There has been much discussion about the effects of the kite flying ban imposed in 2005 in Pakistan to curtail the sale and flying of kites for the spring Basant festival.
The ban was supposedly implemented to reduce the number of fatalities and the damage caused by thousands of kites flown during the Basant festival. There can be no doubt that the glass and chemical coated string did cause a good deal of damage and injury to some citizens and birds. When taut, the coated kite string can cut flesh and has been documented to be the cause of serious injury and even death each year.
In addition, some segments of the population saw the kites and kite flying aspects of Basant as too secular and against more traditional religious beliefs and customs.
So, in 2005 the Pakistan government passed a law banning the sale of the kites and kite line during the festival. This severly hampered the livelihood of kite makers and vendors. In addition, the ban also affected the sights and flavour of the Basant festival. Formerly the skies were filled with colourful battling kites by the hundreds and thousands, Today, only a few daring kiters send their kites soaring to the skies.
It is feared by some that the rich tradition of Pakistani kite making and flying will be lost over the coming years.
In March of 2010 the English language branch of the AlJazeera Network examined the current kite flying situation during Basant in Pakistan.
The history of kites and kite flying in Pakistan has a long and rich history. One can only hope that the skills of kite making and kite flying will not be lost over the coming years.
For additional background on the kites of Pakistan and their role in the festival of Basant, see my earlier article entitled: Kites in Pakistan: the kites of Basant in Lahore, Pakistan.
On February 6, 2010 a group of interested kite enthusiasts gathered at Discovery Landing, on the Lake Ontario shoreline in Burlington, Ontario, to immerse themselves in day dedicated to the exploration of kite history. This was the first ever Kite History Symposium held in eastern North America.
The event was sponsored and organized by the Canadian Kite Museum under the direction of George Paisiovich, Museum Founder and Director.
The program for the day featured:
- a two hour informal morning gathering of the registered kiters examining historic kite artefacts, photographs and print materials;
- a welcome to the Kite History Symposium by George Paisiovich in which he outlined his goal of providing a periodic forum for the discussion and advancement of knowledge of kite history;
- a one hour presentation by Bob White of Port Colborne, ON about the kites of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. This preliminary report on research in progress brought participants up to date on the work being done to carefully detail the step by step progress made by Dr. Bell on his path to understand the principles of flight and to get a person into the air.
- a presentation by Meg Albers of Buffalo, NY on the kite exploits of Homan Walsh whose kite helped to build a bridge across the Niagara River in 1848. Meg also revealed some documents she has received that prove the use of kites during the American Civil War. She continues her research into kites in the Civil War era.
- a two hour presentation by Thom Shanken of Waterloo, NY about his research into the world's oldest kite currently located at the Drachen Foundation in Seattle, WA. Thom Shanken, an expert in 16th century kites, was invited by the Drachen Foundation to examine the kite and make a detailed analysis of this amazing historical find. Thom presented slides and an interesting description of his work with the kite. Following this, a replica of the kite was constructed by the participants. The replica is detailed in the slide show below. The replica is now part of the collection of the Canadian Kite History Museum.
At the end of the day, the participants gathered for an informal evening meal and conversation about the events of the day.
A terrific slide show of the Kite History Symposium was prepared by Ted Shaw of the Great Lakes Kitefliers in Western New York state. My appreciation is extended to Ted for allowing me to share his photos of the event here.
The next Kite History Symposium sponsored by the Canadian Kite Museum will be held in October 2010. As details are announced I will provide a link to the information here.
Appreciation is extended to George Paisiovich for his outstanding work in support of the preservation of kite history and efforts to foster and disseminate knowledge of current kite history research work that is underway.
Carol and Wayne Campbell are owners of the Hila Outdoor Centre on the Ottawa River in Ontario, Canada. This twelve acre facility recently celebrated 25 years of science and nature education. The Hila Outdoor Centre has an excellent reputation for strong educational programs in the sciences.
One of the most innovative aspects of the Hila Centre's work is the outreach and followup program that Carol and Wayne employ using videos to support teachers, parents and students in learning.
