The Amazing Flying Granny
The man in the video is Peter Powell, a British entrepreneur who famously developed steerable kites using dual lines in 1972. He started by selling the kites from the back of his car and then began selling them on Paignton sea front. He had no shop window, he sold them simply by flying the kites
The kites were immediately popular and soon he was selling 300 kites a week. After his business was featured on the BBC, his kites became craze and his production swiftly rose to 25,000 kites and then 75,000 kites a week across five factories in an attempt to keep up with demand. By 1975, his kites were outselling Lego and had become the biggest selling kite in America. When he died in 2016, one man said in his obituary that Peter Powell’s stunt kites were “every middle-aged kiter’s first kite”.
Powell set many Guinness World Record titles, including flying the first kite to reach six miles up – over 31,500 feet! But none of his stunts impress me so much as when he made his his grandmother fly on her 70th birthday.
For that we need to go back to 1972, when he had just designed the kites. Apparently, he wanted to prove that five kites could lift eight stone (112 pounds or 50 kilos) of weight. He presented his grandmother with the flight as a birthday present and she appears to have been thrilled with the idea as she is helped onto the swing, clutching her handbag.
#Onthisday 1972: Behold, the amazing flying granny as she takes a trip on her grandson's kites of doom pic.twitter.com/avgcRA8L40
— BBC Archive (@BBCArchive) February 26, 2017
There’s something special about the joy in her voice as she calls out Whoopeee! And she doesn’t seem particularly phased by the hard landing!
A note to my family: if you are wondering what I might like to celebrate my 70th birthday, this would do just fine.
As PR stunts go, it was pretty damn impressive. Local headlines abounded of the elderly Gloucester woman who flew 30-foot in the air and it gave a great kick-start to his brand new business.
I have to admit, just reading about this made me long for a kite and a long stretch of beach. So I was glad to see that Peter Powell’s sons still run the kite company, which now sells the same stunt kites from the High Street in Cheltenham or online from their website: http://www.peterpowellstunterkites.com/
What an amazing stunt. To-day these guys would not have gotten away with it, too many rules and regulations. No harness, no crash helmet. No precautions of any kind. But great simple fun.
A kite 31500 feet up?
How much rope would have been needed? Something in the order of ten miles, I reckon. That would have been a considerable weight and have required the ability to lift more than the “flying gran”!
The kite may well have ascended into the jetstream and the rope would have been under a fair amount of strain, perhaps near the breaking point.
Thinking of it, this would have been quite a feat. Not as spectacular as hanging a gran under a kite and lifting her ten feet up in the air perhaps, but scientifically a much more impressive achievement. The air currents aloft would have had to be just right for the kite to keep ascending right up to 31500 feet.
What about aircraft? ATC would have been informed I guess.
Anyway, what a fun way to earn money. I am jealous !