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Sounds like an obituary, but it's not - Simon is just 35 and is alive and kicking- and cutting and sewing- far from his kite making peak yet I reckon (judging by myself- 67 and still getting better all the time)*.
But this is getting a little ahead of the story.

On the 29 March 1996, Elwyn and I employed a young fellow straight from school to work in the buggy workshop at Peter Lynn Ltd (our kite business).
He was taken on to learn metal bashing- how to cut bend and weld stainless steel tube for kite buggy frames under the tutelage of an experienced engineer who headed this department at that time.
The name of our new employee was Simon Chisnall and he hailed from Hinds- a rural community 15km south of Ashburton.
Simon fitted in well and was soon mastering the various required techniques- but sometimes he was 'loaned' to the folks next door in the kite making department- usually when they were in even more of a delivery deadline induced panic than usual.

Simon At Work 2003

His first task there was cutting tentacles for maxi Octopuses (Octopi, Octopodes)?.
After a year or so of helping with this from time to time, he took on the long straight sewing on each of these tentacles as well.
And then one day, I can't remember exactly when, though I clearly remember the conversation, he was confronted with a choice: did he prefer working in the engineering department or in kite making?
His answer was that he preferred sewing to welding; "--because I can do it sitting down".
Not, you would think, an entirely promising start for a kite making career; their being none of the 'kites are my life and my passion' type statements of personal commitment that narratives about world changing contributions to a field usually feature at about this point.
And, on this I might be wrong- Simon will no doubt tell his own story someday- but I have a distinct impression that the huge talent he has for kite designing and making has been as much a surprise to him as it has to those around him.
And kite making talent he has- the best I have ever encountered.
Which, no two ways about this, is a big surprise for me too- having roamed the world for 40 years hanging out with kite makers from every country and background- that the best should have snuck up on me from a town just down the road that has no historic connection to kites and just 300 people.

Simon and Lindell inside the worlds largest kite.

About 10 years ago Simon began designing and making original kites - while still doing the classic shapes such as the Ray, Octopus, Bear, Gecko and Cat, with which Peter Lynn Kites made their name and market.
His first really successful original design was the Crab in 2007. Then came the Cuttlefish in 2008, Whale and Sun-moon in 2010, Space racer in 2011 and Horse in 2013- and these are just the highlights.
The Whale has been hugely successful; not just because it's a kite for the times, (and no, we've never made one with a harpoon protruding) but because it flies so well- with none of the violent oscillations and pull that our (actually my, I'd better own up to this) forerunner Dolphins were inclined to.
By this year, Whales had become a key product for Peter Lynn Kites Ltd, with a distinct likely-hood of outselling classic favourites like the Ray, Octopus and Bear in the longer term.
But this year he has surpassed even this- not by sales volume yet, but certainly by impact.

Simon flying his work.

This latest project started inauspiciously with a typical enough approach from a media company for a kite in the shape of a dragon to support the launch of How to Train your Dragon II.
I say inauspicious, because media projects generally start out with a great deal of hype and hoopla then fizzle out after many hours of quoting and prototyping with a sudden halt called by someone a long way up their food chain, and possibly themselves. PL Kites has in the past been left holding prototypes for which payment is not forthcoming.
Advertising and promotional types also frequently have unrealistic expectations of what kites are: promising clients that they will be flown at a pre-announced time 6 months ahead in an area smaller than the kite's dimensions.
So I counselled caution on this one.
Wrongly as it happened because, this project has not fizzled, and "Media Works" (a contractor for 20 Century Fox ) have done everything they said they'd do and have been excellent to work with.
And also wrongly because a dragon seems to me like an inherently difficult soft kite to get to fly right (easy enough with sticks, but then it can't be big enough) - particularly because with this style of kite it's almost impossible to prevent the wings periodically overflying the body and wrapping themselves around the head - which causes collapse and instability and looks messy.
The reason this happens is that wings have inherently higher lift/drag ratio than bodies (which are basically all drag) and that any attempt to hold the wings back is restricted by the inherent limits on structural rigidity imposed by ram air inflation.
The remaining techniques available for controlling the wings are either to bridle the wings at a very high angle of attack (when they will pull the goal posts out) or use a massive drogue- which also has unacceptable pull and is unsightly as well.

That Simon has been successful in finding a combination of shape and rigging that prevents the wings overflying while also keeping the pull within acceptable limits is genius.

That he did this in just 2 months from first approach to delivery of the first kite of the series confirms this genius.

Simon and Lindell riding an elephant.

In maxi size (10kg, 15m wingspan) it already flies well with a moderate sized pilot in a wind range from 10km/hr to 50km/hr and above, tows well behind a boat and shows distinct signs of one day being able to fly alone.
And from here on this design can only get better.
I'm sure that the solutions he has found for this kite will soon now morph into an entirely new genre of designs- not only dragons but winged horses and many bird styles.

A mega Whale and the Peter Lynn crew.

Congratulations Simon!


* Says who?

Peter Lynn Kites Ltd
105 Alford Forest Rd
Ashburton 8300
Ph: +64 (0) 3 308 4538
Fax: + 64 (0)3 308 1905

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