Is paragliding safe? I’m sure you’ll want to know your chances of death before takeoff.
Survival is almost guaranteed even though you could be 10,000 feet in the air traveling at 30 miles per hour.
Tens of thousands of paragliders take to the skies every year, so why are they so confident about the sport?
Is Paragliding Safe?
Paragliding is safe when you look at the statistics. Roughly 7 in every 10,000 US paragliders have died since the early 1990s, but it’s improving every year. Equipment malfunction causes almost zero deaths, so there are things you can do to ensure you’re one of the lucky ones.
Study – How Safe Is Paragliding?
Between August 2004 and September 2011, a study was carried out where researchers analyzed almost 255,000 paragliding jumps to find out how safe people were. The results were quick staggering and although there were deaths the statistics were encouraging.
18 paragliding pilots lost their lives, and another 64 people were injured badly enough to require hospital treatment. There are lots of nuggets you can take from the study, but it tells you one in every 100,000 pilots died and a few dozen ended up with more serious injuries.
The paragliders were taking off from Baba Mountain, Turkey. Half of those hurt were holidaymakers, so the numbers might have looked better somewhere else. We’ll look at how there are great ways to minimize your chances of injury paragliding to put your mind at ease.
Paragliding Safety Tips
If you want to stay safe while paragliding you need to know what’s going to cause you problems in the first place. There are 4 main areas you’ll need to keep an eye on and we’ll look at each one in full detail:
- Equipment failure
- Pilot error
- Wind conditions
1 Equipment failure – As long as you buy paragliders from reputable brands it’s unlikely they’ll fail while in the air, which should be a relief to you. Even if you buy a cheaper second hand paraglider it’s going to hold up provided you look after it properly over its lifetime.
You will be required to study up on paragliders so you’ll be able to carry out safety checks before you go flying. If you go paragliding with faulty equipment it’s your own fault. Ask your paragliding instructor lots of questions about the equipment while you’re undertaking training.
Please Note: It’s important to note you’ll also be flying with a backup parachute, which will slow down your descent in the event your paraglider does fail. The chances of everything malfunctioning on the same day is almost negligible.
You should have full confidence in your equipment every time you’re flying through the air, so the following issues are obviously where the big problems sit.
2 Pilot error – Paragliding pilots seem to pay less attention to detail once they become more experienced. The exact same when it comes to cars, right? Nobody is saying you can’t enjoy the magnificent views below while speeding through the air. Just pay attention to the flying part too.
During paragliding lessons you should double down on mastering wing control. Ask your paraglider instructor to teach you how to do tough maneuvers to escape tricky situations. Even if you need to take extra lessons it’s worth the money because it could save your life one day.
Please Note: Most people like to maintain good relationships with their fellow paraglider pilots. There are lots of organizations you’ll be able to join depending on where you’re from. Speaking to experienced pilots is a good way to keep learning on top of paragliding more often.
3 Collisions – I understand paraglider collisions isn’t something that sounds likely. But things like not paying attention, trying to rush, taking risks, and inexperienced pilots means it happens more than you think. There are 3 main places where you’re going to collide with another pilot:
- Midair collision
- Takeoff collision
- Landing collision
Midair collision – Most deaths due to collisions happen when you’re paragliding in midair. In fact, it’s almost all of them according to some statistics. You need to make sure you’re paying attention. If you want to avoid any trouble stay away from places where it’s too busy in the sky.
Takeoff collision – Takeoff collisions are the second most common way to injure yourself badly while paragliding. Make sure you speak to other pilots at the takeoff point. As long as pilots coordinate with each other there is no reason why everyone won’t be able to take off safely.
It’s not just collisions that can result in injury when you’re taking off. Some pilots mess up trying to get into the air to begin with. There are two ways to take off when you’re paragliding:
- Forward launch
- Reverse launch
No matter which one you choose make sure you master it as quickly as possible. I know a huge number of paragliding pilots prefer the reverse launch. It’s good to get one last look at your lines before you take off in case they’re still in a tangled mess before you fly into the air.
Strong winds are an easy way to injure yourself when taking off. You should be able to recognize when the wind is too strong to fly in the first place. When it’s close to the point where you would take a step back any mistakes during takeoff can be very serious.
Landing collision – The reason why landing collisions don’t result in many deaths is because they’re unlikely to happen. Who are you going to collide with unless you’re paragliding with a friend and choose to land in the same spot? That doesn’t mean it’s completely safe though.
