Personal Journals about Hang Gliding

Eating it on hang gliders

Postby Rick Masters » Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:18 am

Most of you are aware that I am building a global database of paragliding accidents.
Since paragliding started racking up casualties at the end of the 1980s, I have found more than 1,700 fatalities over 42 years.
I am also building a data base on hang gliding, which is significantly more difficult because hang gliding goes back to the 1880s.
Over these 138 years, I have found about 900 fatalities in hang gliding but I am certain there have been many more.

If you are making a comparison between soaring parachuting and hang gliding, you have to start from zero in 1986.
By that year, there had been at least 546 hang gliding fatalities.
The first hang gliding death of 1986 was #547, that of Manuel DaRosa, an elderly gentleman of King City, California who wished to try the sport and apparently stalled off a 500-foot hill, breaking his neck in the crash.
The first paragliding fatality was likely in the Alps, specifically in Switzerland or Germany, in 1986, date uncertain.
Bringing these forward from 1986, we have incomplete fatality totals of:
        Paragliding:   1,712
        Hang gliding: 317
These numbers are accurate in the sense that they are the minimum verified numbers in my database.

It is too early in my research to draw solid conclusions from these numbers.
However, it is clear that more than half of the soaring parachutists died following a collapse of their canopy.
Hang glider pilots almost always die from pilot error, defined as a mistake made during flight.
This is a factor that can be addressed, meaning that by studying accidents, hang glider pilots can reduce their casualty rate by not making the same mistakes others have made.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for paragliding, regardless how insistant the USHPA and other national orginizations may claim to the contrary.
Paragliders collapse in normal atmospheric conditions (turbulence), seemingly at random, and kill their pilots regardless of skill level.
There is nothing to be done. With nothing to maintain the shape of the fabric airfoil in turbulence, paragliding is gambling.
I would think that to claim otherwise places any hybrid free-flight organization at great legal risk.

Hang gliding, on the other hand, presents a skill to be honed.
The risk presented to the pilot on an aircraft that cannot lose its shape in turbulence and fall out of the sky is much different than the risk a gambler faces on a parachute.
This blog topic will follow accidents in hang gliding and focus on possible pilot eror.
Please comment on Other Dangerous Sports accidents here: http://ushawks.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=1842&sid=d8b7a2397c0cf476f814ee52f02e7852
A common theme on hang gliding accidents is not to speculate on what went wrong for the sake of the family or the pilot or the sport.
However, when I am flying a hang glider, I am constantly speculating on what could go wrong, exclusively for my sake.
When a hang glider pilot cracks up, he offers us a gift - the gift of insight.
What acutally happened is always accompanied by what might have happened if something was done differently.
So please feel free to speculate here on what may have caused the accident.
At its core, accident analysis is all about you, the pilot, and your survival.
Last edited by Rick Masters on Thu Jul 12, 2018 8:49 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Eating it on hang gliders

Postby Rick Masters » Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:34 am

July 11, 2018
Hang glider crashes near Wonderland Lake outside Boulder
http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_32000171/paraglider-crash-wonderland-lake-boulder-county
A 49-year-old hang glider plummeted 200 feet into the side of a hill west of Wonderland Lake on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office.
________
Sounds like a ridge-soaring accident where the pilot flew too slow working lift and stalled his hang glider, or was working in strong conditions close to a ridge and got dumped.
Winds were below 10 mph at Boulder, but into the mountains they were gusting into the mid 20s - maybe higher.

Granby-Grand County Airport
11   16:45   E 14 G 23 Fair CLR 83 31
11   16:30   E 18 G 23 Fair CLR 84 31
11   16:10 NE 16 G 23 Fair CLR 84 31
11   15:50 NE 14 G 21 Fair CLR 85 32
11   15:25 NE 16 G 24 Fair CLR 85 32
11   15:10   E 16 G 21 Fair CLR 85 32
https://w1.weather.gov/data/obhistory/KGNB.html

Yee-hah! Looks like conditions were a bit strong and variable!
An important part of piloting is knowing to move away from terrain or land when conditions strengthen into the afternoon.
This is a measure of the pilot's comfort level on a particular glider.
For me, I fly faster in rough air. It may seem counter-intuitive, but on a hang glider, kenetic energy is your friend.
The mass of the hang glider and the pilot are one.
That momentum translates into control when you encounter crazy air.
In concert comes the question, "Why am I flying in crazy air? Is this pilot error?"
(If you're on a paraglider, you're SOL. All the kenetic energy is carried by the operator, and fools are not aerodynamic.)
We'll stay tuned for more.
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Re: Eating it on hang gliders

Postby Frank Colver » Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:40 am

Good topic Rick.

