|This year's Fanĝ Classic was military kites.
Bob and I took our original Gibson Girl plus the two Garber Target kite
replicas we made especially for the Fanĝ Classic. The Garber Target kites
were built by the U. S. Navy and were designed to serve as maneuverable
aerial targets for gunnery training, from ground or ship during World War
II. To build our replicas we used 1.5 ounce ripstop nylon to get a more
accurate color. Atmospheric blue was the color called for in the spec
manual and the fabric was to be rayon, impregnated with vinylchloride
which made it more windproof. The silhouettes were originally painted on.
While I was appliquéing the skins, Bob made and painted the wood spine,
spreader, rudder pieces, and control bar. He also made fiberglas spreaders
in case the wood ones broke. That was a fortunate thing as the wood
spreader on the Mark I did break as a result of a crash. We made both a
Mark II and a Mark I. The Mark II is 7 feet wide and 7 feet tall and ours
has a Betty silhouette appliquéd on it. It was designed to fly in lighter
winds than the more common Mark I, a 5 foot kite. Our Mark I is quick,
very quick. On Fanĝ the winds were high enough to give Bob and our
European friends a grand time flying the two kites.
There is an
excellent web page by Charles Hall for anyone interested in
information about Paul Garber's Target kites. The link is
http://robroy.dyndns.info/targetkites/ We used
his page extensively while building our replicas. There are so many
interesting facts on his page. For example, did you know several
seven-foot target kites and one of a ten foot kite were made, at
the request of a Lt. Comdr. Gardner? He liked the seven foot kite as a
target but it was finally decided by the Director of Special Devices to
produce five-foot kites because this size was more portable, easier to
manufacture, and could be handled without special field equipment.
Although we see only the one silhouette on kites surviving today, numerous
planes and portraits were on the kites. Lt. Comdr. Gardner shot at a kite
with Adolf Hitler's picture on it! It took 3 minutes before a stick was
broken and the kite was grounded. Paul Garber wanted the kites to give
good target practice to gunners so the silhouette of the airplane was
about one-ninth the size of the actual fighter, and "the simulated
distance becomes nine times that of the line-length, and the speed of the
kite also appears proportionate for an actual airplane at the simulated
distance". The Navy manual stated it was inexpensive at $4.50 each and
able to be repaired and used again. The manual noted "Also—it's a lot of
fun to fly it." Yes, that is completely true!! Thousands were sold after
the war to private individuals. The cover of the March 18, 1950 Saturday
Evening Post shows two young boys putting together a Garber Target kite.
Many kite collectors today have the original kites hanging in their kite
rooms. The best place to find your own — unless you want to build one — is
to search the auctions on eBay. More pictures of our two replica kites can
be seen on our web page, Westport 2005 and Fanĝ 2005.