Since its invention, hang gliding has been able to provide tens of thousands of people with an amazing experience. Unfortunately, because it is a sport that involves some risk, there are also some accidents that occur every year. The dynamics of hang gliding require that control be had while in flight and that can be difficult at times with weather conditions, landscape conditions, or even how fast the glider is coming in for a landing.
20 Statistics About Hang Gliding Accidents
1. The average mortality rate for hang gliding in any given year: 1 in 560 flights.
2.The number of fatal accidents that happened annually in hang gliding by 1974: 40 deaths.
3.With an increased emphasis on safety, hang gliding deaths were cut by 75% between 1974-1984.
4.The introduction of helmets, gloves, and other safety equipment has helped to save at least 20 lives per year since their introduction in the 1970’s.
5.The number of people who take at least one hang gliding flight every year: 25,000.
6.On any average year, the accident statistics for skydiving are the same as they are for hang gliding.
7.In 1986, there were just 5 fatalities because of hang gliding recording.
8.Since 1981, there has not been a year where more than 20 fatalities have been recorded in hang gliding.
9.In 2007, the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association reported 4 fatalities, 3 injured tandem passengers and 21 injured pilots.
10.The accident statistics from the US Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association report an average of 4 fatalities per year since 1993.
11.A vast majority of the accidents that occur for hang gliding happen in the summer or the fall.
12.As of June 2014, there were no hang gliding fatalities noted by the USHPA for the year. There were 5 paragliding fatalities that occurred in the same time frame.
13.The number of hang gliding fatalities that were recorded in 2013: 2.
14.Thermals can send a hang gliding pilot up to 20,000 feet above the ground.
15.You have to be at least 12 years old and weigh at least 85 pounds in order to start hang gliding.
16.The world record for the longest distance traveled in a hang glider is held by a man named Manfred Ruhmer. He traveled 437 miles during a flight over Texas in 2001.
17.If a group of hang gliding pilots fly together in a group, this is galled a gaggle.
18.The original idea of hang gliding may have originated with the Chinese 3,000 years ago when soldiers were affixed to giant kites to look for enemies from above.
19.Beginners are encouraged to start hang gliding on hills that are less than 100 feet in height.
20.The modern hang glider has a glide ratio of 15:1.
Development of Hang Gliders
The ability to fly has fascinated humanity for centuries. Even Leonardo da Vinci developed a flying machine that could be reasonably considered a hang glider. When it was built from his sketches about a decade ago, it was even found to be more stable than the modern hang gliders in some specific ways. There are a lot of ways for a person to die early and not achieve the average 77.9 year life span [or even greater outside the United States] and with accidents common in hang gliding, you might just be taking your life into your own hands.
The modern hang glider is usually made from an aluminum alloy. Sometimes a composite frame is used. This is covered with a synthetic sail cloth that forms a fixed wing. A harness is attached to the frame and shifts in body weight help to bring about an extra level of control. Hang gliding technology is also used with traditional aircraft control systems to create what would be considered an ultralight aircraft, but these modifications are not included in the hang gliding accident statistics found below.
The most effective way to reduce the chances of an accident occurring while hang gliding is to go through an approved instruction class. Because one flight on a hang glider can encompass several hundred miles, the chances of an accident increase with every mile one is up in the air. That’s why knowing these statistics is so important.
Risk of Accident
Thanks to modern technology and an emphasis on safety, hang gliding accidents are fewer and fewer every year. Even when accidents do occur, many of them are not fatal. Many accidents even have the pilots able to walk away from the crash without an injury at all.
Although comprehensive accident reviews have not been published since 2007, a review of the data from the USHPA shows that the vast majority of accidents are due to user error or unpredictable weather conditions. In one recent fatality, the hang glider pilot didn’t see power lines that were in his flight path, struck them, and was electrocuted. In another incident in 2013, one of the contributing factors to the fatality was found to be because the pilot was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
This is why comprehensive training in hang gliding methods is so important. Weight requirements are necessary so that proper adjustments and piloting can be made. Flying on days that don’t present challenging conditions is also important to the overall safety of the sport. When unpredictable wind shears may be present because of changing weather conditions, that might be the time to choose not to fly.
Although the nature of hang gliding is to keep pushing the envelope so that a pilot can have a new rush with every flight, the average pilot is not going to be able to handle a stable flight at 20,000 feet. Achieving this altitude is entirely possible thanks to thermal patterns and is why hang gliding is something that is monitored by local aircraft and aviation organizations around the world. In the United States, that means the FAA. Achieving a high altitude would certainly be a rush… until an actual airplane was encountered.
Overall the statistics prove that hang gliding is one of the safest air sports that currently exists. It is even safer than flying commercially when all of the proper safety gear is worn and comprehensive training has been completed. It might not be the sport for everyone, but for the 25,000 pilots who enjoy hang gliding at least once per year, there is nothing like it. Thankfully most of them get to walk away from a successful flight every time with the emphasis on safety that has been around for the last 30 years.