Saturday, 22 December 2012

Evolution of dual-line kites

It won't be a surprise to those of you who have read most of my blog posts, that, besides flying kites, I'm also interested in the history of kites and kite-flying. One aspect of kite history I'm especially interested in is the origin and spread of dual-line kites. As I'm an evolutionary biologist in real life, it's second nature for me to 'see' evolutionary trees, so I've put together the information I've collected so far on early dual-line kites in such an 'evolutionary tree'.

Most of you will probably be familiar with the Peter Powell Stunter, which really popularised dual-line kite-flying in the early 1970s, but things were happening before that! For instance, the Rogallo Wing was invented in the 1940s, and the vast majority of present-day dual-line sport kites can be traced back to this kite. The 1940s also saw the Target kites, invented and designed by Paul Garber. And in the 1930s, a rather strange dual-line box kite, called the Air-o-bian, briefly caused a sensation. Going even further back in time, the late 19th century saw several rescue kites, controlled by two lines. 

Because of my interest in these early dual-line kites, I have built reconstructions of Francis Rogallo's Flexikite, and of J Woodbridge Davis' Rescue Star (more on that kite, including a video of it flying, here):

For the new year, I am going to keep my eyes open for early dual-line kites, and especially for those which could be flown in a pair routine. I already talked about my project to build a pair of Target kites, and about trying to find a second Dunford Flying Machine. Two Trlby triple stacks would also work great in a pair routine, and how about a pair of Gayla Baby Bats, converted to dual-line flying as suggested by Richard Radcliffe in 1978? Also, I wouldn't say no to a pair of Cambridge Combat kites, or even to a single one.

We'll see how far I get in this; watch this space in 2013!


  1. Love the evolutionary tree! Amazing how deep into kite flying one can go - so many branches! Good luck with your new year's projects!

  2. This tree is very interesting! I had a couple of Cambridge Combat kites back in the 70s when everyone was mad on Peter Powells. The Cambridge was far more manoeuverable and responsive. The design of the kite with the plastic "nose tube" give it a soft leading edge with no hard point and meant it was very resilient to crashing and also much safer if it hit a person or a dog!

    I'd love to find one again as I got rid of mine decades ago :(

    1. Cambridge Combat is the only one of the iconic 'early dualies' which I've (so far) never seen for sale on eBay or a kite forum. But I'll keep looking!

  3. What on Earth is a rescue kite?!