Francis M. Rogallo

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On June 26, 1959, then-Langley-research Francis Rogallo examined the Rogallo wing in the 7x10 FT Tunnel. Originally conceived as a means of bringing manned spacecraft to controlled, soft Landings, Rogallo's concept was avidly embraced by later generations of hang-gliding enthusiasts.

From Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini (NASA SP-4203, 1977), pp. 18-19. "STG Space Task Group was also looking into a more radical approach to controlled spacecraft landing. Between 1945 and 1958, a Langley engineer named Francis M. Rogallo had been working at home on a flexible kite, its lifting surface draped from an inflated fabric frame. In contrast to other flexible aerial devices like parachutes, a load-bearing Rogallo wing produced more lift than drag, though not as much as a conventional wing. But rigid wings could not be folded neatly away when not in use, and they were inherently far heavier. Rogallo first realized what this might mean in 1952, when he chanced across an article on space travel. ... Rogallo's efforts to promote his insight met scant success until late 1958, when the new American commitment to explore space furnished him a willing audience. In December, the Langley Committee on General Aerodynamics heard him describe his flexible wing and how it might be used in "space ship landing." The group responded warmly, and work on the concept moved from Rogallo's home to laboratories at Langley. A few months later, STG asked Rogallo for an informal meeting to discuss his research. Some of STG's top people, Manager Gilruth among them, showed up on 30 March 1959 to hear what Rogallo had to say. Gilruth was impressed enough to suggest at a staff meeting two months later that some study go into a follow-on Mercury using maneuverable capsules for land landings."

Richard P. Hallion wrote: "The best way to acquire ... experience, of course, was by building and flying a Parawing. Two who actively favored such an approach were center research pilots Neil Armstrong and Milt Thompson. they approached Paul Bikle, who liked the idea, but recognized that both pilots had heavy Dyna-Soar commitments; FRC could not spare their services elsewhere, even to a project as interesting as the proposed Parawing. Instead, Bikle called in a group of center engineers under the direction of Charles Richards, a team composed of Richard Klein, Vic Horton, Gary Layton, and Joe Wilson. Bilke's instructions were characteristically short and to the point: build a single-seat Paraglider and *do it quick and cheap.' All this took place just before Christmas 1961. The team, now totaling nine engineers and technicians, set to work on this *Paraglider Research Vehicle,' conveniently abbreviated Paresev. Seven weeks later, after expending $4280 on construction and materials, the team rolled out the Paresev I. It resembled a grown-up tricycle, with a rudimentary seat, an angled tripod mast, and perched on top of the mast, a 14-square-meter Rogallo-type parawing. The vehicle weighed 272 kilograms, had a height of over 3.4 meters, and a length of 4.5 meters. The pilot sat out in the open, strapped in the seat, with no enclosure of any kind. He controlled the descent rate by tilting the wing fore and aft, and turned by tilting the wing from side to side. NASA registered the Paresev, the first NASA research airplane to be constructed totally *in-house,' with the Federal Aviation Administration on 12 February 1962. Flight testing started immediately."

Published in James R. Hansen, Spaceflight Revolution: NASA Langley Research Center From Sputnik to Apollo, NASA SP-4308, pp. 380-387; Richard P. Hallion, On the Frontier: Flight Research at Dryden, 1946-1981, NASA SP-4303, pp. 138-139.

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[top] Obituary

SOUTHERN SHORES - Southern Shores engineer, inventor, flight pioneer, loving husband and devoted father, Francis Melvin "Rog" Rogallo passed away peacefully Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009, at his Southern Shores residence. He was 97. Rog, born Jan. 27, 1912, in Sanger, Calif., was the son of the late Mathieu Rogallo and Marie Dajas Rogallo Betzold, and stepson of the late William Frederick Betzold.

Rog was preceded in death by his wife, Gertrude Sugden Rogallo; brothers, Matthew Rogallo, Harold Rogallo and Vernon Rogallo; stepsister, Margaret Betzold Pollock; and stepbrother, Curtis Betzold.

He graduated from Sanger High School in 1928 and 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, Rog 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 Rog 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.

