Postby Rick Masters » Thu May 17, 2018 9:16 pm

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 database 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.

Global paragliding fatalities Jan 1 through May 17 of each year (incomplete)

2009    34
2010    27
2011    28
2012    36
2013    32
2014    39
2015    32
2016    33
2017    30
2018    26

More fatalities will probably trickle in to raise the 2018 number into the 30s.
The reason the numbers are so remarkably similar each year is that, unlike aircraft with airfoils supported by airframes, paragliders kill their operators at random.
The primary factor is average atmospheric instability: turbulence. Nothing else.
The liklihood of death in a given period is a percentage: the inverse of all paragliders being flown multiplied by those that collapse in turbulence and kill their operators x 100.
This percentage is almost constant.
Pilot skill and training have nothing to do with it.
The fatality rate will stay about the same if the number of paragliders being flown is about the same, year on year.
The number is so steady each year that it can be closely predicted.
And the only way to reduce the fatalities is to reduce the number of paragliders being flown.
Now the Paragliding Slaughter Season begins in the Northern Hemisphere...
August 12, 2018
Paragliding Denial


“I’d like to correct the misperception that paragliding is a hazardous sport.
It’s true that a small error could result in large and drastic consequences.
But we pilots emphasise a lot on risk management and safety in flight.”
                -- Jessica Goh, representing Singapore in the upcoming Asian Games spot landing contest

If Miss Perception eats it on her paraglider, she will be the 1,725th fatality that I know of in this hazardous sport.
Since the death of Patrick Chung Yuk-wa in Hong Kong on July 22 (or later, as he was found dead on July 27), many more people have died on paragliders:

      1    July 23 - Dan Croft of Washington (turbulence)
      2    July 24 - A guy in France (turbulence)
      3    July 26 - Another guy in France (turbulence)
      4    July 26 - A gal in Switzerland (turbulence)
      5    July 27 - A guy in Switzerland (turbulence)
      6    July 28 - Manoel Martins dos Santos in Brazil (turbulence)
      7    July 29 - Aziz Mahdvari in Canada (drowned)
      8    July 29 - Omar Mestriner in Italy (turbulence)
      9    August 12 - a paragliding fatality in Switzerland
    10    August 14 - Andrea Arici in Italy (collapse)
    11    August 16 - Dusan Simovic in Montenegro (turbulence)
    12    August 16 - Marian Mikhail in Montenegro (turbulence)
    13    August 17 - Innes Powell in Macedonia (midair)
    14    August 17 - Igor Volov in Macedonia (midair)
    15    August 18 - Nicholas Desroches in France (turbulence)

That's one paraglider killed every two days in their dangerous sport
I'll spare you the mention of numerous broken backs.

        Jessica, paragliders kill their helpless occupants in turbulent air, suddenly and unexpectedly, regardless of their skill level.
        There is nothing they can do. They cannot regain control.
        Hang glider pilots, capable of much more speed, kill themselves in their exhuberance through pilot error.
        There's a BIG difference between paraglider collapse and pilot error.
        One is not acceptable by most aviators because it cannot be addressed and fixed.
        I cannot tell you to be careful. That means nothing.
        Your fate will be decided by the quality of air you encounter in flight.
        That is not up to you.
        It is a matter of good luck or bad luck.
        You are a gambler.
        You are lying to yourself and everyone who listens to you.

It is significant to note that a month before his death, Patrick Chung Yuk-Wa had been flying in Austria with a woman scheduled to participate in the Asian Games. But during an SIV course, she locked into a spiral dive and hit the water hard. She almost drowned and was in the hospital for weeks. She withdrew from the Games.

Statement on the crash of a paraglider from 16.6.2018 in Lake Hallstatt
-- Flight School Austria
On June 16, 2018, Yuk Wah Chung (42), a pilot from Hong Kong, crashed into Lake Hallstatt during a safety seminar. By her own admission, she was an experienced pilot with competitive experience. According to the flight instructor, the pilot had initiated a spiral in about 400 m above the water surface in order to practice entering and leaving [the maneuver]. The spiral had been entered correctly. After a few turns, the flight instructor asked the pilot to end the spiral. When there were no signs that the pilot was actively trying to exit the spiral, the flight instructor, in an ever louder voice, repeatedly ordered the pilot over the radio to throw the emergency parachute . The pilot did not react. She crashed in the spiral at high speed into the lake. The pilot was rescued from the lake within 1-2 minutes of the water rescue and, apparently injured, alerted a rescue helicopter from the boat. The casualty was flown to the [state hospital] LKH Salzburg.

These seminars are called SIV training. They are assumed necessary because paragliders often go out of control immediately after collapsing in turbulence and an expensive SIV course supposedly prepares the operator to react faster and more correctly. However, fatalities in SIV training are somewhat common because paragliders are inherently dangerous in spirals and the operator cannot always extricate himself from the dire predicament he has instigated. That's why SIV is always done over water - just in case.

The BHGA has officially stated that there may not be any value in SIV training because it gives the helpless falling humans confidence that they can reopen their canopy as they plunge towards certain death - and they pass through the PDMC boundary still messing with their lines when they really should have thrown their damned reserve.

