Rogallo Wing

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Circa 1974 a friend and I built a hang glider based on a Rogallo design appearing in a now defunct magazine. Basically it was vee shaped with a 20-foot (~6 meters) central spar and two 18-foot wing masts. We were able to get 10-foot sections of 1-½ inch aircraft aluminum tubes that we trimmed and welded together to form the airframe. The control bar was delta shaped and mounted rigidly to the central spar with bolts and cables. The wings were supported by cables top and bottom. The upper cables had no function during flight. The seat was suspended from the central spar via cables with multiple attachment points near the center of gravity and control was via pulling the bar in or out for vertical or by shifting weight side to side for direction. We had the wing material cut and sewn by a sail making company. You can’t believe how big sail-making lofts are; like two football fields. It was man-made material but I can’t recall the type. Total cost was about $2000.00, ($1200.00 for sail), a tidy sum in those days. The design was supposed to yield a 4.5 to 1 glide ratio.

Over our wives’ objections we made about fifty, more or less successful flights with it, the first flights were on a local 800-foot, towrope only, ski slope of about 20 degrees. Neither of us knew how to fly, but it proved very easy to do except that landing was a problem. I did every thing I could not to land when I ran out of slope and stalled from about 20 feet; the nose of the kite hit first throwing me through the control bars. I was stirred but not shaken and had 2 decent flights afterwards. If I had broken my neck I would have had to pretend otherwise since my wife and kids were watching. We added a small wheel to the tip afterwards but never again needed it.

One of our welds overheated the aluminum and caused it to fail after about 8 months, fortunately while we were tightening the cables getting ready to fly. That and our wives’ objections ended our flying days. We sold the glider for $500.00; yes we did tell the buyer that the welds were unsafe. A mutual friend later told us that he had it professionally re-done. All hearsay but as far as I know, after several re-sales, the kite ended its days about 40 feet up in a tree and may still be there.


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