The Tukkal - A 'Heavy Duty' Fighter Kite

Kite fighting is done in many countries around the globe. Countries most noted for fighting kites using line cutting techniques to determine a winner are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan in central Asia and the sub-continent, as well as Vietnam, Korea, Thailand in east Asia, and Brazil in South America.

Most fighter kites are light and nimble. They race and dart across the sky in the hands of skilled pilots seeking to catch another fighter kite in a precarious position and cut the flying line of the opponent. There are several varieties of these light and fast fighter kites that are flown in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Brazil, Japan, and Korea.

The name Tukkal means  "lantern" because the kite originally was built to lift lanterns into the night sky. These big, flat fighters were designed with lifting a load in mind.

The Tukal is perhaps the heaviest of all fighter kites. It is a heavier pulling kite and as such usually requires a heavier flying line to withstand the greater pull that it generates in flight. As such, the Tukal is not typically as nimble as other fighter kites. It is, however, this characteristic that helps the Tukal to prevail in many battles. It's strong pull puts a great deal of tension on the flying line and that helps it to quickly cut through the line of opposing kites in battle. Getting into a cutting position, depends on the skill of the flyer who must compensate for the lack of agility of this kite by being ever vigilant as to its position in the battle.

Tukkal frame of shaped bamboo. Shown with a plywood form used for shaping the frame. From: Stan Keller, Kite Plan Base. Framed with three heat-shaped bows, a spine and string supports, the Tukal is immediately heavier than the typical fighter kite composed of a spine and a single, slender bow. The sail material is coloured tissue paper which also adorns the lighter faster fighter kites.

A plan for a Tukkal can be found at the Kite Plan Base website. For convenience, a copy from Stan Kellar's plans can be found here.

[Credits:  Information research from Stan Keller at Kite Plan Base and Pelham, David. The Penguin Book of Kites.Penguin Books Ltd., Middlesex, England. Page 12.]


Credit: Photo of Tukkal - by G. Graves from his Flckr collection.



Posted on Monday, July 31, 2017 at 12:41PM by Registered CommenterHifliercanada | CommentsPost a Comment

Soaring Kites at Blue Hill Test Marconi-type Wireless Signals -1899

During August of 1899 Lawrence Rotch, meteorologist and founder of the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory in Milton, a suburb of Boston, carried out some cutting edge experiments with wireless signalling. This experimentation was conducted during what were the very early stages of wireless signalling when there were still some developmental challenges being worked out in the process of wireless messaging.

The primary developers of wireless communication technology were Guglielmo Marconi and Karl Ferdinand Braun. Marconi, the famous Italian inventor, was working on his technology primarily out of Great Britain while Braun was focusing his work within his native Germany. The competing leaders in this new technology were stirring up public interest through newspaper accounts of their progress. Scientific practitioners in many fields were keenly aware of the developing technology and were seeking to understand and employ it as well.

Lawrence Rotch, a pioneer in meteorological science, had founded the Blue Hill Observatory in 1884. Blue Hill "... was the scene of many of the first scientific measurements of upper atmosphere weather conditions, using kites to carry weather instruments aloft. Knowledge of wind velocities, air temperature and relative humidity at various levels came into use as vital elements in weather prediction due to techniques developed at this site. By 1895 the observatory was the source of weather forecasts of remarkable accuracy. On October 8, 1896, a record of 8740 feet was achieved for a weather kite."1

The kites of William Abner Eddy had been flown here in 1895 and many firsts and records were set with Eddy's kites. Soon thereafter the Observatory began to settle on the kites of Lawrence Hargrave as the predominant lifting tool for experiments.  Several modifications to the Hargrave design were carried our by W. H. Clayton of the Observatory staff and by late 1896 the Hargrave-Clayton hybrid kite was the one predominantly in use.

Rotch's experiment with wireless signalling involved sending up a kite with a copper wire antenna connected to the Blue Hill building and a Morse transmitter inside. From August 10-12, 1899 Rotch was successful in sending signals from the kite above Blue Hill to a receiving station on Mt. Chickatawbut, a distance of three miles away2.

Based on the success of the early tests, Rotch planned to increase the distance in future tests to attempt to reach a receiving station twelve miles away on the Harvard Memorial Tower in Cambridge.

Scientific interest in wireless signalling was very high in 1899. Newspapers in America, England and Europe were following the developments of Guglielmo Marconi and Ferdinand Braun (Germany) as they pushed forward the frontiers of the new technology.

