta wing kite, making Rogallo the father of hang gliding as we know it today. With this invention he realized the dreams of countless brave and forgotten men, who died as a result of their conviction that men could fly like birds. Passing over countless failures, the 'tower jumpers' of the eleventh century and even Leonardo da Vinci amongst them, truly significant results were not achieved until 1853 with Cayley's New Flyer. Hang gliding enthusiasts often mistakenly revere the pioneering work of John J. Montgomery of Santa Clara College, California, whose gliding experiments made between 1883 and 1886, and subsequent experiments of the first decade of the twentieth century, made no significant contribution to man's conquest of the air. Montgomery died as the result of a crash in 1911. It is redoubtably Otto Lilienthal who is the doyen of today's hang gliding revival.
Rogallo, an aeronautical engineer associated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Virginia, advocated that flexible wings provided potentially greater
stability than fixed surfaces, and that the aircraft should conform to the flow of the wind, as opposed to the wind conforming to the form of the aircraft, or kite. Installing a large electric fan into his home, Rogallo, with the help of his wife Gertrude, made extensive tests and experiments on kite structures, eventually achieving success with his Flexible kite of 1948. This was marketed at a time when little interest was being given to kites, and the project was abandoned. Nevertheless, the potential of Rogallo's theories proved of great interest to the U.S. space programme, and he was soon involved in extensive research at the vast wind tunnel at Langley, Virginia, developing a series of highly sophisticated parawings, capable of being deployed and controlled with great accuracy for the landing of returning space capsules.
In his efforts to achieve minimum supporting area with maximum lift, Rogallo worked towards the total elimination of rigid spurs. Via a series of wings held in configuration by inflatable spurs his experiments led him to the invention of the limp wing, a totally unsupported sail area, capable of holding its shape solely by means of the distribution of the air load on the kite surface, counterbalanced by the tension of the shroud lines. In effect, the shroud lines form the central spine or keel of the kite, without recourse to rigid supports, t. he keel deflecting the wind into the supporting wing areas, giving the kite both form and lift with maximum economy.
The characteristics of the limp wing, basically an extremely manoeuvrable parachute with a high glide ratio, quickly established it as a favourite with skydivers, who use the wing as a high-performance hang glider, descending in an extended glide rather than a drop. Developed at a time when man's concern for squandered resources is
nearing neurosis, Rogallo's concepts have been embraced as classic examples of purity and efficiency. The simple construction and high stability of his aircraft have ensured their place in the low-energy, low-cost technology of the future.
Another entirely new genre of kite emerged with the filing of a patent in 1950 for what has become known as the Allison or Scott sled. The conception of this kite was the work of William M. Allison of Dayton, Ohio, whose patent, because of possible conflict with the pending patent for the Rogallo Flexible kite, was not issued until 1956. Basically Allison's invention was a semi-rigid canopy kite, supported only in its longitudinal plane, relying upon the wind to give lateral support to the structure by holding its canopy open. The bridle, being attached to the lateral extremities, holds these down to form keels, lending the kite its remarkable lateral stability. Allison's patent specification shows this early model, classified also as a flexible kite, as having three spires supporting a tapering non-vented cover.
The Allison sled appears to have languished in this form until 1964, when Frank Scott, also of Dayton, introduced a modified version of the origins], sporting a vent in its lower half, with its sides no longer tapering towards the trailing edge, but parallel. In this form it is an extremely efferent and lively flyer, capable of thermal soaring at a high angle, but also prone to losing its shape and folding up when either the wind drops, or it is struck by a sharp side wind. Because of this characteristic, it becomes particularly necessary to fly the sled on a taut line, in order that its form can quickly be restored by working the line.
The most recent innovation in the history of the form of the kite is the paraffin, a totally original concept in kite design invented by Domino C. Jabbers of Boca Raton, Florida.
