Kite lines appear to have been a major contributing factor in the crash of a Phillipine Air Force UH-1 helicopter in Lapu-Lapu City in the central Phillipines on Saturday afternoon, April 28, 2007. Nine people died in the horrific accident and several others were injured according to Phillipine press and military reports. Two of the deceased were air crew members while the remaining seven were civilians struck when the helicopter lost flight stability and crashed into the street.
According to eye witness reports, as the helicopter flew over a market place it briefly came into contact with the nylon lines of three kites flying in the area. One of the kites was believed to be a poster of a candidate in an upcoming election.
AHN Global News Agency's correspondent Komfie Manalo reported the following in his story filed on Sunday, April 29, 2007:
"Lt. Gen. Horacio Tolentin, commanding general of the PAF, said that investigators found strands of nylon strings two millimetres in diamere entangled with the rotor system of the downed aircraft."
Although it was reported that the engine of the helicopter continued to run until the crash landing, it appeared as though the rotors had stopped moving.
General Tolentin also was quoted as saying that:
"there were no indications of an error or negligence by the pilot. The engine did not stop but witnesses said the rotor had stopped rotating as the helicopter dropped, he said.
He said the strands of nylon string found on the rotor system reinforced the investigators' theory that the accident was caused by a kite that was entangled with the helicopter's rotor.
He said investigators learned that at least three kites were being flown close to the Philippine Air Force base on Mactan Island at the time when the helicopter crashed as it was preparing to land."
In North America, flying kites near airports is strictly regulated by government agencies. In the United States the regulations are established and enforced by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). In Canada the regulations are established and enforced by Transport Canada. The rules in both nations cover the proximity to an air field and the height at which kites can be flown.
This tragic story reminds kiters to be responsible with their kite line and kites in the air. Safe flying practices should be maintained at all times and kites should constantly be monitored to ensure that there is no danger of breaking away.
Just a little over a year ago, on April 8, 2006, I also posted an entry encouraging kiters to be cautious with their kite line. In that story, Breakaway Kites Can Pose Major Safety Hazard, I outlined some examples of why kiters need to respect the strength of their kites and kite lines at all times.
Additional attention has been focused on Noor Agha, the talented kite maker of Kabul, who was selected to build kites for the upcoming movie version of The Kite Runner.
In addition to making kites for the movie, Agha was asked to train the two young actors, who play principal characters from Khaled Hosseini's best seller, to fly kites for the movie. The skilful flying and fighting of kites in the tradition of Afghanistan is a key part of the story line.
Raju Gopalakrishnan. a reporter for the Reuters News Agency, tracked Noor Agha down in his home on the outskirts of Kabul. Noor Agha now lives on the only vacant land he could find: -the graveyard of the district he was born in. He has made a home and location for his kite making business along with his two wives and ten children.
An article in Gulfnews.com based on Raju Gopalakrishnan's reporting contains two excellent photographs of Noor Agha and his kites.
An earlier entry in my blog on this topic outlines some additional information on Noor Agha and his role in providing kites for the movie The Kite Runner.
Kabul's skies are once more filled with darting kites since the ban on kite flying imposed by the Taliban regime was lifted when a new government came to office in late 2001.
Skilled kite maker Noor Agha is again plying his trade and selling kites to make a living. In fact, business is so good that he has taught all of his wives to make kites and is training his six year old daughter to do so as well.
Noor Agha's traditional Afghan kites are so authentic and precise that they were selected for use in the filming of the movie version of Khaled Hosseini's best selling novel, The Kite Runner. (See entry on The Kite Runner movie.) His kites were shipped in large quantity to China where the movie was filmed . The kites will be seen by millions of people around the world on the big screen.