Their video on making a kite is one of the best, short educational videos to assist teachers with some of the principles of kite flight. In addition, the step by step procedure for making a 'sled kite' is a sure way to achieve success with a classroom program in kite building. The kite that the Hila Outdoor Centre video features is the 'sled' kite. It is a simple to make, yet sure to fly kite that is excellent for educational purposes.
Carol and Wayne's work was featured in a recent technology in education blog on the prestigious Edutopia website.
If you need additional information about using kites in the classroom, please contact me.
Blending traditional Chinese kitemaking skills and kite forms with recycled materials, Chinese kitemaker Han Fushan is making some very unique kites.
The traditional materials for Chinese kites range from silk and rice paper to fiber made from plants. Split bamboo, which is very flexible, is used for the framing. These materials have been the basis for Chinese kites for hundreds of years.
However, Han Fushan is adding a new element to the process: recycled plastic bags in many colours to replace the more expensive silk and rice paper.
In a feature story in the November 8, 2009 edition of New Tang Dynasty Television, Han Fushan's kiite making is shown with video of the kite maker and his wonderful creations.
Formerly a construction engineer who worked with architectural drawings, Han turned his skills into a new hobby, kite making, in 2000. To date he has created more than 600 original kites which he flies regularly in a park near his home.
Han's friends are saving bags for him and look forward to viewing his new creations on his daily morning outing in the park. He has gathered a regular following of spectators who sometimes assist him in launching his creations.
Han is a true kite artist and his kites, as shown in the video story on New Tang Dynasty Television, are creative, colourful and noteworthy.
The joy of kite making is evident in the work and the smile of Han Fushan.
Francis Melvin Rogallo, one of the pioneers of kiting, creator of the innovative Rogallo flexible kite, and acknowledged father of the sport of Hang Gliding died in Southern Shores, North Carolina on Sept. 1, 2009.
Mr. Rogallo was born on Jan 27, 1912. He was 97 at the time of his death. He was predeacesed by his wife Gertrude on January 28, 2008.
Francis Rogallo began his career as an engineer with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1936. He was an aeronautical engineering graduate of Stanford University (class of 1935).
While working at the NACA1 Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, in the late 1940s, Rogallo developed a concept of an aircraft wing made as a parachute-like flexible structure that would open and maintain its shape by wind pressure. With the help of his wife Gertrude, he made small models that were tested in a rudimentary wind tunnel at their home.
After extensive experimentation and design evolution, he designed the first Rogallo wing which was sewn into a prototype by Gertrude from ordinary kitchen curtain material. The cloth wing was tested on August 15, 1948, and it worked. A patent application was filed on November 23, 1948. On March 20, 1951, Francis and Gertrude were granted a patent (US#2,546,078) for the design of the Rogallo wing.
Rogallo often referred to his invention as the "Parawing", but it also came to be known as the Rogallo Wing and the flexible wing.
Writing in Ford Times magazine, March 1951 edition, Rogallo said:
"If we could combine the shape of the supersonic airplane with the unbreakable structure of the parachute we would have a very fine kite indeed. But, for such a kite to fly, it must posess two kinds of stability - stability of shape and stability of position. If we could provide these, the rest would be easy.
We started by making small paper kites and dropping them as gliders. Then we attached threads to them at various points and towed them about the living room. When we found a promising configuration, we built a larger model of cloth and took it to an open field on the shore of Hamption Roads for a trial. If it didn't fly we thought of a way to improve it; so home we went to make the modfications and then back for another trial.
We did our kite research on Saturdays and Sundays when the weather permitted, and on those days trips to the flying grounds were frequent. Our efforts were not in vain, for after many attempts we succeeded in making one of our kites fly. After that taste of success, weekends were not enough. In order to pursue our experiments at night we installed a thirty-six inch fan in our home so that we could test kites in the doorway between two rooms. Many shapes and materials were tested in our wind tunnel and in flight until we had developed a thoroughly satisfactory model."2
Later, in the same article, Rogallo speculated on the future of his flexible wing by saying:
"Imagine the thrill of carrying such a glider in your knapsack to the top of a hill or mountain and then unfurling it and gliding down into the valley."2
His pondering about the flexible wing was spot on. By the early 1970's sports enthusiasts would add some minor framing and a person carrying harness to the Rogallo wing and the incredible sport of hang gliding was born. Hang gliding captured adventurous fans around the world. Today, hundreds of hang gliders soar off the sand dunes near Kitty Hawk NC very close to where the Rogallos perfected their flexible kite in the late 1940's.
