His Lamson Aerocurve Just Won’t Fly: Cleric Has Project for the Hereafter

Ben Ruhe
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A man prepared to take up difficult challenges, Falk Hilsenbek reacted in normal fashion after obtaining a book on kites 15 years ago. A stunt kite flier up until then, the German volume by Diem and Schmidt focused on historical kites and Hilsenbek was an instant convert. After examining the plans, he settled on the most complicated kite in the volume and successfully built it--- -a Lamson Aerocurve. Lamson was a New Englander who invented beautiful and intricate kites at the turn of the last century. Few of them survive, but plans for them, plus photographs, keep his renown alive.

The esthetics of the Aerocurve captivated Hilsenbek. “Why did I build the Aerocurve? It’s not a long way from the kite to the airplane. Also, it was the beautiful shape. It was worth all the work. It took me 300 hours. Fifty-six meters of wood were required. One hundred and thirty connectors had to be hand cut, drilled, and bowed. I almost went mad.”

Hilsenbek had reason to be further frustrated. The kite has never satisfactorily flown. In the air, it tilts to one side and then crashes. The kite does redeem itself, in Hilsenbek’s eyes, as a display at workshops he conducts and kite events he attends. But Hilsenbek remains committed to making the kite fly properly. He has been working on this since l991, still with little progress. “It’s my construction zone in eternity,” he says. This is a well-rehearsed line and Hilsenbek grins.

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