Flying a Kite Can Be Fun
“THERE is something about building and flying your own kite that gets into the blood. The project carries you through planning, construction and control. You are architect, contractor and pilot in rapid succession. Start with sticks, paper and glue, a little string, add thought, work and a bit of exasperation; result—a kite, a glow of pride and the happy memory of a good afternoon’s flying. And the fun isn’t at all spoiled if the kite ends in a tree. It flew, and you made it. And best of all, you made it fly.”
This is how one kite-flying enthusiast describes this pastime. And many folks around the world, young and old, feel just as he does. On clear, windy days, depending on where you live, you might see evidence of their activities in the sky—colorful kites majestically soaring high in the sky.
If you live in Asia, you know that kites in flight are a common sight. In other places, they are rarely seen. But whenever you do see one aloft, you cannot help but wonder who is at the end of that string controlling the kite. Is it some chubby, red-haired, freckle-faced boy in sneakers and a striped T-shirt? Or is it an old man tugging at the line with a twinkle of pride in his eyes? Perhaps it is a father introducing his children to this delightful pastime. Whoever it is, you know that he must surely be having fun flying that kite!
How Does a Kite Fly?
Have you ever wondered how a kite flies? A number of intricate aerodynamic factors help to make this happen. Simply stated, when the air pressure under a kite is greater than that above it, it stays up. If the pressure above it becomes greater, then it drops.
But how do you get a kite off the ground? A long string or line that you hold is attached to short strings on the kite’s underside. This keeps it from flying away in the wind. It also acts as a stabilizer allowing you to hold the kite steady in position. Kites are best launched in open, breezy places. Walking or running a short distance against the wind, while you hold the line with the kite trailing behind, usually gets a kite elevated. The kite’s tilt makes it climb because its front edge is pushed against the wind.
Kites may be made in a variety of shapes and sizes. But they will not fly if they are not properly constructed to meet the demands of flight. The use of one or several short strings that are connected to a kite’s wooden frame is vital. These strings, tied to the long line that you hold, allows the kite to adjust itself to the varying air currents in the sky. Also, a tail, hanging at the rear end of most kites, provides a weight that keeps the kite tilted upward so that it can get the benefit of the upward thrust of the wind flowing past its underside.
Perhaps all of this has made you curious as to how kite flying ever got started.
Not a New Pastime
Interestingly, kite flying is not a newly invented pastime. People have been flying kites for thousands of years. Some believe that a Greek fellow named Archytas, who lived in the fourth century B.C.E., assembled the first one. But it appears that the Asiatic peoples were flying kites long before his time.
The Koreans, for example, claim that in the dim past a general of theirs invented the kite to encourage his troops. It is said that he attached a lantern to one, and while it was flying aloft, his soldiers thought it was a new star and a sign of divine help. The Chinese, on the other hand, claim that a wise man or general of theirs made the first kite. They say that he attached bamboo sounding devices to a number he made and flew them over a camp of enemy soldiers late at night. The wind passing through the bamboo devices produced eerie sounds. The enemy fled, thinking that they were voices of guardian angels warning them of impending danger.
Actually, no one knows who put together the first kite or the year it was made. But it is established that they were well known in China by the fourth century B.C.E.
Kites have had many more uses than that of amusing youngsters on high and windy hillsides. They have played a part in man’s eventually inventing the airplane. He used kites in repeated tests in his search to understand the principles governing flight.
You probably know about Benjamin Franklin’s kite-and-key experiment with lightning. In this case a kite helped to prove that lightning and electricity are the same. However, Franklin took a most dangerous risk, for he could easily have been electrocuted had lightning struck that brass key.
Also, kites have played a role in bridge building, photography, radio communication, weather observation, and even in war when they were used to carry a man high above ground to spy on enemy movements.
Perhaps most surprising to western minds is the fact that kites have also been and still are used in connection with religious beliefs.
Their Religious Significance
Primitive peoples attached religious meanings to kites. They viewed them as symbols of an external soul; as things closely connected with gods and heroes. They also felt that they were a means of contacting the heavenly regions. This is illustrated by the kite beliefs of the Polynesians. To them, they represented gods. And one hero of theirs is said to have gone to heaven in the form of a kite, singing a kite song in his upward journey.
Koreans marked their kites with such slogans as ‘bad luck away, good luck stay.’ Then they would let these fly away in the belief that the flier of the kite was now relieved of ill luck. No one who came across such a kite fallen to the ground would touch it, for fear that its former owner’s misfortunes would befall him.
The Chinese have a holiday that falls in September that is called Kites’ Day or The Festival of Ascending on High. Young and old scurry to breezy high places to fly their various-shaped kites. When they are done, they do not reel the kite in but let it go, string and all. They believe, like the Koreans, that sickness, evil and bad luck will be carried away with the kite.
And there are those that employ musical kites in the belief that their plaintive sounds will frighten away evil spirits. They often keep such kites in flight all night long over their houses.
If you are a Westerner, such ideas may seem ridiculous to you. However, a sermon delivered at a Unitarian church in Arizona, United States, in the early part of last year, shows that such religious notions are not confined to Oriental lands. The minister arranged for a woman religious editor to deliver this sermon. The subject was kites. The church’s walls and ceiling were decorated with them. And the congregation brought kites to the service to fly afterward.
Note what the speaker said: “Whether kites are an expression of our yearning for freedom from our gravity-laden existence, or a search for God, or a launching of our dreams, we always keep a tether on them in hopes of maintaining contact with ourselves or God or our dreams.”
Such thoughts may appeal to the emotions, but are they reasonable and true? Do you think that kites can help you to contact God? Could they fly high enough to reach his presence in “the heaven of the heavens”? (1 Ki. 8:27) How would God communicate with you? By tugging on your kite? Would this help you to learn his will and purposes for mankind? Of course not! That is why he has provided a written record about himself, yes, the Holy Bible. It, not kite flying, will help you to learn God’s laws and principles.—Ps. 119:129, 130.
Does this mean that flying a kite is wrong because erroneous religious significance is attached to it? It depends on your motive for doing so. Also, how will others construe it? If you live in the Orient, where such ideas are popular, you may feel it best to avoid it. But in western lands, most people fly kites for fun. And if you live there, you might enjoy this pleasure with no one misreading your motive.
Benefits and Dangers
Flying a kite in the fresh air benefits one’s health. The running and walking involved are good exercise. Also, it broadens your knowledge of some flight principles and weather factors. This increases appreciation of God’s creation of the atmosphere.
Further, building kites develops skill. They may be simple and inexpensive to make but they will not fly if they are not made properly. Books, available in public libraries, show plans for many different kinds.
Families can join in a kite-construction project, thereby drawing members closer together. And it is not confined to one season. Some free time on a cold wintry evening or rainy day can be used to assemble the kite. Painting designs on them stimulates the family’s artistic imagination. Finally, on a windy day in spring, summer or fall, the family can share in the fun-filled adventure of flying their own kite.
But there are dangers. It is unwise to fly kites near airfields, as the kites can be a menace to airplanes. Wire or metal should never be used in kite construction. This can attract lightning. Kites should never be flown in thunderstorms nor near telephone poles, transmission towers or high-voltage wires. A wet line or one made of wire may bring sudden death.
With a little caution, if you live in an area where kites are not viewed religiously, you may find out for yourself that flying a kite can be fun.