Go fly a kite!

That’s Mike Binsfeld’s advice to kids as a way to enjoy the outdoors and the fun of doing tricks in the sky

Mike Binsfeld flew a 24-foot octopus kite at the kite festival at Coal Dock Park Saturday. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

When he was growing up in Port Washington, Mike Binsfeld, like almost every kid, played around with kites. He collected Jolly Green Giant labels to earn a free kite and gathered aluminum cans to trade in for coins to buy kite string.

But he was an adult when he got serious about kite flying. At a Milwaukee park, he saw a kite flier making a complex-looking kite do tricks in the sky.

He asked about the kite and was hooked. He bought one like it, then another and then a lot more.

“To me, kite flying is you, the kite and the wind,” he said. “There’s no battery or gas or internet connection.”

Binsfeld, now 62, knew plenty about aerodynamics — he used to be a B-52 crew chief for the Air Force — and he quickly learned how kites interact with wind.

A large four-string kite he owns can produce 300 pounds of pull and once dragged him 50 feet along the ground. He got up and was asked if he was OK. “Yeah, that was exhilarating,” he said.

Over the years, Binsfeld has learned that different kinds of kites require specific handling and do a variety of movements.

The simplest of his collection are the old-fashioned one-string kites that are shaped like diamonds and have a tail. Binsfeld anchors those to the ground and lets them float around.

Another of his kites is a 24-foot octopus complete with eight tentacles that fly.

Two-string kites are shaped like the gliders used by paragliders. They launch by themselves.

“If you get a breeze, they’ll fill themselves up,” Binsfeld said.

They fly 50 to 70 feet off the ground.             

Four-string require a lot of hand work to control. The first time he took one out he was told to respect it.

“It can hurt you,” he said.

Binsfeld has straps on his wrists while flying the four-string kite. If he lets go, it automatically comes down for safety. He hung on the time he was dragged.

With four-string kites, professionals can “literally take a kite and stop it in the wind,” he said. The one and two-string types need to be in constant motion.

Binsfeld uses Kevlar string to fly his  kites. “It doesn’t stretch and it’s more responsive, so it’s immediate gratification,” he said.

For some kites, Binsfeld lets out 60 feet of line. Others get 100 or more. He can make them do loops and fly them inches from the ground.

Some of the trick kites — the sports cars of kites — have jerky movements and can travel up to 70 mph in quick dives.

The best kite-flying wind, he has learned over the years, is a straight-line uninterrupted by trees. Next to the lake, Binsfeld hopes for wind off of the water. Near his Town of Port Washington home, he hopes for a westerly wind.

“When it’s cold out, the wind is dense, so kites fly a little bit better. Just as in race cars and airplanes, it gives you more of a lift,” he said.

Binsfeld prefers to fly large kites in lighter wind while the small ones can handle gustier conditions.

“The big ones can handle the wind, it’s just a question of whether I can handle it,” he said.

After Binsfeld left the Air Force after four years, he started an auto mechanic apprenticeship and worked in the industry for 30 years.

For the last 13 years, he has done odd jobs that support the auto industry, including fixing mobile air conditioners.

An all-around repair guy who calls himself “self-automotive support,” he travels for his job and gets to meet new people all the time.

Binsfeld worked as a crew chief at Road America in Elkhart Lake and Blackhawk Farms Raceway in South Beloit. He has a flight simulator and car simulator — complete with a cockpit, brake pedal and steering wheel that reacts realistically.

He flies his kites in a field near his home at highways KW and LL. He said he needs only a space of about one-third of a football field.

Binsfeld has earned a couple of first-place ribbons in kite flying but insists he is an amateur.

Once while flying his kites near a tiny town in Utah, children came out to see what he was doing. One asked, “What is that thing?”

“That’s what I thought when I saw that guy flying a kite in Milwaukee 30 years ago,” he said.

Getting kids interested in kites was Binsfeld’s goal last Saturday when he flew his kites in the kite festival at Coal Dock Park.

“It’s something simple, and too many of our kids today are too locked into their devices,” he said.

“I just want to get people excited about it like I was. I would love to see a big kite fest in Port.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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