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Giant kite lights night sky, UFO fans’ imaginations

Thu., March 10, 2011

Flying object equipped with hundreds of colorful LEDs

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Shed a tear, UFO buffs, because the curtain has been pulled away from that mysterious flying object in Fisher’s Landing – and it’s not here to carry us off or eat our brains.

Last month, several folks reported seeing something high in the air, only after dark, something that danced strangely back and forth and emitted vivid blasts of flowing colors, sort of like large fireworks displays or some huge, electrified, airborne chameleon.

Some said the object resembled a flying saucer. It generated a media buzz from Vancouver to Seattle.

But now the UFO has been identified, so it’s an IFO, and a really cool one.

Ta-da! It’s a magnificent Chinese-made kite, made of parachute fabric in a triangle shape, standing 7  1/2 feet tall with a wingspan of 13 feet.

The lights are hundreds of LEDs of every bright color imaginable, powered by an onboard rechargeable lithium ion battery and a small onboard computer that sequences many flashing light patterns.

Watching the kite flying at night, you might see a gold-and-green pattern like a palm tree – and that might change into an upward shower of red light instead of water.

The first minute of the patterns depict the rising sun, and then there are four more minutes of other patterns and it repeats the cycle, said the kite’s owner and operator, a guy named Mike. He asked that his last name not be published for privacy.

Mike’s reel is the size of a child’s bicycle wheel. And he’s harnessed with it, over his shoulders and around his back, to anchor against the wind’s pull. The reel has a big hand crank and two brakes and is wound with 300-pound-test braided string, enough to fly it to 5,000 feet, nearly a mile high.

Mike isn’t breaking any rules flying his spectacular kite.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations for kites mandate that they stay lower than 500 feet from the ground within a controlled airspace, or in the close vicinity of an airport. Mike said he never flies it higher than that.

Mike said he has discussed his kite flying with an FAA official and with Vancouver police.

Before launching the kite Monday night, he called 911 and told a dispatcher he’d be flying it, in case they received calls from the public about the mysterious lights and possible UFO.

“It was kind of unnerving the first time, calling 911 to say ‘I’m going to fly a kite and it’s not a UFO,’ ” he said later.

Guadalupe Carpintero, 18, a senior at Union High School, said she’d been doing her homework when her aunt called and told her to look outside. She ran out in pajamas and slippers and a coat. Other family members ran out, too.

“It’s amazing,” family members said. “It’s really pretty.”

Mike said he’s visited China on business and vacation, and that’s where he and his wife saw such kites.

They are fairly common in China and don’t blow folks’ minds like they do in Clark County, he said.


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