Men of science and invention were watching carefully and anxiously wanted to learn more about wireless signals. Professor Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian Institution suggested to W.H. Clayton that perhaps Blue Hill with its natural elevation and infrastructure to support kite technology (power winches, heavy line, wire, and a vast array of kites of varying sizes and lifting capability) could be a place to test out some of the theories and work being done by Marconi in broadcasting wireless signals.

Clayton took the idea to Rotch and a series of experiments for August 1899 was explored. Rotch, assisted by his assistant, a Mr. Picard, worked with Professor Sabine of Harvard to devise the experiments and undertake the tests.

The staff reporter for the Boston Globe gave an excellent description of the wireless equipment that was used in the experiment. It provides insight into the early equipment and power supplies used in the infancy of wireless communcation technology. The description, when compared to notes about early equipment used by Marconi in his experiments in England, shows marked similarities to the Marconi devices, thus leading to the conclusion that published reports of Marconi's work were a guide to the Blue Hill experiments. It is unlikely that Rotch would have received information about the equipment directly from Marconi since patent applications and the necessity of keeping a leading edge in the development of the new technology would have prevented any disclosure to portential rivals.

Rotch and Picard encountered one of the common distractors of early wireless telegraphy in their experiments: that of static electricity. He noted to the Globe reporter that he was hopeful that Prof. Sabine of Harvard would be able to help solve the distraction of static to the messaging system that they were working on. Later in the development of wireless systems, Marconi and Braun would learn to tune their frequency transmission and reception in a manner that would filter out most of the static distraction from the wide band frequencies that were then in use.

On December 12, 1901 Guglielmo Marconi sent a wireless signal across the Atlantic Ocean from a transmitting station in Poldhu, Cornwall to an antenna suspended from a kite at Signal Hill, St. Johns, Newfoundland. Long distance wireless transmission capability was proven; the era of wireless communication was now proven and only needed refinement for widespread use.








1. Wikipedia contributors, "Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 31, 2014).

2. "Blue Hill's Wireless Messages." The Boston Globe, Boston MA. Aug. 13, 1899. Page 17.


Using large Hargrave kites,

Posted on Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 09:52AM by Registered CommenterHifliercanada | CommentsPost a Comment

Brazilian Kites Highlighted During 2014 World Cup 

As the world's focus turned to Brazil in June and July of 2014 for the World Cup, attention was also brought to everyday life in Brazil.

The New York Times published regular feature stories on aspects of life in Brazil. Often these stories showed the wide discrepancy of living conditions in the diverse economic conditions of the nation's largest cities.

In a July 15, 2014 article entitled Kite Fight, correspondent Guillerme Tensol wrote about the passion that young Brazilians have for making, flying and fighting kites over the rooftops of their homes.

"After futebol, kite fighting is one of Brazil’s most popular sports. In the crowded urban favelas, flying a kite (or pipa) is more than a leisurely escape from harsh living conditions; it’s also a form of battle, with the sky an arena."

The Brazillian Pipa (kite) resembles a typical Indian fighter kite, or patang,  in both shape and general dimensions. The frame is also similar to that of an Indian fighter kite.

Besides making the kites themselves, the young kite builders pound glass shards into a fine powder, wax their line and add the powdered glass to coat it. The complete kite fighting system is totally manufactured by the young builders using either paper or plastic shopping bags for the kite sails. For kite line reels a tin can is used to carefully wind the fighting line when the kite is not in flight.  All materials are easily gathered from repurposed items that are readily or cheaply available.

In addition to the brief article in The Times, a wonderful video documentary was produced about the Pipa, the kite fighting culture, and the skilled young artisans who craft their own kites.

The video (linked here for viewing) is a compelling overview of life in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest economically depressed community.

The simple beauty of kite construction and the skill of the kite fighters is beautifully captured in the video collaboration between the sports magazine Victory and the Brazilian production company Mosquito Project.


Note: See references to this article for attribution to source materials used. Copyright is held by The New York Times. The use of the materials in this post is intended to bring the information to a wider audience and educate readers about the use of kites in Brazil.




Posted on Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 07:51AM by Registered CommenterHifliercanada | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Ahmedabad India's Kite Festival Rules the Skies.

The Ahmedabad International Festival is considered by many kiters to be the world's largest annual kite flying event.

