Snagging a fishing line over Cochranville by Larry Toto

Back in the early eighties, I was renting a Super Decathalon in southeastern PA (New Garden Airport) to compete in local sportsman category aerobatic competitions. I would fly out to just south of a small town (Cochranville, as I recall) and practice the loops, rolls, hammerheads, cuban eights, spins, and such. I practiced at 1500′ to 3000′ AGL, which is where the ceiling and floor of the aerobatic box resides. I tired of the maneuvers after about twenty minutes of airwork and decided to drop down in altitude to take a breather. Banking to about 60 degrees and letting the nose fall through, I peeled off from 2500’AGL and leveled off at about 800′ AGL over the farmland. I saw what I thought might have been a bird flip through my peripheral vision just above and to the right of me. Curious as to what it was slowed a bit and hit right rudder to look back. I found a white kite about 100 feet behind the aircraft, torn to shreds and spinning wildly in the air behind me. I quickly searched for where the kite string was snagged and found the the line was snagged on the right wing about halfway out to the wingtip.

I flew around the area for a few minutes, searching for someone on the ground who might have been the owner of the kite. I saw no one. I headed back to the airfield and landed. As I taxied back to the hangar, a little dog was chasing and barking at the kite, snapping at the ripped paper and sticks. After shutting down, I found that the kite was stripped down to a couple of little sticks and some scrap paper. Ther was very little left of it. The string had cut into the leading edge of the wing and had apparently been wrapping around the tail as I flew. I had 15-20 pound monofilament fishing line wrapped around both the vertical and horizontal tail planes, partly restricting the movement of the rudder. I still have that line and kite somewhere in my parents atic. The aircraft required two cloth patches, one on the right wing and one on the hoizontal tail due to the line cutting into the fabric.

I was fearful that such a strong kite string might have done damage to the fingers of some young kite flyer on the ground. A week past before I started to relax about that thought. No one ever notified the airfied and I never heard any reports of missing fingers by anyone.

I spoke with a flight instructor about hitting the kite string and he told me that he saw a kite near Cochranville at about 1000′ AGL, just before my flight.

Larry Toto