In the early 1960's NASA began experimenting with the Rogallo system during the pioneering days of manned space exploration. NASA actually tested Rogallo wings with payloads up to 6000 pounds3 at altitudes as high as 200,000 feet and as fast as Mach 3 in order to evaluate them as recovery systems for used rocket stages.4 NASA considered using Rogallo's flexible wing as a recovery system for the two man Gemini capsules following their re-entry to the earth's atmosphere. However, the plan was eventually dropped in 1964 in favor of a triple configuration of more standard round parachutes.
The Rogallo flexible wing design was used in smaller sizes to create kites. Later, in larger scale it was used to lift individuals when towed behind a boat or a vehicle. Innovative individuals soon learned that launching a version of the wing with some rigid framing attached could be achieved by running down a hillside and the sport of hang gliding was created from a modification of the Rogallo wing.
Noted kite historian Tal Streeter leans toward the notion that the Rogallo wing assisted with the development of the modern delta kite5 that is a very popular kite form today.
It is clear that the invention of Francis and Gertrude Rogallo was an important milestone in aeronautic design. The creation of a self-inflating, flexible wing made up of two partial conic surfaces with both cones pointing forward was innovative. It stands today as an amazing achievement in aeronautical engineering.
The following YouTube video clip, originally posted by Canadian "Scare5", shows rare footage of Rogallo testing his flexible kite in an indoor setting. It goes on to show the impetus that the Rogallo flexible kite had on the burgeoning sport of hang gliding. The clip, ten minutes long is of an interview with Francis Rogallo, John Dickenson, and Bill Moyes in 1988. The original source for the clip is a DVD by the Sydney Hang Gliding Centre, http://hanglide.com.au .
Notes and References:
1. NACA (NationalAdvisory Committee for Aeronautics - March 3, 1915 to Sept. 30, 1958) was the predecessor organization to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration - formed Oct. 1, 1958).
2. "First Flexible Kite" by Francis Rogallo with photographs by Lawrence S. Williams. The Ford Times Magazine, March 1951. Published by the Ford Motor Company, Dearborn MI. Pages 25-29. The quotes are from pages 27-28.
3. Wm. C. Sleeman Jr., NASA-Langley Vehicle Concepts Section, in a letter submitted to Popular Science Magazine, Volume 200, No.5. May 1972, page 10.
5. Tal Streeter in "Drachen.Org - Journal -9 (page 3)"
- Photo of Francis Rogallo taken in 1987 for his induction into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame: Hugh Morton.
- Photographs from The Ford Times Magazine, March 1951 taken by Lawrence S. Williams. No further reproduction or distribution in digital or print form are permitted without the expressed written permission of the Ford Motor Company, Dearborn MI.
- Rogallo Photo Gallery at hangglidingspectacular.com
- Meg Robinson's article on Francis Rogallo (click on the Rogallo image at the right)
- The Drachen Foundation: "" by Ben Ruhe, Drachen Journal, Winter 2007-2008, pages 9-10.
- The Drachen Foundation: "The Flexible Happening." by Douwe Jan Joustra, Discourse, April 2009, pages 43-53.
- "How to Fly Without a Plane". Robert Zimmerman at americanheritage.com (Spring 1998, Volume 13 - Issue 4).
- "Father of Hang Gliding Has Died" (video) - WRAL.com -WRAL-TV, Raleigh-Durham NC. Sept. 3, 2009
- New York Times obituary (Sept. 4, 2009)
- "Father of Hang Gliding Remembered". on All Things Considered, NPR - National Public Radio. (Sept. 7, 2009). Audio recording. Bruce Weaver, a manager at Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School, is interviewed by program host Guy Raz about remembrances of Francis Rogallo.