Knee and ankle injuries are the things you need to be more focused on. Landing a paraglider is the same as landing during a parachute jump. If your feet touch the ground the wrong way it could cause problems. Here are a few things that will help you walk away standing up:
- Flat ground
- Big landing area
- No obstructions
4 Wind conditions – We’ve saved the most important for last because failure to understand wind conditions could be catastrophic. When you’re taking paraglider lessons listen to everything the instructor says. Make sure you master everything about wind conditions such as:
Etc… Let’s just agree you need to know as much about weather conditions as possible, which will mean studying up on it regularly. You’ll also need the weather to be good enough to fly in the first place. A couple of conditions will need to be met before it’s safe to take off:
- Dry (no rain, lightning, etc.)
- Wind speeds below 20 mph
Those are just the weather conditions you’ll need before it’s safe to go paragliding. Everyone should check the weather reports before they leave home, plus you can keep updated throughout the day. If you see anything suspicious don’t be afraid to pack up and go home early.
Finally, learn how to spot changes in the weather quickly while you’re paragliding. Once you see that something is wrong you’ll be able to land as soon as possible. Every paraglider pilot should know their limits and avoid taking big risks because things can take a very sharp turn.
Is Paragliding Dangerous At Fast Speeds?
Paragliding is a pretty relaxed sport. When you look at paragliding vs hang gliding speeds are 5 times faster. When paragliding you’ll probably fly around 15 miles per hour on the low end, whereas on the high end you’ll only be able to reach speeds of 35 miles per hour.
If you go any faster than 35 miles per hour paragliding is dangerous. It’s threatening due to the structure of your paraglider, which might begin to fall towards the ground should you go too fast. Things also change depending on how high in the sky you decide to go up.
Once you climb above 10,000 feet things begin to get scary. That is higher than where most people parachute from. Wind conditions can be extremely volatile and are liable to change without warning. Therefore, you’ll need to go slower when you’re higher up.
How Dangerous Is Paragliding At Night?
While attending paraglider school you’ll learn all about how clouds affect paragliding. Darkness has a massive impact on visibility too. It’s a sure fire way to end up getting injured. There are a couple of ways you’ll be able to get hurt paragliding once it gets dark:
- You won’t see changes in wind conditions
- It’s harder to read your equipment
- Colliding with someone is more likely
- Landing is extremely more difficult
Most of those are pretty obvious and I’m sure you’ll think it’s common sense, but don’t overestimate how hard it is to land in the dark. When you can’t see where you’re landing it’s scary. You could land on anything if you manage to avoid crashing into random power lines.
Does anyone think you’re going to go paragliding in the dark? No, but you might fail to descend before the sun sets. It does get darker as you fall if you’re high up. It’s possible to stay up in the air all day depending on the weather, so get ready to come down well before dusk.
Buy A Paraglider For Your Experience Level
Everyone should have friends in the paragliding world, but watch out when you’re hanging with those more experienced than you. I know you can learn from them although you shouldn’t buy a paraglider to keep up. Buy paragliding equipment to suit your own experience level.
It’s easy to buy an expensive paraglider because money isn’t an issue and it allows you to do more things, but you might not have enough experience to fly it properly. Never find yourself thousands of feet in the sky operating something you’re not completely sure about.
Just because you have a more basic paraglider doesn’t mean you won’t be able to learn paragliding tips from experienced pilots.
Paraglider Equipment Every Pilot Needs
You’ll need a paraglider helmet and harness to go along with your wing, but there are other important pieces of equipment too. Luckily you don’t need too much equipment when paragliding. Let’s discuss the two biggest things you’ll be glad to take into the air with you:
- Paraglider vario
- Backup parachute
Paraglider vario – Varios are flight instruments that let you know how high you’re flying while paragliding. Top models will be able to find thermals, give you GPS data, warn you when you’re going into restricted airspace, and other quality information paraglider pilots will enjoy.
Backup parachute – Nobody is going to force you to wear a reserve paraglider parachute, but it’s absolutely essential. You should be wearing one even if you don’t plan on flying too high. Maybe you’ll change your mind or be sent skywards due to a pilot error.
Is Paragliding Safe?
Yes, paragliding is safe on the whole. There are always going to be risks in an extreme sport which involves flying through the sky. But statistically it’s unlikely you’ll end up with serious injuries. And you can minimize your risks by remembering everything we’ve talked about.
It’s one of those sports where you have to build up the confidence to fly for the very first time, but you’ll quickly become addicted and want to paraglide on a regular basis. Just find a paragliding school close to you today.