Another good thing about starting in 1986 is that it is past the time when gliders without positive dive recovery were killing skilled pilots. That was an aerodynamic design flaw, but instead of ignoring it, like the elephant the PG pilots don't see, HG pilots (designers) corrected the mechanical problem. However, no one seems to be able to find a way to correct the aerodynamic design flaw in paragliders (inoperable at zero or negative G and some other bad aerodynamic characteristics) so it is ignored, and very skilled pilots die because of this, when the safety solution is to stop flying soaring parachutes and fly hang gliders instead. The soaring parachute should have been only the province of the daredevil exibisonist and should have never entered the realm of the average recreationist because of the uncontrollable gamble involved in the flights.

I probably will incur personal hatred by that undeniably true statement, if other forums see it. The elephant tramples those who look away.

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Re: Eating it on hang gliders

Postby magentabluesky » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:10 pm

Rick, thank you for taking the time and energy to collect the data and presenting the analysis in a straight forward honest thought process.

I can only propose to design a Hang Glider for paraglider pilots. I think Frank is on to something in the Hang Glider Basic Trainer. This in concept is a Hang Glider having very slow landing speeds, very controllable even in mush (parachuting type) landings.

I like your thinking, both of you.
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Re: Eating it on hang gliders

Postby magentabluesky » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:08 pm

Up Date Headline Reads:

Paraglider crashes near Wonderland Lake outside Boulder

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the man's age and that he was flying a paraglider. The sheriff's office had incorrectly described the aircraft as a hang glider.

A 49-year-old piloting a paraglider plummeted 200 feet into the side of a hill west of Wonderland Lake on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office.

The man, who has not been publicly identified, was flying a paraglider alone near the 300 block of Pine Needle Road at the time of the crash. It was initially reported that he was flying a paraglider.

He sustained injuries to his legs and back and possibly his head and was transported via helicopter to a Denver hospital. Boulder County Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Mike Wagner said authorities were first notified at about 4 p.m. and the man was taken from the scene at 5:30 p.m.

Per radio scanner traffic, the called 911 after the crash to say he was "bleeding badly" and yelled for help to alert responders of his presence.

Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, American Medical Response, Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks and Boulder Mountain Fire responded to the scene.

John Bear 303-473-1355, bearj@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/johnbearwithme

Link
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Re: Eating it on hang gliders

Postby Rick Masters » Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:02 pm

...a Hang Glider for paraglider pilots...


Mike, with apologies to all those who may believe otherwise, I have to laugh when I hear this.         :lol:
A hang glider for soaring parachutists is called "a hang glider."
Even the early rogallos were marvelous training hang gliders.
All that was necessary to fly them well was to go to the effort to learn the proper technique.
The decline in hang gliding is not due to equipment deficiencies.
Those who choose paragliders over hang gliders do so because it's easier, it's cheaper, it's quicker to learn to get high, they lack aerodynamic knowledge in regard to their security in the air on paragliders and they are released to fly much earlier, at great profit to their trainers.
Therefore, almost all schools steer potential hang glider pilots to paragliding because it is much more profitable.
The national organizations discourage, impede or destroy the opportunity for peer hang glider pilots to teach newbies to fly hang gliders over the longer time required.
The national organizations facilitate the process of promoting paragliding over hang gliding because more money flows into the principle providers than would with hang gliding.
This becomes very obvious, very quickly.
Newbies are told the sports are essentially the same in risk (an outright lie).
This cannot be easily disproven because none of these worldwide organizations will keep global records.
This is deliberate. And suspicious to this observer.
Any competent analysis of paragliding will show that paragliders are inherently more dangerous in the air than hang gliders and subject to sudden collapse in turbulence.
This becomes very obvious, very quickly.

...no one seems to be able to find a way to correct the aerodynamic design flaw in paragliders...


