Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Francis Melvin Rogallo 1912–2009

Francis Rogallo was 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.He was born Jan. 27, 1912, in Sanger, California and graduated from Sanger High School in 1928.He went on to graduate with an advanced degree in Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics in 1935, one of the first to do so, from Stanford University.After completing his college studies, Rogallo joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), later to become the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in 1936 in Hampton, Va., and embarked on what would be a long and distinguished career in aeronautics. In 1939 he married the love of his life Gertrude Sugden Rogallo, a young educator from the Hampton Roads area. The couple raised four children, Marie, Robert, Carol, and Frances, and celebrated 68 years of marriage together. While Roger was working as an aeronautical engineer in the NACA wind tunnels and Gertrude was busy as a homemaker, they actively pursued at home their passion and dream of creating a vehicle to make flight affordable and available to everyone. While pursuing their dream, the couple met the legendary inventor Orville Wright who fueled their spirit of invention. Francis held several patents from his work at NACA and NASA, but was proudest of the one he and Gertrude filed in 1948 as co-inventors of a "flexible kite" based on their joint efforts at home in their leisure time. The device is one of the simplest airfoils ever created, a wing totally without stiffeners creating lift and carrying payloads. This Rogallo Wing has made possible many sports including hang gliding, paragliding, sport parachuting, stunt kite flying, and kite boarding enjoyed by millions of people. The Rogallos are recognized worldwide for their contributions to sport aviation and have been honored in Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, and France. Honors in this country for Francis include recognition by the National Air and Space Museum "for outstanding achievement in aerospace technology", presentation of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from the State of North Carolina as one of the 100 aviation heroes by Senator Elizabeth Dole at the Century of Flight ceremonies in 2003, and induction of both into the Paul Garber Shrine at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The couple's portrait hangs today in the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Rog also was an inductee of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and of the Public Education Hall of Fame of the California School Boards Association, in the inaugural class in 1984, and both are honored with a pylon at the Century of Flight Monument in Kitty Hawk, N.C.