Paragliding – How safe is it and what are the statistics?

The good news is that it’s safer than the Extreme Sports image would lead you to think. Of all the so-called extreme sports, paragliding has perhaps the largest field of participants. In Japan, you see old people gliding serenely down dormant volcano slopes. Through the Alps in France you can see daring young men pushing the limits of their skills and their paragliders as they fly across the country in challenging conditions.

Have you never flown in a paraglider, alone or in a tandem wing? Are you longing to ‘give it a try’ but not sure yet if you really want to take it up as a sport? If the answer to both questions is yes, then this article is for you.

Paragliding adventure holiday advertisers are currently profiting from the sport good safety record. You may see lines like this:

“Bali Adventure Paragliding is safe, secure and is a totally new experience not to be missed.”

Well, the second part is totally true, the first part could cover up the occasional sprained ankle or bruise from beginners trying their very first landings. But under ideal flying conditions for tourists, yes, it is quite safe! And of course you can’t go wrong if you’re under a tandem wing with an instructor doing all the flying.

Now, of course, every sport has its risks. Aviation in general also has its risks. So paragliding, which is both an adventure sport and a form of aviation, also carries a certain amount of risk. However, when it comes to safety, the aviation side of paragliding is paramount. All pilots are trained to operate their aircraft safely by minimizing potential risks. In some cases it is a matter of pure estimation, such as during an approach and landing. Or it could mean sticking strictly to a checklist as you prepare to leave the ground. The joy of flying, year after year after year, is the reward when you get it right.

It is said that paragliding is as safe or dangerous as the pilot makes it. There’s a lot of truth to it, at least from a few angles. First, pilots choose under what conditions they want to fly. Second, they choose how far to expand their flying skills. Now let’s make an analogy with driving a motor vehicle.

A learner driver can choose to drive around the back blocks for a while, or go straight onto the freeway during rush hour. That is choosing to drive condition.

Second, he or she can choose to obey the speed limits and road signs, or go full throttle while driving through a red light and overtaking anyone who gets in his way. That’s choosing how far to drive skills be pushed!

Let’s take a moment to consider what the most dangerous thing about paragliding. Years of experience have led some instructors to believe that this is indeed the case the ease with which people can learn to paraglide! After mastering the basics fairly quickly, some beginners may start to think they know a lot more about flying than they actually do. This can lead to overconfidence and greater risk taking. The only way to get really good and fly safely in more challenging conditions is to fly regularly and for a long period of time.

See also  Is the island of Mauritius - still a safe place to visit?

For some reason, people who have a passing interest in paragliding also have an interest in the statistics of sports. Especially the fatalities count. Honestly, I think we all instinctively try to assess our risk of dying when we try something new and exciting! So let’s get the death and gloom out of the way first. The numbers are actually quite reassuring, given the many, many thousands of people flying and the flying hours they accumulate.

The statistics for horseback riding and paragliding make for an interesting comparison. And… you guessed it, more people die from being thrown from a horse than from a paraglider crash!

Similarly, I came across an insurance report that listed paragliding deaths per participant less than riding a motorcycle. Now that doesn’t surprise me, I never trusted those things! 😉 Motors that is.

Another outdoor activity that is similar to paragliding in terms of injury rate per participant is snowmobile. Which I know nothing, from The Great Dry Flat Land, Australia. 🙂

Although there are quite a few thousand active paraglider pilots in the US in 2005, only 3 people died in paraglider accidents. This set a trend towards fewer paragliding fatalities every year in the US

Now, to be accurate and truthful, the situation in which Europe has been much worse in recent years, in terms of total fatalities. But in Europe they do exist many times as many active pilots as there are in the US and a large percentage of them ‘pushing the boundaries’ by flying over very challenging terrain in challenging weather. The Alps, no less! As a beginner you will not fit into that category, so those specific stats shouldn’t worry you.

Enough about death and dying, I’ll now discuss a few US statistics. In 2005, only 50 paragliding accident reports were received, the lowest level in 5 years. Also in 2005, 32 pilots or passengers suffered paragliding injuries in the US. 15 of these people required hospitalization.

Browsing through some material recently, I came across a tandem pilot who has flown many passengers over the years. In all his more than 350 hours of tandem flights, he has never injured a passenger. This should make you feel good, because a great way to ‘just try’ paragliding is to take a flight in a tandem paraglider! The pilot sits in the back, the passenger hangs in front. Air in your hair, and a view to die for.. oops.. I mean really For real great views! :-O