Francis Melvin Rogallo
(January 27, 1912–September 1, 2009) was an American aeronautical engineer
inventor born in Sanger,
California, U.S.A.; he is
credited with the invention of the Rogallo
wing, or "flexible wing", a precursor to the modern hang glider and paraglider.
Self-inflating Rogallo's flexible wing
His patents ranged over
mechanical utility patents and ornamental design patents for
, target kite, flexible wing, and
advanced configurations for flexible wing vehicles.
an aeronautical engineering degree at Stanford
University in 1935.
Since 1936, Francis Rogallo worked
for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA
) as an aeronautics project engineer at the
. During 1948, he and his
wife Gertrude Rogallo
, invented and
patented a self-inflating flexible kite
called this kite the "flexible wing". Rogallo had originally
invented the wing with the idea to create an aircraft which would
be simple enough and inexpensive enough that anyone could have one.
The wing was flown by Francis Rogallo as a model glider with small
payloads hung beneath the wing (thus model hang glider) and as a
Rogallo wing is one of the simplest
airfoils ever created; a wing using the airfoil could be used to
carry payloads, undercarriage devices, pilot-control assemblies,
etc. For the next six years, the Rogallos tried ceaselessly to
attract both government and industry interest in their flexible
wing, and they licensed a manufacturer in Connecticut to sell a kite based on it.
company announced the development of
in 1952, Rogallo immediately saw how
superior it would be for his kite, and the five-dollar toy
'Flexikite' became one of the first products to use the plastic
material. The Rogallos found themselves traveling to kiting events
around the Northeast to fly and promote the toy, which found
It was on October 4, 1957 when the Russian Sputnik
began beeping its message from orbit that
everything changed. The space race caught the imagination of the
newly formed NASA and, Rogallo
was in position to seize the opportunity.
released their patent to the government, and with F. Rogallo's help
at the wind tunnels, NASA began a series of experiments testing the
Parawing, (NASA renamed the Rogallo wing the Parawing, and modern
hang glider pilots often refer to it as the flexible Rogallo wing)
at altitudes as high as 200,000 feet and as fast as Mach 3
in order to evaluate them as alternative
recovery system for the Gemini space
and used rocket stage
. By 1960 NASA
had already made test flights of a framed Parawing powered aircraft
called the 'flying Jeep' or Fleep
and of a
weight shift Parawing glider called Paresev
in a series of several shapes and sizes manned and unmanned. A key
wing configuration applying Francis Rogallo's leadership that gave
base to kited gliders with hung pilots using weight-shift control
was designed by Charles
and constructed by the Richards team in 1961-2; such
wing became a template for recreational use or Rogallo's inventions
ending up mechanically and ornamentally in Skiplane, ski-kites, and
hang gliders of the 1960-1975.
But in 1967 projects focused on the Parasev were stopped by NASA in
favor of using round parachutes. NASA was not in the business of
applying Rogallo's family of airfoils to personal aircraft such as
kites, hang gliders, and powered light aircraft; however what was
already in the Paresev series of aircraft provided all the
fundamental mechanics that could be simplified to lighter personal
aircraft. That task of lightening and tweaking what the Paresev
team had done with the Rogallo wing was taken up by independent
designers around the world: Barry
in 1961, Richard Miller, Thomas Purcell, and Australian
Mike Burns were among the first to tap the technology for manned
personal-craft glider/kite use.
As of 2003 Rogallo had new designs for kite
. Gertrude died on January 28, 2008. Members
of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, are
called "Rogallo" members. Tens of thousands of people have taken
lessons in Rogallo wing
type hang gliders at Jockey's
Ridge State Park, an enormous sand dune which is located five miles
from the site of the first powered aircraft flight. Mr. Rogallo was
frequently seen at the park flying his own hang glider in the
1970's and 80's. Francis Rogallo died on September 1, 2009, in
Southern Shores, NC, near Kitty Hawk, the birthplace of aviation.
- Lateral Control of Aircraft US Pat. 2322745, filed:
Dec 13, 1940.
- Flexible Kite US Pat. 2546078, filed Nov. 23, 1948.
Co-inventor: Gertrude Sudgen Rogallo.
- Flexible Kite US Pat. 2751172, filed Nov 17, 1953.
Co-inventor: Gertrude Sudgen Rogallo.
- Jet Aircraft Configuration US Pat. 2991961, filed May
6, 1959. Co-inventors: John M. Riebe and John G. Lowry.
- Target Kite US Pat. 3296617, filed Jan 23, 1963.
- Flexible Wing Vehicle Configurations US Pat. RE26380,
filed April 29, 1963. And same date: US
Pat. 3197158. And another of same date of filing:
US Pat. 3185412
- Control for Flexible Parawing US Pat. 3310261, filed
Jan. 17, 1964.
- Aeroflexible Structures US Pat. 3443779, filed
Nov 16, 1967.
- Rogallo et al. U.S. patent 2546078
- Article: How to Fly Without a Plane by Robert
Zimmerman, aerospace writer. 
- Diagrams of Rogallo's flexible wing.
- How to Fly Without a Plane, article by Robert
Zimmerman, a writer specializing in space, astronomy, and
exploration. He is working on a book on the flight of Apollo 8 to
the moon.) 
- Development of Rogallo wing as described by NASA: 
- On 1965 Jack
Swigert, who would later be one of the Apollo 13 astronauts, softly landed a
full-scale Gemini capsule using a Parawing stiffened with
inflatable tubes along the wing’s edges
- NASA's Paresev
aircraft (Paraglider Research Vehicle). 01/25/1962. 
- Listing from Web site Hang Gliding Spectacular
- USHPA