Target Kite
Plane's Flight


THE Army and the Navy have reached back 3,000 years into history for something to improve the shooting eye of their air gunners.

It's a kite -- one that performs maneuvers no kite ever performed before. When the war is over it is going to be the delight of kids from seven to 70. A quarter of a million of the kites have already been produced for machine gunners to rip apart, and production is still going on.

This kite will dive, loop, and bank sharply. It will plummet like a stricken airplane hurtling earthward with its engine at full power. It will recover with all the ease of a pilot hauling back on his stick, and race for altitude.

The Navy's kite -- it was developed by the Navy and then adopted by the Army -- is called the best air-gunnery target in the world. It was perfected by Paul Edward Garber, who probably knows more about kites than anyone else and who might be called the champion kite flyer of five continents. As curator of aviation at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C., he (Cont'd.)

TARGET KITE used in enemy waters (left) is made with an aluminum-alloy frame that sinks when shot down. No floating wrecks of kites are thus left behind to tip off the enemy to the presence of our ships.

FAMILIAR DESIGN. The remarkable air target has the traditional kite shape but is of durable construction. Five feet, one inch high, with a wing span of five feet, the standard model weighs under two pounds. Bolted to the mast -- of 3/4 by 3/4-inch spruce, pine, or basswood -- is a 1¾ by 3/8-inch spar, nine inches from the fop. The cover is plastic-treated rayon. Maneuvers are effected through a control bar, as shown below, from the ground or from a ship's deck.
was custodian of the museum's kite collection, which ranged from weird oriental kites representing gods and demons to the box kite capable of carrying a man aloft, invented by Lawrence Hargrave, of England.

Garber knew that kites, notably a type invented by Alexander Graham Bell of telephone fame, had exerted a profound influence on early airplane design. He had studied kite shapes and their flying qualities from information covering a period of 30 centuries.

Shortly after the United States entered the war, Garber, now a lieutenant commander in the Special Devices Division of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics, heard Admiral John H. Towers remark that one of the things the Navy needed most was an improved moving target to speed up the training of aircraft gunners.

Garber tucked that remark away in his head. At that time, he was helping with the production of millions of model airplanes needed by the armed services for recognition instruction.

Garber kept thinking about targets. A kite might do. It would be cheap, easy to produce. But if it was stationary in the air it would be an easy mark for even a novice with a gun. What was needed was one that would do aerobatics and dodge bullets.

Working in hours mostly stolen from his sleep, and assisted by Lloyd Reichert and Stanley Potter, fellow kite enthusiasts, Garber perfected his target kite in a little less than a year.

He used as a basis for his kite -- which is without a tail -- one with a bowed cross spar developed from a Malay kite half a century ago by an American experimenter, William A. Eddy. Garber was after stability; this kite had it.

This control mechanism "pilots" the kite. A two-drum wood reel with brakes is mounted on the four-foot bar. The flying lines ore led to the kite through the 12-inch-long bridle stick which, with the keel and dihedral, gives the kite three-dimensional stability.

When the wind presses against the covering fabric, the lower portion of the kite becomes a sort of vertical keel. The bowed spar becomes a weight-carrier similar to that of the bony structure of a bird's wings. Lateral balance can be destroyed and restored simply by altering the air pressure on one side or the other of the face of the kite. Garber added a fin near the lower end of his upright mast to augment the keel surface. To this he attached a rudder, controlled by the kite's operator by means of twin flying lines.

When he was satisfied with his product, Garber demonstrated it for Capt. Luis de Florez, Chief of the Special Devices Division, who in civilian life is a successful inventor and consulting engineer. Captain de Florez watched the kite's spectacular aerobatics for a few minutes.

"That's fine," he said, with a cheerful disregard for Navy red tape. "Get 1,500 made up." Demonstrations to other Navy officers and to the Army were enough. The Garber kite was adopted.

The kite must be good. Gunnery officers are elated when their students hit it once in 50 shots.

What the target kite will do to peacetime kite flying is easily imagined. Appropriately, it is being manufactured for the armed forces by A. G. Spalding & Bros., makers of athletic equipment.

KITE STUNTS. After a half hour of instruction and a few hours' practice, an operator can make this wonder kite perform all sorts of spectacular aerobatics.

Popular Science, May 1945, (pages 65-67)