Rogallo Kite Festival

Francis Rogallo posing with his Rogallo Wing beside a NASA reentry capsule.

Francis Rogallo posing with his Rogallo Wing beside a NASA reentry capsule.

The 33rd Annual Kitty Hawk Kites Rogallo Kite Festival is coming up this weekend, June 5-7, at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. It looks as though there’s going to be some good winds for kite flying, the early forecast calls for a chance for rain but it stays below 50%, so it should be a great time on the dunes.

The festival is a fantastic at way to remember a wonderful and amazing man.

Francis Rogallo, who died at age 97 in 2009, was the father of hang gliding. A NASA scientist, in 1948 he and his wife, Gertrude, sitting around the kitchen table invented a steerable, flexible wing that did not require a frame. The significance of his patent, which he gave to the government of the United States at no charge, is apparent everywhere.

Every time a hang glider is seen, or a stunt kite, a paraglider or a modern parachute, that aircraft is a direct descendant of the work Mr. Rogallo did.

His deployable flexible wing was almost used instead of a parachute to bring early space capsules back to earth, but concerns about how to store the wing and how it would be rigged made the simpler basic parachute the better option.

As a person, Mr. Rogallo was one of the nicest people you could ever meet. A kind, very patient man, he genuinely seemed to enjoy talking to people about almost any subject. Although he is best known for inventing the Rogallo Wing, that was not his only significant contribution to flight. He also holds patents in the lateral control of aircraft and jet aircraft design.

Showing faith in his invention, Mr. Rogallo flew hang gliders until he was 80.