Time Magazine reports:
Agha's factory is his living room, where he has put his two wives and 11 children to work, cutting, shaping and gluing the intricate tissue-paper mosaics that make his kites stand out for their beauty and superior handling. The secret is in the glue, he says, holding up a pot of evil-smelling green paste. "No one knows my recipe for making a glue that stays perfectly flat when it dries, without rippling the tissue paper," he says. Business is so good these days that Agha has had to teach his wives how to make kites. He proudly calls one of them "the second best kite maker in Kabul," although he insists that she will never be as good as he is. "I have 45 years' experience. She'll never be able to catch up." His 6-year-old daughter may have a better chance. Already she is making her own kites to sell to neighborhood children at one afghani (2¢) apiece.
Noor Agha had to take his business underground in order to make kites during the Taliban days, but now his work can be sold openly.
'Kabul has changed a lot compared with how it was in the Taliban time. During their regime, if a child was even caught flying a (cheap) plastic kite, his father would be thrown in jail,' he said.'But fortunately now, we live like kings. We can do whatever we want. We can fly kites wherever we want. We can enjoy our hobbies."
Not only does Noor Agha craft traditional kites to a level of excellence, he still flies them once a week with other kite fliers. He continues to experience the sheer joy of controlling a darting kite and battling with opponents for supremacy in the skies. Agha concludes: "Making kites is my job," he says. "Fighting them is my disease." 
1. TIME Magazine (On-line) Friday, February 23, 2007
2. Kite industry thriving in Afghanistan. Monday, November 13, 2006
3. TIME Magazine (On-line) Friday, February 23, 2007
Since the inception of the ban on kite flying by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2005, there has been great confusion over kite flying, kite making and the sale of kites and line in Pakistan.
Kite flying is a very popular and culturally embedded tradition in Pakistan, especially during Basant, the festival that welcomes the coming of Spring to the nation. Basant is celebrated by people of all religions: Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians.
Historically there have been a great many injuries and even deaths attributed to kite flying. Kite fliers typically take to the roof tops in the crowded cities and some have fallen from their perch to the streets below. To show off kite flying skills, participants try to cut each other's kite from the sky. To enhance the ability to cut through an opponent's kite string, glass coated line is often used. In recent years a type of metallic coating has been applied to the kite line to increase the cutting property. This metallic line has frequently shorted power lines and caused electrical outages.
One of the most significant dangers of the coated line occurs when it drops into the street and is snagged across trees or power poles. Motor scooter riders are then in particular danger of being cut on the neck and arms by the sharp line. Several deaths have occurred in this way. In addition, there is much carnage to the bird population during this period of kite flying.
All of this led to the ban on kite flying by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2005. However, the tens of thousands of kite flyers that continued flying in spite of the ban made an enforcement nightmare for the police. In addition, the ban specified that kite makers and line makers were subject to banishment as well. This cut into the livelihood of many and added severe economic deprivation to the kite makers.
So, in 2006 some regulations were developed around the original kite flying ban to ensure that kite makers could be licensed and controlled and to permit kite flying under certain safety regulations for a limited number of days during the festival. This led to continued confusion and even more headaches for the enforcement authorities. In 2006 the number of deaths and injuries were reduced but not eliminated under the new regulations.
Once again this year, confusion reigns over the issue of making, selling and flying kites in the skies over the major cities of Pakistan. It is difficult to legislate an end to a practice that is deeply embedded in the culture of a nation. Kite flying is not likely to disappear so additional education on safe practices will definitely be needed. For certain, metallic coated line needs to be banned.
One of the practical solutions to the safety issue for motor scooter riders in urban areas was the development of "kite-string rods" which attach to the bikes to ensure that sharp kite lines are deflected up and over the riders and their passengers.
Speaking at a meeting of All-Pakistan Kite Dealers-Manufacturers Association, the District coordination officer (DCO), Muhammad Ijaz said on February 1, 2007 that all union council nazims would provide safety kite-string rods to people who had motorcycles registered under their names. Traffic police would take action against people not using helmets and rods, he added. (Daily Times of Pakistan)
Other regulations have been developed to define the size of kites that can be produced and marketed by the licensed kite makers and vendors. For example, a butterfly kite’s maximum span would be 32 inches and no kite would be permitted to exceed a span of 40 inches. Another regulation ensures that kites in each region could only be manufactured using local materials. Materials from other cities would require the permission of the district environment officer. This latter regulation was not seen as a safety regulation, but rather was introduced to ensure that the local kite economy which was being hit hard by the rules would remain viable. The regulation was intended to discourage the importing of kites from other nations and areas.