So it was with Yuk Wah Chung. As she flew high above the water, the course instructor told her to enter a spiral. The spiral kills more paraglider operators than any other maneuver. She did and began to experience the high G forces involved in a paraglider spiral. In a conventional aircraft, these G forces push your arm onto the control stick or wheel. In a hang glider, these G forces push your arms onto the control bar. But in a paraglider, the operator must reach above his head with both arms to grasp the control lines. It can take a strong man to hold his arms above his head under high G. A woman? You tell me. Anyway, if you just hang onto the brakes and your arms get weak as you violently spin in circles, you begin to pull the brakes down. Not good. What does it do? Not what you want. If you lose the handles and your arms drop, sometimes you can't regain them. These spirals can generate 4 Gs or more. Operators of high performance paragliders caught in violent nose-down spiral dives have been known to tear free of their harnesses and fall away to their deaths.

I don't know exactly what happened to Yuk Wah Chung. I don't fly paragliders. They're too dangerous. But I do know that hitting water at high speed is like slamming into concrete. She was in the hospital for a month and withdrew from her slot in the Asain Games. That is a serious injury. A few days later, her friend Patrick killed himself on a hill in Hong Kong.


Image Lida Hozoori Image Wang Jianwei
Paragliding’s Games debut was marred by two crashes
with Afghanistan’s Lida Hozoori and China’s Wang Jianwei
both helicoptered to hospital

by José Pablo Díaz
22 August 2018
Two paragliders crash-landed and were helicoptered to hospital as the high-risk sport made its Asian Games debut in the highlands of west Java on Wednesday (22 August).
Afghanistan’s Lida Hozoori, a 24-year-old TV presenter in her home country, plunged 15 meters to the ground after stalling in mid-air when the wind suddenly dropped.
According to Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, she suffered a spinal cord injury.
Later on, Chinese paraglider Wang Jianwei suffered a broken leg when his parachute folded 20 meters from the finishing area.
Both athletes were taken to a hospital in Jakarta for further treatment.

Paragliding’s debut
Paragliding, a sport in which athletes take off from a hillside and maneuver a parachute in order to land as close as possible to a circular, flat target area, is making its Asian Games debut.
The Indonesian team contributed one gold in the men’s group landing accuracy category. Thailand topped the podium in the women’s category.
As many as 130 athletes from 19 Asian countries are taking part in the 2018 Paragliding Asian Games.
The sport has come under scrutiny after 44-year-old Hong Kong flier Patrick Chung Yuk died last month after being swept off course by the wind.
His body was found five days later.
Chung was described as an ‘experienced paraglider’ with more than three years of experience.
Lida Horoori United Nations VIDEO: https://twitter.com/UNAMAnews/status/1017651389105917952

Paragliding debate after tragedy
Local | Sophie Hui and Stella Wong 30 Jul 2018
The Standard, Hong Kong

An experienced hang glider pilot who analyzes global statistics of paragliding accidents has warned of the hidden dangers of the sport.
In an interview with The Standard, Rick Masters, a former hang glider pilot and independent researcher on free flight aircraft in America, described Patrick Chung Yuk-wa's death as unfortunate.
Forty-year-old Chung went missing on July 22 and was found dead on Friday after hundreds of searchers combed Lantau, by helicopter, on foot and in boats.
He was found near Sunset Peak, also known as Tai Tung Shan, about a kilometer northeast of where he had taken off.

The cause and the time of his death are still not known pending a postmortem.
Masters said of Chung: "He was flying a paraglider in storm turbulence, as evidenced by the others who crashed in the gust front. It was an unfortunate situation as he probably did not choose to launch into these turbulent conditions but was caught by turbulence.
"And unfortunately he was flying a paraglider - the least capable of all aircraft in turbulence." He said Chung was the 1,714th person to die in a paraglider incident since 1986.
Masters said he would not go paragliding due to the dangers, explaining: "A soaring parachutist is suspended 10 or 15 feet below his wing. All his efforts to move forward can only produce a tiny bit of pitch control. This leaves him at the mercy of strong lifts, such as lift in the vicinity of underdeveloped clouds. Caught in a strong lift he cannot get down."

He added that there is a big difference for a hang glider and a paraglider when it comes to landings.
"Above 25 mph, landing a hang glider safely is a matter of skill, whereas surviving a landing in a paraglider in high winds becomes a matter of luck," he said. "Paragliders sometimes collapse in turbulence because they are parachutes without a rigid support structure."
Masters also said paragliding inland is more dangerous than flying off a coast due to the thermal turbulence.
"The appropriate aircraft for flying in inland thermal turbulence is a hang glider, which cannot collapse," he said.

But some paragliding pilots disagree with Masters' remarks.
One argued that hang gliding is more dangerous as the speed is greater than paragliding.
Still, paraglider and hang glider pilots are equally at risk of hitting turbulence, and both have their own difficulties.
At the end of the day, both follow the same theoretical principles about flying and ways to ascend and descend, but there are different ways of control.
"If you play paragliding correctly, it is not dangerous," he said. "Of course, if you play it wrong, it can be dangerous."
As for flying at a seaside or inland, he said both sorts of areas can pose dangers. So it comes back to pilots knowing how to stay in control.
Rick Masters
Posts: 3260
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2011 5:11 am

Return to Rick Masters: Dangerous Thoughts

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest