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.

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

In light winds, the aerial could be lifted with a balloon instead.

An original example of a Gibson Girl box kite from WWII.Photo courtesy of Craig Wilson

At the Adelaide International Kite festival one year, I even got to see a GG Box up close. An interstate visitor had brought it along to fly! The flying line appeared to be original and fairly well used, so I warned the guy not to fly the kite too high. There would be no point in losing such a treasure in the sea.

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...

Making Box Kites is one of my downloadable, printable e-books which has instructions for all my well-tested Box kite designs. There's nothing like flying something you made yourself!

The historic Gibson kite is just above door-knob height when standing on end. 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.

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...

Out In The Field

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

Illustrated with photos and videos, of course.

  • 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

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!

As far as your own interest in kites goes, are you the DIY type?

Making Box Kites is one of my downloadable, printable e-books which has instructions for all my well-tested Box kite designs. There's nothing like flying something you made yourself!

You might like these...

FREE E-Book!

I'm referring to Simplest Dowel Kites, my popular kite-making download. It's a printable PDF file. Make a diamond, delta or sled. Each kite is capable of flying hundreds of feet up for hours on end.

Could you do me just a small favor though?

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P.S. Keep an eye out for books by kite author Glenn Davison, a prominent kite person in the USA.

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

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

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

Strong ...
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

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