Gibson Girl

The Box Kite, Not The Radio!

I won't even mention the original Gibson Girl, this being a kite site. Instead, let's just perpetuate the kiting myth of the Gibson Girl Box Kite. You see, it was actually the hand-cranked radio transmitter in a sea-rescue kit that was given that name.

An original example of a Gibson Girl box kite from WWII.

Photo courtesy of Craig Wilson.

During the Second World War, a downed U.S. Navy crew-member would loft the kite to get the aerial up to a working length. If a friendly craft was within range, and picked up the Morse SOS signal, the guys in the sea stood a chance of being rescued. In light winds, the aerial could be lifted with a balloon instead.

A short while after starting this page, and seeing a few photos of the war-time kite, it struck me how the dimensions were so similar to my own MBK Dowel Box.

Standing on end, the historic box kite is just above door-knob height. About as long as the 1.2 meter (4 feet) long MBK Dowel Box. The gap between the upper and lower cells is slightly less than on my design. Even the original metallic spars look quite thin and spindly, as do the 5mm (3/16") dowels on the Dowel Box kite.

However, the Gibson Girl was made of relatively heavy and strong materials and thus was a moderate to strong-wind kite.

Quite a contrast to my original Dowel Box which was capable of floating overhead in a thermal, but hated even fresh wind!

To fly your own box kite, this Traditional Box Kite on Amazon seems like a good ready-to-fly option. Judging by all the reviews on there.

Specs And Other Details

The American version of this historic kite was the latest, and followed the original German and English versions. The Germans actually used a winged Box based on the French Military kite! As usual, the details are spread far and wide over the Web in all sorts of sources. Also as usual, I have thrown it all into a melting-pot and boiled it down to just one info-packed list, for your convenience...

  • Color: Bright yellow for maximum visibility.
  • Longitudinal spar length: About 1.2 meters (48 inches)
  • Cross pieces: Pre-fitted, to be later folded and snapped into position like an umbrella.
  • Spar material: Aluminum.
  • Sail material: My original guess was silk, since the military would have used plenty for parachute manufacture. However, a FaceBook commenter has chipped in and it seems cotton was the material used. Treated to make it water-proof. 
  • Flying line and bridle: Apparently very similar to the sail material, which was cotton. It was even the same bright yellow color.
  • Cell panel dimensions: About 0.4 meters (along spar) x 0.5 meters (15 inches x 20 inches)
  • Wind Range: 13 - 64 kph (7 - 40 mph)
  • Adjustable bridle: Recommended towing point position was marked onto the sail for a low (7 - 20 mph) and a high (15 - 40 mph) wind range.
  • Military serial number: Kite M-357-A

Out In The Field

My collection of real-life Box kite stories is worth checking out!

Illustrated with photos and videos, of course.

While looking all this up, I came across some first-hand accounts of guys who actually owe their life to this kite. Fascinating.

And yes, the image near the top of this page is of an original Gibson Girl kite. It's still in almost as-new condition, after having been packed away for more than half a century.

Military enthusiasts like to collect these things!

You might have noticed that this site has a monthly newsletter...

For single-line kite fliers and builders, it's always been a good read. But if you are interested in KAP and/or large home-made kites you won't want to miss it!

So sign up today, and download the free 95-page e-book "What Kite Is That?" straight away. Info-packed and fully photo-illustrated.

And there are even more free resources, such as a kite-making e-course, waiting for you in the next issue of this newsletter.

What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    Super Light And Variable In Victoria Park

    Sep 21, 14 09:44 PM

    Victoria Park adjacent to the Adelaide CBD in South Australia, that is. This large grassed area which forms part of the eastern parklands of the city is used for various events from time to time. Including, in the past, major horse racing and a section of a Formula 1 Grand Prix track.

    An invite had gone out to various kite enthusiasts to meet and fly, since the weather looked good. We arrived after lunch, only to discover very light winds. A lone R/C flier was enjoying the easy conditions with his 3-channel electric trainer. Like a tiny Cessna, if you're not familiar with model aircraft.

    For a while it seemed we were alone, before spotting a power kite in the distance, making brief forays into the air. Victoria Park is rather large!

    It actually turned out to be quite an enjoyable outing, with the 2.4m (8ft) Multi-Dowel Barn Door kite just scraping into the air. But then, thermals were everywhere. It wasn't long before the large pale blue kite went right overhead! At other times, I simply toyed with the Barn Door, floating it way out on a long line then pulling it up to over 200 feet.

    Another RC flier was now having success launching his glider, finding thermals, and gaining height in them.

    We were eventually joined by two other AKFA members including the President. A couple of ripstop-and-carbon light-wind kites went up, with plenty of success. By now the breeze had come across the park from just about every point of the compass. Variable indeed!

    In the distance, someone had been lofting a large but light-wind parafoil. It was interesting to see it sink out as an utter 'bag of washing' during a dead calm spell! Someone else had some success with a small blue Delta for a while.

    All up, a worthwhile day IF you were flying lightly-loaded kites! No luck for Mike with his power kite and skateboard...

    About This Post: These days, most flight reports are in the short format you've just seen, above. Usually, photos and/or video from the day are posted a few days later on the MBK Facebook Page. However, longer format reports are done occasionally, which also feature photos and video taken on the day. Here is a link to all those full flight report pages on this site.

    Read More

New! Comments

Plenty of fun kite info, photos and videos - there's definitely too much here for only one visit! Feel free to leave your impressions of this site or just this page, below...

Apologies for this site's current lack of video when viewed on mobile devices...

For now, please view this site on a Desktop or Laptop computer to see the videos. And there's plenty of them!


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