Jump to content

Francis Rogallo passes away.

Guest ozzie

Recommended Posts

September 5, 2009


F. M. Rogallo, Father of Hang Gliding, Dies at 97




Francis Rogallo, an aeronautical engineer who, beginning with a model made from a kitchen curtain, designed the wing that led to hang gliding, paragliding, sport parachuting and stunt kite flying, died Tuesday at his home in Southern Shores, N.C. He was 97.


His family announced the death.


Such was Mr. Rogallo’s influence on lightweight flight that the wings of hang gliders for years were called Rogallo wings, and that members of the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association are still called Rogallo members.


In an interview on Friday, David Glover, a past president of the association, called Mr. Rogallo “the father of hang gliding.”


The saga began after World War II. Mr. Rogallo’s wife, Gertrude, helped him develop his ideas for a flexible, ultralight aircraft. She used her sewing machine and a flowered chintz kitchen curtain to give substance to the vision, a sort of cross between a boat sail and a parachute.


Mr. Rogallo thought his “flexible wing” might be used for new kinds of boats, ground vehicles and aircraft, but nobody, including his employer, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, was interested. The couple got a patent in both of their names and started selling the invention as a kite.


The result was a triangle-shaped kite that turned out to be perfect for performing stunts. It was such a novelty that Meyer Berger wrote in The New York Times in 1954 that it “would startle Ben Franklin.”


Three years later, the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite, NASA, which succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, was suddenly very interested. Mr. Rogallo’s invention, now called the paraglider, was seen as a way to bring space capsules back to earth with more precision than a traditional parachute allows.


Wernher von Braun, the pre-eminent American rocket scientist, summoned Mr. Rogallo, who headed a team of 100, to Alabama for a personal briefing.


Rodney G. Rose, who managed escape, landing and recovery for the Gemini program, told The Times in 1962 that the paraglider transformed “the landing problem of a manned spacecraft from something out of the ordinary to something ordinary — the landing of a light plane.” But in the race against time, the paraglider was abandoned in 1964 for the old-fashioned parachute.


News and pictures of Mr. Rogallo’s work for NASA occasionally popped up in the news media. In 1954, Mr. Rogallo prophetically told Ford Times, a monthly publication of the Ford Motor Company, that he could envision men walking to the tops of hills and mountains and soaring away.


In Australia, people began to think the new wing might be just the thing for flying behind boats, while adventurous Americans imagined jumping off hills.


In an e-mail message, Nick Greece, editor of United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Magazine, said the first person to build a glider using the Rogallo wing was Barry Palmer, who learned about Mr. Rogallo’s work in Aviation Week magazine in August 1961, and who two months later near Sacramento made the first flight.


Today about 50,000 people glide annually in the United States, with many paying more than $4,000 for gliders.


Francis Melvin Rogallo was born in Sanger, Calif., on Jan. 27, 1912, and caught the flying bug at 7 after a barnstormer flew over the town. Later, when he tried to join the military as a pilot, he was rejected because he had lost part of his right foot in a childhood accident, The Virginian-Pilot reported in 2003. He graduated from Stanford with a degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering in 1935.


Although the aeronautics advisory committee showed no interest in Mr. Rogallo’s ideas, he was told he was welcome to work on them on his own time, his daughter said. So he and his wife used table fans and cardboard to erect wind tunnels at home. The result was his invention, the design of which they licensed to a kite maker.


His wife, the former Gertrude Sugden, who taught in a one-room school before they were married, died in 2008. Mr. Rogallo is survived by his daughters Marie Rogallo Samuels, known as Bunny, Carol Rogallo Sparks and Frances Rogallo MacEachren; his son, Robert; three grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.


Despite its maneuverability and durability, the Rogallos’ $4 or $5 Flexikite competed with ordinary kites costing a dime and was only moderately successful. But it was the only money Mr. Rogallo made on his invention: in the 1950s, he donated his patent rights to the federal government so his knowledge could be shared as widely as possible.


In 1962, NASA awarded Mr. Rogallo $35,000 for developing his flexible wing concept, the largest such award ever made to an inventor, an agency history said. His daughter said it was supposed to be tax free, but the I.R.S. demanded taxes. After a long, convoluted fight, Mr. Rogallo returned the money to NASA.


Mr. Rogallo retired in 1970, and chose to live near Kitty Hawk, because of the Wright brothers’ flight there. He had met Orville Wright in 1939.


At 62, Mr. Rogallo took up hang gliding on the Kitty Hawk dunes. He took his last flight there on his 80th birthday.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Ozzie good post.


Some people live a full and wonderful life contributing through their inventions to human enjoyment and whilst on the other hand we have the Taxman and politicians.


Life does suck, doesn't it!splat.gif.4fe5615d47cdda8649f5910181ed23f2.gif



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...