Jalbert has spent a lifetime dedicated to employing the resources of the wind, either adapting and developing existing methods or inventing new ones. Like Rogallo, Jabbers feels that form should follow wind sow, and one of his earlier inventions, a multi-cellular parachute featuring a multiplication of centre-of-efforts, utilized wind force to a considerably greater degree than the standard canopy configuration, with its single centre-of-effort. Jabbers, finding the general shape of the conventional parachute to be inefficient, owing to its considerable air spoilage, set about designing one capable of retaining a greater volume of air, giving more buoyancy and a generally more stable and softer descent. In addition to this, the parachute was fitted with a double keel for increased manoeuvrability and stability. Jabbers devised various ingenious inventions, through his remarkable ability to apply the forces of the wind, and his love of sailing brought about a highly efferent nautical ventilator capable of 'finding' a breeze, regardless of its direction, and deflecting it below decks. His use of multi-cellular surfaces also helped him develop a highly reinforced spinnaker for racing yachts, each cell working virtually independently from the others, gaining its strength, as Jabbers explains, in much the same way that a multi-paned window is stronger than a large uninterrupted sheet of glass.
Known as the Super-Chute, Jalbert's spinnaker also gives extra buoyancy to the bows of the yacht, considerably reducing the drag factor of the hull. For Byrd's Antarctic expeditions he designed a 'blimp' for lifting aerials. Being something of a cross between a kite and a balloon it was named the Kytoon, and was basically an aeroform balloon, bearing rigid lifting and stabilizing surfaces. While the
stabilizers were capable of keeping the Kytoon headed into the wind, the wing surfaces ensured a good lift, enabling it to be accurately moored over its anchorage, rising into the wind rather than being blown towards the ground as a normal balloon might. Because of its comparatively high degree of controllability, large versions of Jalbert's original Kytoon are still used in the Canadian timber industry, where they are employed to lift logs from otherwise inaccessible areas.
In 19631inspired by the wing section of his aeroplane, Jabbert hit upon the idea of making a lifting surface in the shape of a rigid low-speed wing, made entirely from fabric, maintaining its form not with weighty rigid structures but entirely by the action of the wind entering openings in its leading edge, setting up internal pressure. The wing is divided by a series of fabric aerofoil-shaped farmers called ribs, or risers, which retain its critical aerofoil shape in sight. Lateral stability is achieved by a system of triangular ventral fins, or flares, sewn to the face, or bottom surface of the kite. These generals are held in shape by a system of shroud lines, basically a multi-legged bridle, from which the paraffin is flown.
A truly generic kite, the paraffin is the product of an amalgamation of Jalbert's prime preoccupations. Incorporating balloon, parachute, aerofoil and kite features,
it is the lightest, most efferent and economical non-mechanized lifting surface yet devised. Employing the principle known as ram-air inaction the paraffin is the realization of the proverbial sky hook.
A further refinement of this basic idea was the inclusion of an automatic ventilator, or mutter valve, sewn into the face of the centre cells. This ensures that the pressure within the cells is never great enough to distort their shape, adversely affecting the efficiency of the kite. The valve is simply a rectangle of nylon mesh, set into the belly of the kite. A corresponding air-opaque flap is fitted inside the cell, being sewn at the leading edge only. Consequently as the air pressure within the cell builds up to a point where it is greater than that of the surrounding air, so the Oap is blown forward, releasing the excess pressure, restoring the cell to its maximum operational form. The mutter valve principle is further extended in the parceled - a close relative of the paraffin - which also incorporates the valve into the leading edge intakes of the wing, ensuring that, in the event of a drop in wind velocity, the pressure within the cellos retained, and thus preventing the kite from losing its essential form.
The military application of the paraffin is considerable. As a means of lifting payloads its full potential has not yet been realized, while used as a parachute it enables a pilot or paratrooper to fly distances of up to five times his ejection
altitude, while performing remarkable evasion tactics far beyond the limits of a conventional parachute. The flyer is also capable of soft, controlled landings in far stronger winds than is normally considered possible, simply by turning his 'chute into the wind immediately prior to contact.
J. G. Hagedoorn, professor of geophysics at the University of Leiden, is currently developing a further application of the paraffin. Working towards a more efferent - and probably ultimate - means of sailing, it is Hagedoorn's eventual goal to dispense with the hull of the yacht altogether, seeing it as an inefficient and drag-producing impediment. Basically the 'aquaviator' is suspended above the sea from a vast paraffin, while from his harness is suspended a highly developed version of the paravane, the under-water kite used in mine-sweeping. By judicious control of both his air and his water kite, he will skim across the surface of the water, taking advantage of absolute minimal drag and maximal efficiency in both elements.
Bibliography of Kite History