Rogallo, Francis Melvin

Rogallo, Francis Melvin
SUBJECT AREA: Aerospace
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b. 1912 USA
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American engineer who patented a flexible-winged hand-glider in 1948.
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After the hang-gliders of pioneers such as Lilienthal, Pilcher and Chanute in the 1890s, this form of flying virtually disappeared for seventy years. It was reintroduced in the late 1960s based on Francis Rogallo's flexible wing, patented in the United States in 1948. Rogallo's wing was very basic: it consisted of a fabric delta wing with a solid boom along each leading edge and one along the centre line. Between these booms, the fabric was free to billow out into two partial cones. Variations of the Rogallo flexible wing were investigated in the 1960s by Ryans as a means of recovering space vehicles (e.g. Saturn booster), and by North American for the recovery of Gemini spacecraft. In 1963 a version with a 155 kW (210 hp) engine was tested by the US services as a potential lightweight transport vehicle. None of these made a great impact and the Rogallo wing became popular as a hang-glider c. 1970. The pilot was suspended in a harness below a lightweight Rogallo wing. A framework attached to the wing structure allowed the pilot to move his or her body in any direction relative to the wing. Thus, if they wished to dive, they would move their weight forward, which made the glider nose-heavy. This was a great improvement over the earlier hang-gliders, in which the upper part of the pilot's body was held in a fixed position and control was achieved by swinging the legs. Rogallo-wing hang-gliders became very popular as they were relatively cheap and easy to transport. Once the sport developed, powered "microlights" made their appearance and a new branch of popular flying was established.
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Further Reading
Ann Welsh, 1977, "Hang glider development", Aerospace (Royal Aeronautical Society) (August/September).
JDS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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