BLIND MAN HEARS HIS KITES FLY : WOODLAND HILLS RESIDENT GETS RUSH FROM PAPER BIRDS.
Blind since birth, Ralph Council has never seen the objects of his obsession - the graceful kites he flies every day of the week at a Woodland Hills field.
But the 44-year-old said he still gets a major rush from his wind-powered aircraft that buzz across the sky above the green at the corner of Collins Street and Sale Avenue.
``I don't get to see them, but I get to hear them and get to feel the pull on the line,'' said Council, a Woodland Hills resident. ``When they take off, it's a real adrenaline surge. It's kind of like I'm putting on a pair of wings and flapping and taking off.''
Council has loved airplanes ever since he was a little boy. As a youngster, he used to tape-record planes taking off from Van Nuys Airport because he liked the different sounds the various aircraft made.
He got his first kite when he was 12.
His father built him a home-made model out of scraps of wood and tissue paper, wanting to give his son something he could fly without help from anyone else.
``I played around with the kite and I got the bug,'' said Council, who graduated from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys. ``Over the years, they just became more complicated and exotic.''
Today, Council, who earned a degree in broadcast journalism at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, flies more than two dozen kites including one with a 12-foot wingspan he has christened ``the beast.''
One kite he owns is a gizmo with a rotor that is attached to a string, an aircraft that takes to the air like a helicopter. Another has two separate bridles, giving Council the control he needs to slice up the sky with the paper bird that can climb as high as 1,000 feet.
``I fly a variety of things,'' said Council, who is known to some as the ``crazy kiter.'' ``There are kites for all seasons, moods and winds.''
Council said he sends his birds up into the air every day, setting off on foot from his residence to the field about noon.
He uses his hearing and the tension on the string to guide the aircraft. He leaves a transistor radio at one corner of the field as a homing device so he can find his gear after a long afternoon of flying.
``I'm diving and looping and sweeping all over,'' Council said. ``The object is to stay in the air as long as I can until I want to land. I'm all over that field.''
PHOTO (1) Blind since birth, Ralph Council, 44, strings out his eight-foot-long kite Big Bertha No. 7 in Woodland Hills.
(2 -- 3) Council prepares Big Bertha for flight at the old Charles Evans Hughes Jr. High School. ``I fly a variety of things,'' said Council, who is known to some as the ``crazy kiter.'' ``There are kites for all seasons, moods and winds.'' Right, Council flies a gyro kite that has a rotor and takes to the air like a helicopter.
Hans Gutknecht/Daily News