The culture of kites in Pakistan is so embedded into the national psyche that it is hoped that these regulations will help to promote safe kite flying while still encouraging the continuance of the unique relationship of kites and kite fighting skills to the people of Pakistan.
Khaled Hosseini's runaway best seller, The Kite Runner (Riverhead Publishing- 2003-06-02 - ISBN: 1573222453) rose to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List and has generated sustained reader interest over several years.
It is an epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes the reader from the final days of the monarchy in Afghanistan to the control and atrocities of the Taliban regime. It is an unforgettable story of coming of age, self discovery, betrayal and redemption that took millions of readers around the world into a different culture through a dramatic tale.
The main characters are Amir and his good friend Hassan who grow up together until a tragic event causes Amir to turn his back on his friend and leave him to suffer at the hands of a violent street gang. At the time of the event, Amir has just concluded a successful battle with his kite for supremacy of the neighborhood skies during an Afghan festival. Hassan, as always streaks away to retrieve the kites cut during the battle to bring them back for Amir. It is during this "kite running" that Hassan is cornered by the gang and Amir turns away from his friend. The story of the painful aftermath for Amir, Hassan is wonderfully told by Khaled Hosseini in his first novel. The insights into Afghan culture and life are deep and profound. They put a human face on the upheaval and suffering that has befallen the central Asian nation over the past years.
Now, Paramount Vantage and Director Marc Forster, backed by Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks, are bringing The Kite Runner to the silver screen this fall. Scheduled for release November 2, 2007, the movie has already completed shooting and has moved to the post-production phase.
For kite fliers the story has additional appeal in that it focuses on the kite battles that exemplify the kite flying skill typically found in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The tradition of using darting fighter kites flown on line coated with ground glass is strong in these nations and continues to this day.
Due to the difficulty and danger of conditions in Afghanistan, the production team sought alternative locations for filming. Kashgar, China was selected for its close resemblance to Afghanistan. Here, in Muslim neighborhoods, that are very similar to pre-war Kabul in the 1970's, the movie has been given visual authenticity.
The producers and director have worked hard to provide complete authenticity to the entire production. The streets are full of bearded men in traditional garb and of women wearing burkhas. The cast was selected for both their ability to act and to speak in "Dari", the Persian language spoken in Afghanistan. The entire dialogue is in the language and dialect of Afghanistan. This means that English speaking audiences will be following the story in sub-titles. Director Forster is confident that the story will grip movie audiences even though they will have to expend the effort to read and follow the on-screen action simultaneously.
Khaled Hosseini (right) was present throughout most of the filming and worked directly with Marc Forster left) and the actors to help interpret the story that is so important to him.
Kekiria Ebrihimi, age eleven at the time of the filming, plays the role of Amir. Ahmad Khan Mahmiidzada, age ten, plays the role of Amir's faithful friend, the servant boy, Hassan. The role of Amir's father, Baba, is played by 59 year old Iranian actor Homayoun Ershadi. Kahlid Abdallah, a British actor with Egyptian heritage, plays the role of the adult Amir.
The November 2, 2007 screening date is eagerly awaited by fans of this great novel and by kite fliers who will be thrilled to see Afghan style kite fighting take a central part in the movie.
For kiters who are movie aficionados, this is not the first time that Director Marc Forster has used kites in his movies. In the movie Finding Neverland, Forster directed Johnny Depp, Kate Winslett and some talented young actors in the story of J. M. Barry, the author of Peter Pan. An English arch top kite was prominently featured in a park scene within this movie. (See: Kites in the Movie "Finding Neverland".)