EXPIRED: 09/01/09 – Francis Rogallo, 97, watched kitchen curtains being blown by a window fan and was inspired to invent the flexible wing. Because of this, thousands fly free as a bird with hang-gliders, ultralights, sport parachutes & kiteboarding.

For years tried to get the US government interested in his wing design but there were no takers.

That was, until, Sputnik was launched. Once the space race competition heated up, NASA came calling. NASA thought the wing could be used to help guide satellites back to Earth upon re-entry into the atmosphere. Rogallo relinguished his patent and  – well – never saw a dime.

But NASA abandoned the idea of soft landings on terra firmer in favor of parachutes /ocean recoveries and Rogallo and his wing were forgotten.

Except of course to the millions of people who hang-glide — Including Rogallo himself, who would indulge in solitary flights about once a month until he was 80.



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