John Nicolaides, an aeronautical engineer from San Luis Obispo, California, devised a ‘pack-away’ parafoil-wing aircraft. The parafoil wing works on the same principle as the ram-air steerable parachutes used by advanced skydivers: forward motion forces air into the open front of the parafoil and inflates its cells to an airfoil shape, which has all the properties (and more) of a convetional aircraft wing. The parafoil is made of high-strength rip-stop nylon sailcloth. A cat's cradle of supporting lines distributes the airload.
Nicolaides maintains that the parafoil aircraft is simple to fly. There are just two controls: a rudder bar for left and right and a throttle to go up or down. Speed is 40 kph (25 mph), and the machine cannot be stalled because airspeed and angle of attack are constant. The landing run is 3 m (10 ft).
A version with a payload of 5080 kg/11,200 lb has been built.