Aeronautical Instruments & Tools
RAF / USAAF M-357-A Dinghy Radio Kite
Manufactured by the Bendix Aviation Co. from 1941 and issued to both RAF and USAAF aircrew in WWII. Often referred to as 'Aerial Kites' as they were made to lift 260 feet of steel wire from the coil drum on the 'Gibson Girl' emergency transmitter. This was effectively copied from a 1941 captured Luftwaffe issue example which used a winged as opposed to the standard box kite design adopted by the British. The system went into mass production in the USA with an initial order placed for 11,600 sets which became standard issue for multi person dinghies for aircrew operating over sea. The full kit also included a balloon and hydrogen generator, as an alternate to the kite, when wind conditions prevented its use.
This example comes complete with its cotton issue bag which is close to mint, with just very light storage marks. It is fully stamped which makes mention of the original contents that would have included inflation tubes and a hydrogen generator. On offer here is just the kite but what makes it exceptional is the fact is appears mint and as issued. The cloth is neatly bound with cord ties as shown in our illustration and it is clear it has never been assembled. These kites featured a fold up aluminium frame that was designed to be 'idiot proof' and featured a 'pop-out spider' to facilitate assembly in a pitching dinghy. The kite had two different bridle attachment points, one for winds 7–20 miles per hour, the other for 15–40 miles per hour. In the folded state you can still read the reference to the 40 MPH attachment ring. Whilst we are happy to break the factory binding cord and assemble the kite on request, we prefer to leave it in its 'mint and boxed' state which makes this example so unique. Many of these that have survived have been used post war for recreational purposes (myself included) and we have had them with messages written on the cloth giving owners name and address and 'Please return if found'! This is certainly not the case here, so if you wish to add a pristine example to you collection in a condition as it left the Bendix factory all those years ago, this is the one for you! Kite folded in storage bag measures 22" (56 cm)The final image attached here shows a rather over dressed AAF Officer assembling a similar kite, whilst seated in a dinghy, but we feel this could be a studio shot, but interesting none the less!
We have been fortunate enough to purchase a small number of these kites from a forgotten store here in the UK, that have never been issued or used. Whilst these are being offered individually at a very modest £45.00 plus delivery for a purchase of 2 or more kites we will offer at a 10% discount. When they are gone, they are gone!
And as a postscript we have just supplied a number of kites to a kite flying enthusiast in Germany and he has kindly sent a fine picture of his son flying one of our kites and he has captioned the photograph 'Sunset Gibson Girl' taken on a beach in Denmark. With his permission we have published his phtograph as part of this listing. So it is clear, despite the passing years, these kites still remain as airworthy as they were back in the dark days if WWII!