Phil Rossoni Walkalong Glider Interview
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If YouTube is blocked at your school, try this SchoolTube version http://www.schooltube.com/video/43c97f2e1b862a9c46df/Phil-Rossoni-Interview
Phil refers to walkalong gliding as controllable slope soaring. His website is http://sites.google.com/site/controllableslopesoaring/ He has several YouTube Channels, including http://www.youtube.com/user/zsurfer#p/u/1/szhKAVM19o0
This video is an interview with one of the major educators and innovators of surfing objects on waves of air, but first an introduction. One day my brother had taken his family to the Museum of Science in Boston. He could not contain his excitement about a person he had seen mysteriously levitating things—and teaching museum visitors how to do it. It wasn’t a magic show; it was some kind of new science activity that looked like science fiction. That museum person turned out to be Phil Rossoni, whom I call the evangelizer of walkalong gliding.
Harnessing the power of —at the time he started--a new thing called the internet, Phil has shown tens of thousands of people how to fly—including me. He created a good paper walkalong glider design and he’s the only other person I know who is keeping track of air surfing developments throughout the world. When I started flying with my students, he and his wife traveled to Pennsylvania, visited my school and documented what we were doing. Phil was the first person I am aware of to use a helmet camera to record what walkalong flight looks like from the pilot's view.
When I was invited to teach at the Science Center in St. Louis, I asked this science museum veteran to help me there. I’m paraphrasing, but I’ve heard Phil put into words things I’ve thought, like, “With walkalong gliding you touch the air, you’re really connecting with flight. I believe mankind is a flying species. We need tools, we have to be safe, but we know how to do it, so kids should learn how to fly.
(in answer to a question about his beginnings with walkalong gliders) Well, my first opportunity was a missed opportunity. I bought a walkalong glider [for his nephew] and I had no idea what to do with it. The directions were a bit sketchy so we never really learned how to use it. I only really learned what to do with a walkalong glider when Paul MacCready came to the science center and demonstrated for them how walkalong gliding works. Then I found out from a briefing as a volunteer. Then my supervisor said, “Go forth and learn how to fly it.” The rest is history. I started doing an “interpretation” which means you go onto the museum floor and fly. People come up to you and ask questions: can I try it, how can I build one, do they sell them in the gift shop (laughs).
They were fairly expensive when they first came out, thirty dollars each. That’s what they were going for at the time and I heard that they’d stopped making them, so there was a rush to be able to recreate them, reverse engineer. So, since I was learning how to make them myself it was a good opportunity to share with everybody. I started a messy website, it continues to be out there for those who are willing to dig through it.
I then expanded into paper airplanes. I like to keep things as simple as possible. The tumblewing was introduced to me by Michael Thompson [who learned it from John Collins. See the interview about the his invention of the tumbling wing]. It was the best way to get people flying as fast a possible. It seemed to have all the amazement, all the entertainment value of a walkalong glider, yet be something we could make on the spot in less than a minute. It was hassle-free and can be made from recycled material.
The holy grail was to get a paper airplane that would flew like a walkalong glider. One of the big problems was something called “tip stall.” It’s caused because the wing presents the same angle of attack to the wind throughout. I changed the angle of attack of the wing tips of a particular paper airplane design. It responded much better to roll commands from the controlled slope. That turned out to be a wonderfully popular activity on the internet for people who were coming from the paper airplane building side. This is a paper airplane design that you can sustain and control as a walkalong glider.
(in answer to a question about flying insects) The museum was installing a butterfly garden at the time. The butterfly garden generates a lot of dead butterflies. The live butterflies don’t last forever. So he [one of the entomologists at the museum] challenged me to fly a dead butterfly. We tried it and—lo and behold—they worked very well. The only problem was they were flying upside down. It took about a year to develop a method to get them flying right side up. After that year I started flying them in the museum. It was sort of a double interpretation because we were advertising the butterfly garden as well as an aviation activity.
(text quote) With walkalong gliding you touch the air with the paddle, you are really connecting with flight. I think human kind is a flying species. We need tools to fly, but we have the knowledge and people should learn how to fly in a safe environment. That’s what walkalong gliding is about. You take to the air.