Domina Jalbert
2006

Pilot & designer

Domina Jalbert was born in St-Michel-des-Saints (Qc). Still in his youth, his family moved to Woonsocket (Rhode Island) where he received American citizenship. An early aviation pioneer, Jalbert obtained in 1927 private pilot license no. 626. Growing up with a passion for kites, he conceived huge advertisement kites (with the help of his mother at the sewing machine). With war approaching, he was hired by the United States Rubber Co. for the design of barrage balloons that defended London against air attacks. His first major invention, the «kytoon», came from this period. A combination of «kyte» and «balloon», it has since been used for aerial photo, radio antenna deployment, atmospheric research, the lifting of heavy logs, etc. Jalbert founded in 1949 the Jalbert Aerology Laboratory, soon involved with parachute design. In 1953, flying his Beechcraft airplane, Jalbert had a sudden inspiration: why not build a parachute with the shape of a wing? So came to be the «parafoil», a flexible wing with cells open to the flow of air, generating lift.

In 1953, flying his Beechcraft airplane, Jalbert had a sudden inspiration: why not build a parachute with the shape of a wing? So came to be the «parafoil», a flexible wing with cells open to the flow of air, generating lift.

Granted patent in 1966, the parafoil generated immediate interest and was considered by some as the most radical departure in parachute design since Leonardo de Vinci. The parafoil (nicknamed a «flying mattress») was rapidly adopted by the American parachute team Golden Knights. Also known as ram air parachute or square parachute, the parafoil is however very different from a standard dome chute in the way that, as Jalbert explained: «the parafoil was not invented as a descending device, but as an ascending one». Forerunner of paragliders and traction kites used for paraski and kitesurfing, the parafoil was also tested by NASA for space capsules reentry. Recently, NASA resumed parafoil testing with the X-38 CRV prototype. The future crew return vehicule glided back safely to earth suspended under a giant 7,500-square-foot parafoil wing (almost one and a half times the wing span of a Boeing 747 !). One previous world record was held by Jalbert himself who, in 1980, flew a huge 3,640-square-foot parafoil kyte. Generating more than 10,000 pounds of lift, the kite was attached to a truck filled with 20 tons of gravel. In 1983, a gigantic 10,000 plus-square-foot parafoil kite was also tested.

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