print this page

  Tow Kite History

Kite Flying Lake MacQuarieIn 1970, Chris Brandon's tow kite flying career began as a young 12 year old kid who was lucky to have parents that shared a passion and love of water sports.

Me & Dad sharing the passion to water skiLiving at Toronto, near Newcastle - just 20 mins drive to a boat ramp on Lake MacQuarie near Newcastle .. the Brandon family would load up the boat with all the fun gear and launch the ski boat, and go water skiing, barefooting and kite flying almost every weekend - without incident or injury. Truly quite amazing!

 

The delta tow kites of the 70's were primitive basic structures requiring boat speeds of 35/45 knots to fly, with a glide ratio of 1:1 or about 45 degrees after releasing the tow rope from the kite. 

BasicallyZone 2 Champions, the rules of the time and the control of the kite flying sport was administered by the Australian Water Ski Association. You would see many families, kite flyers and boats at the Zone and State Kite Flying Competitions held throughout Australia every year.... a great memory.

If you qualified in the top 3 of your category at the Zone Kite Titles, you would be off to fly Lake Narrabean near Sydney for the NSW Kite Flying Titles. If you won at the state level, the National Kites Titles would be the next challenge with very high standards of skill at this level of competition.

Competition tasks performed by the flyers included flying through a slalom course, (very dangerous) in present day reflection and the number of times a pilot could go up & down behind the boats in 60 seconds. The master flyer of all would be the kite flyer who could do the maximum number of1974 - Ski Plane Tow Kite 360 degree turns from release at the top of a 1000 foot tow rope and land nearest the floating marker in the water.

Some flyers could achieve up to 5 or 6 turns and land on the target in front of the crowds.

NSW Kite TiltlesA truly remarkable period in the evolution of the delta flexwing. These early years of flight - ignited the flame of passion for Chris to fly into the present day with some 14, 000 flying hours, spanning over more than four decades.

The history of tow delta kite flying and the pioneer pilots of that time contributed to the development of hang gliding and the evolution of the microlights we fly today.

 

  History never repeats.... only the reflection of our life's memory.

 

  Slice of the past..

There are many stories to who really invented kite flying... a slice of the past is my reflection on the delta kite story.

Rathmines Lake MacQuarie - 1971 Zone II Championships. NSW. AustraliaEarly days of kite flying commenced in the sixties with several remarkable individuals that made their footprint on the delta flexwing of today.

Several pioneers from around the globe in the sixties were designing and/or building the basic delta tow kite concept... many years before the evolution of hang gliding and the new age microlights of today.

John Dickenson - Mark III KiteThese pioneering aviators created the foundation in the history of controlled manned flight ... with basically no rules, regulations.. or real airworthiness safety.!

Kite flying in the 60's n'70's required raw imagination, shear determination and a passionate desire to fly free.. like a bird..!

In Australia we have several pioneers to our tow kite history - the most significant aviator - John Dickenson from Grafton - NSW.

Expanding the kiting sport of the 70's was Bill Moyes from Sydney, another pioneer who conquered many challenges in taking the delta kite to extreme places and altitudes in its primitive form. Other Aussie kite pioneers were, Rod Fuller, Mike Burns, Bill McLachlan who established 'Marina Tropicana' - a water ski garden on the Hawksbury River, with ski-planes & flat kite flying displays.

Chris MacDonald of Newcastle at this time was also designing bamboo framed kites & flying the slopes around Newcastle.

Equally of recognition across the globe in the USA, Francis Rogallo a NASA engineer was working on delta wings and systems based on Bill Moyes - Kite Flying at Lake Narrabean. NSW. Australia.the Rogallo design. Bill Bennett and Steve Cohen also come to mind during these years, flying primitive kites, that are reflective to the development of the modern microlight -  the weightshift controlled aircraft or trike.

Note: If you have any early kite flying pics or stories you would like included in this page please email me for consideration..rare are the kite fliers of the 70's..!

Learn more about these remarkable pioneer kite flyers at our Links page .

Manned kiting basically developed as a natural extension of water skiing with the 'flat kite'.. which could not be steered or released from the tow rope.

The flat kite was simply towed behind the boat and the altitude was controlled by the speed of the ski boat. Pilots were suspended by a simple harness and would perform acrobatic tricks above the water at a speed of 30 knots. These flat kites were made from basic sail cloth, galvanised wire, steel pipe and tyre tubes for floatation.1972 - a Moyes 13ft Kite gliding to the water

The delta tow kite wing over the flat kite was more able to be steered and could be released from the rope. An aspect ratio of 1:1, offered a primitive glide angle of 1:1 or 45 degrees.. you could glSki Plane Delta Tow Kiteide a kite onto the water, or as time progressed land on land. The tow kites were flown in competitions which consisted of many dangerous tricks, like slalom course, climb & descend in 60 seconds and how many '360 degree turns off a 1000ft rope'...and land on a target.

The ski-plane delta kite was an extension of the 'sit-in-a-swing' - tow kite, which had a simple trike shaped frame suspended under the kite and fitted with three surf boards. The ski plane tow line release was attached to the centre of mass (at front of frame) similar to the Donald Hewitt hang gliding tow system - which improved tow line safety for the pilot. So basically, the ski-plane really was the first form of trike concept - towed by a ski boat.

1972 - Lake NarrabeanThe Australian Water Ski Association maintained the sport and the only qualification required to fly a tow kite was that you must be able to bare foot water ski...no age limits, no real requirements for boat drivers - all very simple, low cost, amazingly safe and family orientated! It was fun - our family would kite fly most weekends.

A slice of the past...Barefooting Backwards - Chris Brandon 1999

We will always honor with respect ~ the pioneer pilots, both men and women who have contributed greatly to the growth, development and evolution of the water ski kite to the truly amazing microlight aircraft we fly today..!!

My humble parents, Eric & Denise Brandon never really thought our kite flying weekends would ever become a passion to fly the finest microlights in the world - Air Creation.

Thanks a bunch mum & dad, for your support, love and direction.. I'm still flying!.

 

Satis-Fly... your Passion..!