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Interested in hang gliding? Currently learning to hang glide? Post your questions here.
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By tom2277
#66693
I am planning to hang gliding for the first time and was hoping for a guesstimate of the risk of death or serious injury. I searched online but couldn't find reliable data. Most of the sources I saw said the fatality rate was about 1 per 1000 to 1500 active participants per year. But obviously the risk of doing it once is less than the risk of doing it actively throughout the year. So I'd like to know the risk of death/injury per flight or per hour of flight time. (I understand that there are typically 5-10 deaths per year, so if anyone knows the total number of flights per year, I could figure it out from that.)
I'm planning to do a tandem flight with an experienced instructor at a reputable place (probably Blue Sky in Virginia). I'm guessing the flight will be about 20 minutes. Can anyone guesstimate the likelihood of death or serious injury on this one tandem flight? (One widely quoted source I saw said 1 death per 2308 flights, but I'm hoping they actually meant per 2308 participants, not per 2308 flights.)
Thanks in advance for your help.
User avatar
By xerxes
#66697
from http://www.willswing.com/Support/FAQIte ... at=hgbasic
Statistically, in the United States, hang gliding has a fatality rate of about one fatality per thousand participants per year. This rate is computed for regularly participating pilots beyond the student level, and is based on all fatal accidents reported divided by the number of pilots who participate on a regular basis. This is about five times greater a statistical rate than traveling in an automobile, and it is comparable to other sports which are considered to be high risk. If all hang gliding participants are included in the denominator, the statistical rate is much lower, as fatalities are fairly rare among student pilots, and there are a significant number of student pilots who do not continue as regular participants beyond the student phase. Hang gliding shares with all other forms of aviation the inherent danger of being high above the ground. Anytime a pilot loses control of an aircraft, there is the potential to hit the ground at a high rate of speed, which is dangerous. There is no inherent reason for hang gliding to be any more dangerous than other forms of aviation, and there is one inherent reason why it can be safer. That reason is that in hang gliding, the pilot need depend only on his or her own decision making to control his or her level of safety. In other forms of aviation, you must always depend, to some degree, on other people. From a statistical standpoint, hang gliding is more dangerous than, for example, traveling by commercial airline. The reason for this is that the operation of commercial airlines is very tightly regulated by the government in order to ensure the safety of the public. Hang gliding is largely unregulated, so safety is up to each individual.
I agree very much with that quote. It's hard to get an accurate picture, because the number of participants is relatively low, so the probability fluctuates a lot from year to year even though there may only be 1 more or less accident each year. Plus, a lot has to do with how you fly and the conditions you fly in. If you fly conservatively in mild conditions that are within your ability to handle, then the chances of an accident are pretty low. If you fly in an 'extreme' manner, than your risks go up.

As a student flying with an instructor, I'd say your risks are extremely low. Tandem instructors have to acquire the most experience and instruction of all the ratings in order to take new people up. Sure there's some risk, but there's risk in driving your car to work every day too :)
User avatar
By jjcote
#66704
You can't really apply the general average to something like an introductory tandem flight to figure out your risk. There's such a variety of things that happen in the air, and fatalities are due to unusual circumstances, many of which are very unlikely to occur during your flight. The most recent one appears to have been a mid-air heart attack. Others have involved people intentionally flying extremely fast very close to the ground, which you won't be doing, or inexperienced pilots flying in conditions that they couldn't handle, which also won't apply in your case. Are there accidents involving experienced tandem pilots taking students on aerotow flights? Yes. But separating out those statistics is another compicated question, and those accidents typically involves somebody making a very avoidable mistake.

