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.

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

Box kite stories of my real-life flying experiences are 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!

E-book special of the month (25% off)...

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This printable e-book takes you step-by-step through making a 119 cm (4 ft) wide Parachute kite. It's not quite that wide in the air since the canopy takes on a distinct curved shape when inflated. This 14-cell kite performs best in moderate to fresh wind speeds. That's 20 to 38 kph or 13 to 24 mph. In gentle winds, this kite will hang in the air at fairly low line angles. In fresh winds, it pulls firmly for it's size, so small kids should only fly it while supervised!

Every kite design in the MBK Soft Series satisfies the following points...

  • Materials are plastic sheet, tape and line – and nothing more!
  • Tools are a ruler, scissors and a marker pen - and nothing more!
  • All cuts are along straight lines.

For the greatest chance of success, I make recommendations regarding the materials. For example, the type/weight of plastic, type/width of tape and line type/strength. Close enough should nearly always be good enough, since the design is well-tested and should be tolerant of small differences from my original.

Get the e-book for making the MBK Parachute kite. After making your first one in plastic and seeing how it performs, you can try soft Tyvek or rip-stop nylon for your next build.

The e-book is a PDF file - which means printable instructions to refer to while you make the kite. It also means convenient off-line access if that suits you better.

What's New!

  1. The Classic Cody Kite

    Aug 23, 17 06:00 AM

    This previously published page gives a quick insight into the structure and materials of the original 'War Kites' by Samuel Cody. Plus some history and photos of course. Intriguing stuff...

    Read More


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...

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Wind Speeds

Light air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2    

Gentle breeze
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3    

Moderate breeze
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4    

Fresh breeze
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5    

Strong breeze
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7