Located in the state of Gujarat, Ahmedabad has a hot semi-arid climate with marginally less rain than required for a tropical savanna climate. There are three main seasons: summer, monsoon and winter. Aside from the monsoon season, the climate is extremely dry with mean monthly temperatures ranging from 20 degrees to 33 degrees Celsius throughout the year. January is the coolest month and the cultural festival of Uttarayana held on January 14-15 celebrates the movement of the sun to the north.

Patangs made and sold by local youth. Photo by Meena Kadri The Uttarayan festival traditionally features mass kite flying across the city. Young and old take their colourful patangs (kites) made from tissue paper and split bamboo  and battle for supremacy above the streets of the city.

A thin cotton or hemp line is coated with a mixture of finely crushed glass and rice glue. In recent years, synthetic line has been coated with a variety of abrasives and stronger glue. Some instances of metallic lines have been reported in recent years.

The coated lines permit skilful fliers to cut one another's kites out of the sky. However, the fallen lines from cut kites can cause much harm to people who encounter them as they ride bicycles or motorcycles through the city streets.

The 2014 Ahmedabad Kite Festival has been beautifully captured in a video that shows the transition of the kite flying from daytime through to night. Traditional kite battles are replaced when darkens arrives by thousands of Chinese lantern balloons rising into the sky. This is one of the world's most sensational kiting events!



Posted on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 07:13AM by Registered CommenterHifliercanada | CommentsPost a Comment

Time Flies!

As a young boy I can remember my Dad saying: "The older you get, the faster time goes by." At the time, I thought that was a ridiculous statement; surely time was a constant and moved at it's own regular pace. Usually my Dad was a wise old guy, but this statement always seemed to be incongruous when compared with his usual practical wisdom.

Now, after the passage of many years, I too recognize the phenomenon of time seeming to speed up; to go by more quickly.  There are occasions when something occurs and one is suddenly reminded that time has passed by so swiftly.

Recently I was reflecting on the emergence of the Internet and web-based information on the modern kiting scene. In 1990 when commercial Internet services were becoming common place, a series of modest news groups began to link kiters from diverse regions in conversations about kites and kiting.

To me, a person with a then rather obscure hobby of building and flying kites, this was like striking gold. Suddenly there was a location where one could ask questions, find answers and learn about others in the hobby. I learned of kite clubs and kite festivals and began to travel to see some of the kites I was hearing about on the Internet. Grand Haven, MI; Wildwood, NJ; Ocean City, MD; Cleveland, OH - all places with established festivals suddenly became destinations for a new kind of family travel.

By 1998 energetic and visionary kiters were talking about the need for an on-line kite magazine. The gold standard of print magazines, Kitelines, was struggling to put out editions in a regular and timely sequence. By 1996 there was discussion that perhaps there was an opportunity that this new found synergy of kiters conversing on-line could turn into an on-line magazine.

By 1998 Mike Gillard of Columbus, OH turned that talk into action. Founding Kitelife, the online journal of kiting in April, 1998, Mike created a respected gathering place for kite information and the ongoing record of the development of kites and kiting that continues to this day under the direction of his former kite flying team mate, John Barressi (well known founder of the performance kite team iQuad).1

Mike Gillard (right), John Barresi (center) and Vern Balodis (left) flying as Team Captain Eddie's Flying Circus at Grand Haven, MI (2002)












While searching out a bit of kite information I turned to the KiteLife site on the Internet and suddenly it occurred to me again: -time has certainly marched on, and very swiftly.

I came across a series of entries in the early editions of KiteLife that I had authored or that featured photos that I was tagged in. Suddenly 1998 was back before me; could it really be that a decade and a half had slipped by in a blink? How was it that time had moved so quickly. In some ways the stories and images were just like they had happened, seconds ago; in other ways there were clear signs that time had relentlessly rolled on. Perhaps it is true: "The older you get, the faster time goes by."

I have, for the sake of nostalgia, pulled a couple of stories from the early era of KiteLife into this blog posting. Reminisence is good and it brings a flood of memories of times, places and people that mean so much to us and make us who we are.  I just thought that I would share some of them with you.


1 Mike Gillard passed away on Feb. 28, 2006. The direction of KiteLife was taken over by John Barresi after Mike's death. It continues today as the premier on-line kiting journal. Ref:

Posted on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 06:36AM by Registered CommenterHifliercanada | CommentsPost a Comment
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