Based on your initial question, though, it sounds like you might just be too skittish about this whole matter for it to be the right choice for you. Yes, there are risks. If you need to have them quantified, then perhaps you'd be better off to just walk away. I, however, am very glad that I've decided to take those risks, and assume the reponsibility to make sure I'm doing things correctly in order to minimize them. Because flying is really really excellent.
User avatar
By FormerFF
#66712
While the fatality rate of 1 per 1000 participants per year has been an accepted figure for a long time, I think it is obsolete for hang gliding. In the United States, there are approximately 4500 USHPA members that have hang gliding ratings. Last year, there were two hang gliding fatatites. One was on a tow, where the pilot appeared to have suffered an incapacitating event such as a stroke and did not release from the tow line. The second one was when a very experienced pilot flying a high performance rigid wing glider was flipped inverted while landing, and suffered a spinal injury that made him a ventilator dependent quadriplegic. He later chose to be disconnected from the ventilator.

The year before that, there were no fatal hang gliding accidents in the U. S. Like jjcote said, there has been one this year where the pilot appeared to suffer an in-flight heart attack. So, in the last two and a half years, there has been one non-health related fatality in the U. S. On a per participant per year basis, that makes hang gliding statistically safer than riding in an automobile. Now, I realize that on a per mile basis that riding in a car is safer, since most of us don't get to fly that much.

As far as the chance of death from taking an introductory flight with a top notch outfit such as Blue Sky, it is probably about the same as from a bee sting. There were one or two towing accidents a number of years ago, but the cause of these was determined to be from improper technique, and all tandem pilots know not to put themselves into that situation.

Like jjcote said, if you decide to take up hanggliding as a hobby, your safety is pretty much up to you. Yes, freak things happen, but they happen at home as well. As long as you aren't reckless or panic prone, and you get the proper instruction, the risk of serious injury or death is low.
User avatar
By saltoricco
#66759
FormerFF wrote:The second one was when a very experienced pilot flying a high performance rigid wing glider was flipped inverted while landing, and suffered a spinal injury that made him a ventilator dependent quadriplegic. He later chose to be disconnected from the ventilator.
I've heard about the accident, but not that he decided to not go on later. This is sad news to me. Do you have a reference to learn more?

Holger
User avatar
By FormerFF
#66767
saltoricco wrote:
FormerFF wrote:The second one was when a very experienced pilot flying a high performance rigid wing glider was flipped inverted while landing, and suffered a spinal injury that made him a ventilator dependent quadriplegic. He later chose to be disconnected from the ventilator.
I've heard about the accident, but not that he decided to not go on later. This is sad news to me. Do you have a reference to learn more?

Holger
Mike's sister started a thread here shortly after he died:
http://www.hanggliding.org/viewtopic.php?p=20747
User avatar
By HangDiver
#66768
Understand too that while the statistics give you some indication as to the safety or risk of the sport, consider also what you're personal risk will be. That is, the glider you chose to fly, the manner in which you fly, and the conditions that you routinely chose to fly in will factor into your personal risk. There's a very wide cross section of hang glider pilots - some are VERY safe, others fall into the higher risk category of pilots.

Personally, I would not set up my glider if I thought I was gonna hurt my thumbnail.
User avatar
By NV-TRAILS
#66775
I also checked my odds when I started and figured my risk would be 1 in 2000 if I stay safe. Ride in a car in our state and its 1 in 5000.
Riding a motorcycle 1 in 1500 or so. tandem skydive = 1 in 2 million (go figure)

Things happen and people do get hurt.
My modo is do dangerous things safely and enjoy the ride.
BTW I'm scared every time....It is exciting for a reason.
User avatar
By MysticWizard
#66795
Regarding the awful MO tragedy..

was it ever determined what could have been done to avert his glider "flip".

Was he rounding out too slow, too high... anybody know?(The only thing I read in the threads was that he "was ten feet off the ground, a crosswind came out of nowhere, flipped his glider, and tragically, he landed on his head." Was ther nothing that could have been done??

