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Paragliding Accidents

These are some statistics of paragliding accidents which occurred in the U.S. during the late 90's and into the turn of the Millennium. That is, 2000 and 2001.

Firstly, let's have a look at some numbers broken down by the percentage of reported paragliding accidents during phase of flight. These are interesting because they tell us when to be the most careful.



When Might A Paragliding Accident Occur?

1998:

  • Kiting - 6%
  • Launching - 23%
  • In-flight - 26%
  • Landing - 45%



1999:

  • Kiting - 8%
  • Launching - 27%
  • In-flight - 27%
  • Landing - 39%



2000:

  • Kiting - 2%
  • Launching - 20%
  • In-flight - 52%
  • Landing - 25%



2001:

  • Kiting - 1%
  • Launching - take-off - 24%
  • Launching - departure - 8%
  • In-flight - 29%
  • Aerobatics - 1%
  • Landing - during approach - 19%
  • Landing - in the LZ (landing zone) - 19%

Now, if you add up all the percentages for each year, the totals can be anywhere between 99 and 101. This is because each percentage is rounded to the nearest whole number. If they were left with 5 or so decimal places, they would of course add up to very close to 100%! But rounded numbers are easier to absorb and compare.

In general, launching and landing are the most critical phases of flight. This certainly comes out in the figures above. What the above figures also tell us is that landing is slightly riskier than launching. In general that is! If you choose to launch off a sheer cliff face in a roaring cross-wind, don't expect it to be less risky than the landing on the open beach below!

Which brings up a point. The biggest factor in safety by far, is the choices the pilot makes. Where to fly. When not to fly. Those are probably the biggest two, and good paragliding schools give them plenty of attention.

You can even summarize it further, since it all really boils down to pilot attitude to knowledge and advice passed down from those more advanced in the sport.



Types of Injuries

Pick a year, any year. OK then, 2001. I just happen to have come across some paraglider accident statistics for the severity of injuries suffered in reported paragliding accidents in 2001, in the U.S. The first figure in each category is the number of injuries of that type. The second figure is the percentage of the total number of injuries. Here they are:

  • Fractures: 33, 65%
  • Sprains: 10, 20%
  • Bruises: 11, 22%
  • Unknown: 4, 8%
  • Lacerations: 3, 6%
  • Dislocations: 3, 6%
  • Minor: 1, 2%
  • Fatalities: 0, 0%

As you can see, there were NO fatal paragliding accidents in 2001, and there must have been many thousands of flights in various parts of the U.S. in that year.

The following figures graphically illustrate how paragliding has become safer over the years. Also bear in mind that participation in the sport was increasing over the same period.

Fatalities in:

  • 1996 - 4
  • 1997 - 4
  • 1998 - 4
  • 1999 - 1
  • 2000 - 1
  • 2001 - 0 fantastic!

If you have heard or read of any fatalities in more recent years, this would be because many more people are trying the sport. Hence, statistically, the occasional fatality becomes more likely. There are always inexperienced or over-confident people who take stupid risks and end up featuring in paragliding accidents statistics.

Enough talk of the worst paragliding accidents, here's something more positive. Did you know that in Canada, paragliding has a lower rate of accidents per hour of flight than general aviation?



Contributing Factors

Finally, let's look at the contributing factors in all the 2001 accidents listed earlier. It is a fact that most paragliding accidents result from more than 1 contributing factor. The interesting thing about the items below is that more than half relate to the pilot doing the wrong thing. Not many factors are totally outside a pilot's control during normal safe flying conditions!

  • Poorly inflated takeoff: 16, 20%
  • Strong wind: 16, 20%
  • Asymmetric or frontal deflation: 14, 18%
  • Rotor: 13, 16%
  • Thermal turbulence: 11, 14%
  • Hill collision: 11, 14%
  • Obstacle in LZ: 7, 9%
  • Outside LZ: 7, 9%
  • Power lines: 7, 9%
  • Blown back: 7, 9%
  • 'Rusty' pilot: 7, 9%
  • Preflight error: 6, 8%
  • Panic: 6, 8%
  • Turning in LZ: 6, 8%
  • Stall: 6, 8%
  • Launch obstacle: 6, 8%
  • Tail wind LZ: 5, 6%
  • Negative spin: 5, 6%
  • Too close to ground: 5, 6%
  • Sloping LZ: 4, 5%
  • No brake flare: 4, 5%
  • Crowded airspace: 4, 5%
  • Dragged by wind: 4, 5%
  • New equipment: 4, 5%
  • Cross wind launch: 4, 5%
  • Excessive brake flare: 3, 4%
  • Spiral dive: 3, 4%
  • Line tangle: 3, 4%
  • Unusual LZ: 2, 3%
  • Unknown LZ: 2, 3%
  • Aerobatics: 2, 3%
  • Turning into ridge: 2, 3%
  • Failure to attach chest/leg straps: 2, 3%
  • Reserve not used/too late: 2, 3%
  • Mid-air collision: 2, 3%
  • Mechanical turbulence: 1, 1%
  • Valley wind: 1, 1%
  • Equipment failure: 1, 1%
  • Fatigue: 1, 1%

That's it for my little presentation on paragliding accidents, hope it makes you better informed. And more able to approach the sport with a safety-first attitude. Who wants to be the subject of a Paraglider Crash story in the local rag! Or even a hugely-downloaded paraglider crash video.


The source of all the above data is an official accident report from USHPA (United States Hang-gliding and Paragliding Association).


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