In 1967, Gertrude and Francis were lured to the beauty of the Outer Banks and purchased a summer cottage here. Later, they relocated to Kitty Hawk permanently where they were fixtures at the local aviation group meetings and gliding events. They embraced the Outer Banks community by becoming active members of St. Andrews Episcopal Church and later founding members of All Saints Episcopal Church, with Rog joining the First Flight Society, the Civil Air Patrol, and the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department.

Left to cherish the memory and spirit of Francis and Gertrude Rogallo are their four children: Marie "Bunny" Rogallo Samuels and husband Phillip, Carol Rogallo Sparks and husband Norman, all of Southern Shores, Frances Rogallo MacEachren and husband Alan of Boalsburg, Pa., and Robert Sugden Rogallo and wife Sarah "Sallie" of Los Altos Hills, Calif. Rog also leaves three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren who loved him very much and will miss him dearly.

A celebration of Rog's life and achievements will be held at All Saints Episcopal Church in Southern Shores Sunday, Sept. 20, at 3:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial tributes may be forwarded to the Rogallo Foundation, P.O. Box 1839, Nags Head, NC 27959.


[top] Further Reading

First Flight Organization

Rogallo Had A Dream. Sharon Dillon.


[top] Technical Reports

PARAGLIDER RECOVERY SYSTEMS Author: Rogallo, F. M. Abstract: Paraglider recovery systems Publication Year: 1962 Document ID: 19620002819

Proceedings of the National Meeting on Manned Space Flight: Unclassified Portion Author: Coate, R. E.; Drake, H. M.; Eggleston, J. M.; Gilruth, R. R.; Glenn, J. H. JR.; Holmes, D. B.; Low, G. M.; Miller, G.; Rogallo, F. M.; Root, L. E.; Walker, J. A.; Wingrove, R. C. Abstract: National meeting on manned space flight - proceedings Publication Year: 1962 Document ID: 19620004468

Flexible wings for transportation Author: Rogallo, F. M.; Croom, D. R.; Sleeman, W. C., Jr. Abstract: The possible uses of flexible wings for transportation of passengers and cargo from point to point Publication Year: 1972 Document ID: 19720049516

NASA research on flexible wings Author: Rogallo, F. M. Abstract: NASA research on flexible and stiffened flexible wings, discussing range of applicability, Publication Year: 1968 Document ID: 19690037579

FLEXIBLE WING RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT Author: Rogallo, F. M. Abstract: Flexible wings red - stability & control of para- gliders as decelerators for spacecraft Publication Year: 1963 Document ID: 19630013439

Wind-Tunnel Development of Ailerons for the Curtiss XP-60 Airplanem Special Report Author: Rogallo, F. M.; Lowry, John G. Abstract: An investigation was made in the LWAL 7- by 10-foot tunnel of internally balanced, sealed ailerons Publication Year: 1942 Document ID: 20090016322

Parawings for astronautics Author: Rogallo, F. M. Abstract: No Abstract Available Publication Year: 1963 Document ID: 19650076556 Accession Number: 65N88967

NASA research on flexible wings Author: Rogallo, F. M. Abstract: Research on aerodynamic characteristics of flexible wings Publication Year: 1967 Document ID: 19680015821 Report/Patent Number: NASA-TM-X-59738

Resume of recent parawing research Author: Croom, D. R.; Rogallo, F. M.; Sleeman, W. C., Jr. Abstract: Survey of parawing and paraglider research Publication Year: 1965 Document ID: 19660017784 Report/Patent Number: NASA-TM-X-56747

Control for flexible parawing Patent Author: Rogallo, F. M.; Sleeman, W. C., Jr. Abstract: Development and characteristics of control system for flexible wings Publication Year: 1967 Document ID: 19710001563 Report/Patent Number: US-PATENT-3,310,261, US-PATENT-APPL-SN-551815, NASA-CASE-XLA-06958

Jet aircraft configuration Patent Author: Lowry, J. G.; Riebe, J. M.; Rogallo, F. M. Abstract: Upper surface, external flow, jet-augmented flap configuration for high wing jet aircraft for noise Publication Year: 1961 Document ID: 19700024021 Report/Patent Number: US-PATENT-2,991,961, US-PATENT-APPL-SN-811509, NASA-CASE-XLA-00087

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