Truly a tragic situation and I'm sure we wish to learn something from it.
User avatar
By Lobido
#66801
Those who die don't live to talk about it. This has impacted severely on the statistics that have been accumulated.
User avatar
By saltoricco
#66804
Lobido wrote:Those who die don't live to talk about it. This has impacted severely on the statistics that have been accumulated.
But there have been eye witnesses I believe?
User avatar
By jjcote
#66813
According to my understanding (I wasn't there, but I have spoken to at least one person who was):

Apparently nobody saw anything that looked wrong prior to the crash. His wife had been videotaping him, and turned off the camera when he was on final because it looked so routine. In this particular case, the pilot did survive long enough to talk about it, but I don't think he was able to add much useful information (either he didn't remember the crash or he didn't know what went wrong, I'm not sure which).
User avatar
By Lobido
#66832
saltoricco wrote:
Lobido wrote:Those who die don't live to talk about it. This has impacted severely on the statistics that have been accumulated.
But there have been eye witnesses I believe?
The eye witnesses tend to roll away.
By msmfi
#66922
MysticWizard wrote:Regarding the awful MO tragedy..

was it ever determined what could have been done to avert his glider "flip".
...
Was ther nothing that could have been done??

Truly a tragic situation and I'm sure we wish to learn something from it.
Dear All,
That's my first message. I'm sorry to contribute in context of such a tragedy,
but I was triggered by the question: "Was ther nothing that could have been done??"

Have You ever considered to use any kind of neck protection devices ?
Anything like air-bags or neck-races ?
Smth like :
* www . leatt-brace . com
* www . eggparka . com / english / main.html
* www . dainese . com / eng / d-air.asp

Regards,
Mirek
User avatar
By zamuro
#66948
One thing that I wonder about is the possibility that in this case(MO accident) the gilder may have play a part in the injuries.
I think he was flying an Exxtacy and these gliders (like most new rigid wings) have a very small cord. Is it possible that the front of the glider pinned his neck to the ground after what would have been a normal wahck in any other glider ??
User avatar
By saltoricco
#66949
zamuro wrote:One thing that I wonder about is the possibility that in this case(MO accident) the gilder may have play a part in the injuries. ...
It wouldn't be the first time. But in theory, the short A frame and hang loop actually lowers the risk of the pilot swinging in front of the leading edge and getting hit by it in the neck. But I don't know how Exxtasy fares in this regard.

Holger
By msmfi
#67267
msmfi wrote:Have You ever considered to use any kind of neck protection devices ?
Anything like air-bags or neck-braces ?
Smth like :
* www . leatt-brace . com
* www . eggparka . com / english / main.html
* www . dainese . com / eng / d-air.asp
Nobody interested ? :?

BTW: * from the latest OzReport : ozreport.com/12.088#5

Safe Landings to all of Us !!!
Mirek
User avatar
By saltoricco
#67347
msmfi wrote:
msmfi wrote:Have You ever considered to use any kind of neck protection devices ?
Anything like air-bags or neck-braces ?
Smth like :
* www.leatt-brace.com
* www.eggparka.com/english/main.html
* www.dainese.com/eng/d-air.asp
Nobody interested ? :?

BTW: from the latest OzReport : http://www.ozreport.com/12.088#5
Yes, it would be great to have a neck protection. Here are some more links:

Brett Snellgrove experimented (in 2003) with inflatable protection:
http://ozreport.com/7.90

Personal airbag protection jackets for motorcycle riders and horse back riders
http://www.impactjackets.com:

Low cost alternative: :lol:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/images/airbag-helmet.jpg


A Spanish company develops a helmet airbag (plan to sell sometime in 2008):
http://www.thinkspain.com/news-spain/14 ... bag-helmet
http://www.onlinehelmets.com/2007/Novem ... irbags.htm
http://img.moto22.com/2007/10/Casco%20Airbag.JPG
http://news.motorbiker.org/blogs.nsf/dx ... helmet.htm

Video of an airbag jacket in action:
http://www.helmethairblog.com/entries/m ... in-action/

HitAir jacket ($500):
http://www.bikebone.com/page/BBSC/CTGY/AT
http://www.briangorrell.com/hitair/hitairintro.mov

Airprotek:
http://www.airprotekgear.com/products/index.html

Horseback riders use it:
http://www.mrtrailer.com/ttt.htm

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