A New Record !!
 

Waiting for the slightest puff of wind, Mix McGraw tensed, gripping the red-and-black handles of the control lines attached to a train of 75 kites stretched across a soccer field.

It's nearly impossible to fly a kite when there's no wind. But on a recent afternoon at Fremont's Central Park, McGraw intended to show the skills that have enabled him to set a number of kite-flying world records.
 
During the past two decades, McGraw, an engineer at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale and a San Jose resident, has set five of the six world records for flying the most number of kites at once.

And on Oct. 4 at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, McGraw set a new mark for the Guinness Book of World Records by flying 230 kites at a time -- in a train 192 feet long.

A hint of a breeze, and McGraw tugged on the lines, lifting the lead kite into the air; the others instantly followed. "The moment you stand the kites up, they're ready to jump," McGraw said.
 

He ran backward to keep the assembly aloft in the limp air. He tugged on the left control line, and the kites circled to the left; a pull on the right line sent them into a turn that way. After a few brief moments, about as long as the Wright Brothers' first flight a century ago, McGraw tripped and the flight ended.

McGraw's wife, Pat, and kite-flying friend Achilles Gagliano of San Jose aligned the kites with the shifting breezes for another attempt.
You need at least a 10 mph wind to keep these 75 kites in the air, McGraw explained. But 75 kites is no longer a big deal. It takes a lot more wind to keep up several hundred.

  McGraw, 53, started flying kites in the early 1980s. He had gone to Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, intending to buy a stuffed-animal toy for his daughter, but ended up in a kite shop "and the rest is history," he said

He began flying multiple kites, putting together 52 in a train to set his first record in 1982.


"Everybody was saying you can't do it, that it's going against the laws of physics. They felt it wasn't possible," McGraw said. "It's really about going against the odds," he said. "You can do anything you set out to do if you stay positive, be focused and apply yourself."
In 1986, someone else flew 178 kites. McGraw responded in 1988, flying 200 and 224 kites in San Francisco and then the world record 253 kites at Ocean City, Md.

"It hasn't been challenged,"
McGraw said. "There are a lot of fliers but nobody will even step up to the plate."
The problem with records on kite-flying, set following American Kite Association rules, is that they're not well documented, McGraw explained.
But setting a mark for the Guinness Book of Records "has a paper trail," McGraw said. So he pursued that goal, flying 219 kites in the West Coast Stunt Championships in Berkeley in July 2002.
Then last month, he eclipsed his own Guinness record in Dayton, Ohio.


McGraw's kites are modified versions of a stunt kite called the Hyperkite Starfighter. They are delta-shaped, 9 by 11 inches, made of ripstock nylon with birch frames.
He connects the kites with four lines, creating a train, with each two spaced about 10 inches apart. Two control lines are attached to the lead kite -- the one closest to the person flying the train. The lead kite "takes quite a lot of punishment," he said.

McGraw uses 80-pound-test synthetic control lines for smaller stacks. For the longest kite trains, he uses 400-pound-test Kevlar lines, the same material used in bulletproof vests.
To launch such a huge assembly, McGraw said, "you need about three football fields. That's how much space it takes up."

It takes McGraw and his wife about 45 minutes to lay out the kites on their backs on the grass, in a straight line, perfectly aligned with the flying lines connected.
 
 
Flying these kites is physically demanding, for in the air, the train is "a monster,"
McGraw said. Turning the huge train in 20 mph wind produces as much as 400 pounds of pull on the flier, dragging him along the ground when he puts it into a turn.
The husky McGraw goes into a half squat, lowering his center of gravity, which "gives you the ability to pull twice your body weight," he said. Flying the kites "just sucks all of the energy out of you."

When the trains are more than 150 kites, he has to overcome the "snake factor." Because the winds were not very strong at Dayton, the trailing end of the train whipped and wriggled around, making the kite nearly uncontrollable.

Yet to set the Guinness record, McGraw had to fly for at least three minutes and make one circle to the left and one to the right "to show you have control and can maneuver." He stayed up four minutes.

A year earlier when he set the previous record in Berkeley, 30 mph winds had stabilized the kites, allowing him to stay aloft for eight minutes.

Next year, he hopes to fly 270 kites to break both his world and Guinness records.

McGraw says the wave of the future is indoor flying with kites made of ultra-light material attached to 20-foot lines as thin as dental floss that "just float in the air."

McGraw says kite flying "can generate a positive image and message to young people, a make-it-happen, can-do attitude. It is possible, even when everyone says you can't do it. You can, but you have to have the right attitude."

McGraw's kite flying club, Teamskymasters, can be reached on the Internet at www.2mteamskymasters.com


SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS - Frank Sweeney a contribué à ce rapport