Commemorating the First Flights of the Wright Brothers December 17, 1903

‹--Return to the Shrine

Francis and

1912 - 2009

Gertrude Rogallo

1914 - 2008

Developed The First Successful Flexible Wing

Inducted in 1995

Francis Rogallo began his career as an engineer with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1936. While working at the NACA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, in the late 1940s, he envisioned the possibility of a simpler, more practical, and less expensive aircraft for sport and recreation. Since the research center did not wish to undertake such a project, Rogallo decided to pursue the idea on his own in his spare time.

Rogallo conceived the thought of making an aircraft wing as a parachute-like flexible structure that would open and maintain its shape by wind pressure. With his wife Gertrude's help, he made small models that were tested in a wind tunnel at their home. After extensive experimentation, he designed the first Rogallo wing, for which Gertrude sewed the prototype from material scavenged from the kitchen curtains. The cloth wing was tested on August 15, 1958, and it worked! On March 20, 1951, Francis and Gertrude were granted a patent on the design of the Rogallo wing.

The invention of the Rogallo wing gave birth to hang gliding. In 1971, hang gliders built using the flexible wing design appeared in the world's first hang glider meet in California, marking a milestone in the evolution of non-powered flight. Since that time the Rogallo wing has been used around the world by millions of people to experience their first solo flight.