Frank, to accept paragliding, the hang glider pilots in control of the USHGA stupidly gave up the reasons behind all the safety efforts performed and the raison d'être of the knowledge and manufacturing requirements accumulated over ten years to make hang gliding reasonably safe.
When paragliding was accepted into the USHGA, it marked the end of the association, in my opinion.
As you say, having no negative loading requirements is unacceptable for an aircraft.
It was unacceptable for the safety of the previous USHGA hang gliding members now choosing paragliders - many of whom died in collapse.
This decision destroyed the USHGA, which you helped found.
The USHPA that took its place became a paraglider marketing association using the accomplishments of the USHGA to bootstrap itself into recognition, lobbying and prominence.

Those who fly soaring parachutes are not going to come to hang gliding.
As you say, they are daredevils.
They are addicted to the huge chemical rush that accompanies the fear of collapse.
By accepting the potential of fatal collapse, they hold less regard for their lives, in general, than do hang glider pilots.
They are different than us. They are parachutists.
Parachutists have different priorities than hang glider pilots.
I don't think that's going to change.
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Re: Eating it on hang gliders

Postby Rick Masters » Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:44 pm

I just got word that the oriiginal story reporting a paraglider crash at Wonderland Lake, which had been updated to report a hang glider crash, had been updated again to report a paraglider crash.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the man's age and that he was flying a paraglider. The sheriff's office had incorrectly described the aircraft as a hang glider.


Now waiting for the next update...         :shock:

Makes more sense for a paraglider crashing in gusts to mid-20s. Kinda delightful for a hang glider, after all.
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Re: Eating it on hang gliders

Postby Bob Kuczewski » Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:12 pm

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the man's age and that he was flying a paraglider. The sheriff's office had incorrectly described the aircraft as a hang glider.

Reason #372 for why we need separate organizations:

So at least one organization will have an incentive to correct the press.
Join a National Hang Gliding Organization: US Hawks at ushawks.org
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Re: Eating it on hang gliders

Postby Frank Colver » Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:00 am

Rick, I think you misread one of my statements. I said the soaring parachute should have been only for the daredevil exibishonists. I did not consider the masses of people now flying paragliders to be daredevils as you stated. Most of the people flying PG's are not daredevils, they are ignorant of the inherent danger they are putting themselves into because the industry and the organization supporting it (USHPA) are not educating them to the inherent aerodynamic flaws in the design of their aircraft. That several failure modes can occur, under normal atmospheric conditions, that have nothing to due with pilot skill or experience level.

They should be told that there is a higher rate of use of rescue parachutes with this sport than in hang gliding and shown the PGDMZ chart. They should also be told that even at higher collapse altitudes a rescue chute can become entangled with the falling, possibly spinning, paraglider. Also, most rescue chutes don't provide a choice of landing spots which can also kill them (power lines, cliff sides, etc.).

Then, after being fully educated about all of the most common failure modes of the paraglider, and chances of successful chute rescue, if they choose to go ahead, they can now be called "daredevils" and may the force be with them.

Unfortunately, most people flying PG's don't have a clue that their flying machine is not airworthy by acceptable standards, and the elephant is stalking them! :o

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Re: Eating it on hang gliders

Postby Red » Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:34 pm

Frank Colver wrote:Rick,
They should be told that there is a higher rate of use of rescue parachutes with this sport than in hang gliding and shown the PGDMZ chart. They should also be told that even at higher collapse altitudes a rescue chute can become entangled with the falling, possibly spinning, paraglider. Also, most rescue chutes don't provide a choice of landing spots which can also kill them (power lines, cliff sides, etc.).
Frank
Frank,

Man, I think you have a gift for understatement. 8-) Most local PG pilots stick to the (usually) smooth evening coastal winds of POTM, although that is no real guarantee, either. Lately at a HG mountain site, I was talking with four PG pilots. In the last six months (maybe because they flew our mountains rather than POTM), these four PGers had SIX rescue 'chute deployments among them. In the forty-mumble years that I have flown HGs, I have never deployed my parachute!

What I thought was completely amazing there was their attitude. They claimed that there was no problem; the rescue 'chutes worked as anticipated, so no blood, no foul! They did not see these incidents as noteworthy, but only as a "normal" (!!) part of flying. So they do know the shortcomings of the PG itself, but they bet their lives and good health on the rescue 'chute. I am not nearly so optimistic about unmodified round 'chutes, and I think they live on borrowed time. All IMHO, of course.
.
Cheers,
Red

P.S. Free advice, maybe worth the price,
for new and low-airtime HG pilots, on my web page . . .

https://user.xmission.com/~red/
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