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MORE THAN EVER, PEOPLE GO FLY A KITE.

Byline: Andrea Widener The Oregonian

Consider some of the aerodynamic wonders of the world: the supersonic Concorde, a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, a box kite.

A kite might seem like a simple toy, but the same principles of lift, drag and thrust that hold helicopters and planes aloft carry kites high into the sky. In fact, kites were the inspiration for the first planes.

Stunt kites that twist and spin in the air are partially responsible for an increased interest in kite flying across the country, said Mel Hickman, executive director of the American Kiteflyers Association. Nationwide, membership in the association has doubled in the past five years to 4,300.

``There is a huge increase in interest in kite flying as a hobby and as a sport,'' said Judy Brown, president of Associated Oregon Kiters.

Joe Stanley of Portland, Ore., has been addicted to kites since he was a child, flying butcher-paper kites with the insignias of World War I aviators who were his heroes.

Stanley, 72, said he became serious about kites nearly 40 years ago. In the years since, the World War II veteran and retired carpenter has designed and built hundreds of kites ranging from traditional diamond-shaped kites, called Eddy kites, to parafoil kites to his favorite - a replica of a box kite used to raise weather instruments in the days before airplanes.

But no matter the kind of kite - from plastic, diamond-shaped playthings to $3,000 floating works of art - the same forces that lifted Stanley's childhood heroes into the air keep his kites flying high today.

New kite fliers often get discouraged because their kites quickly become part of the pavement. That is because beginners' kites often lack precision or high-quality material in their construction. These ``grocery-store kites,'' as Stanley calls them, dip and swerve where better-made kites can stay aloft for hours.

First-time kite fliers sometimes are too ambitious in their search for the perfect spot to fly their kite; they search for the highest winds possible. The perfect wind speed for most kite flying is a gentle 6 to 8 mph.

Look for a place where the wind is going up, such as the upwind side of a hill. Beach-front flying is popular because winds off the ocean are steady. Heated air on the beach rises, so in the afternoon your kite can catch a thermal updraft.

If you are looking for someplace closer to home, find an empty space far from trees, power lines or buildings, said Jon Reinschreiber, co-owner of Paint the Sky Kites in Northwest Portland. A wind shadow, the turbulence created by obstructions, can reach nearly 700 feet, making kite flying difficult for even the most experienced flier.

Once you have a kite in the air, what you do with it is a matter of preference. Some people like to fly their kites so high that they are just a speck in the air, Reinschreiber said, but others like to keep them close to the ground to see the color and movement of the kite. He recommends that inexperienced enthusiasts fly their kite at about 300 feet.

There are two kinds of kite fliers, Stanley said. Some like to run themselves ragged, turning acrobatic tricks with both their bodies and their kites. Others, like Stanley, just like to sit back and watch.

``I could just sit there all day, all alone, and contemplate and just let the world go by,'' he said.
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 11, 1997
Words:574
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