Is Hang Gliding Or Paragliding Safer?
Neither hang gliding or paragliding are typically thought of when you imagine a safe activity, but they sure are fun! Which one is safer?
Trust me, I get it. Worrying about how safe something like hang gliding or paragliding is can be one of the biggest holdups and hurdles stopping you from getting into these exciting sports. But the truth is, these activities might be much safer than you think. To most people, they might seem inherently dangerous, but that’s not necessarily the case. But is one safer than the other?
Hang gliding and paragliding are both extreme aerial sports that involve free-flying through the skies, and both can be dangerous if done improperly. According to USHPA, there are roughly 3.5 hang gliding deaths per year and 5.9 paragliding deaths per year.
When it comes to the question of which sport is safer – hang gliding or paragliding – both activities involve a certain amount of risk, but how much depends on the individual and their level of experience. In this article, we will take a look at both sports and discuss the risks involved in each. We’ll also offer advice on how to stay safe while participating in these activities, and review the number of accidents and fatalities that have occurred in each sport.
At Flight Notch, our main focus is providing you with the best, most helpful gliding content that you’ll find anywhere on the web. Especially when it comes to any topic related to safety, only the most accurate information will suffice. To ensure this, we extensively researched this topic to find statistics, consulted with other experts and enthusiasts, and used our own knowledge to really outline which sport is safer.
Table of contents
What Is Hang Gliding?
Hang gliding is an aerial sport or recreational activity in which a person hangs beneath a specially designed winged frame and pilots it by shifting their weight in order to control flight. This winged frame acts like a huge kite, or similar to the way that the airfoil (think wing) of an airplane acts.
Due to its shape, air moves across the top of the wing faster than the bottom, creating higher pressure underneath the glider. This difference in pressure creates lift, which keeps the hang glider flying. The amount of lift generated depends on several factors: how fast the wind is blowing, how large and smooth the surface below the hang glider is, how steep the angle of attack is, and more.
We have other articles on the site that dive into the details about how hang gliders work, but that should give you an idea!
What Is Paragliding?
Paragliding is a recreational and competitive extreme sport that involves flying — you guessed it — paragliders! These lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched aircraft are somewhat similar to hang gliders except that they have no rigid primary structure. Instead of a kite-like wing, a paraglider is just a fabric airfoil that’s more similar to a narrow section of parachute.
The pilot sits in a harness (or lays horizontally like in a hang glider) suspended below a fabric wing composed of a large number of interconnected baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by the suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing, and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over it. By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height and fly for long periods of time, just like with hang gliding.
Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between them is that a hang glider has a rigid frame, while a paraglider does not. Hang gliders are also heavier than paragliders and require more wind to get them into the air, which means paragliders can often be used on days and in conditions that are not conducive for hang gliding.
Additionally, hang gliders are more aerodynamic than paragliders, which means that they can travel faster and farther. Of course, this is not a one-size-fits-all comparison. Performance-oriented paragliders or pilots with more experience can still out fly many inexperienced hang gliders out there.
But let’s be honest here, these sports are not in competition just to see who can fly faster or farther. They’re both absolutely amazing sports that let you experience things that nothing else on this planet offers.
Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding: Which Is Safer?
Now that you know a bit about what each sport is and how they differ from each other on a macro scale, let’s take a look at the risks associated with it.
What Are The Risks Of Hang Gliding?
Even though it’s typically considered a relatively safe sport, there are some risks that you need to be aware of when you hang gliding. These include:
- Losing focus and making poor decisions: If you lose focus while hang gliding, you can make a bad decision such as turning too quickly, flying too low, or worse. Remain vigilant at all times.
- Collision with other gliders or aircraft: One of the biggest dangers when is colliding with other aircraft. This can occur either on takeoff or landing, or while in flight.
- Poor weather conditions: Flying in poor weather conditions can increase the risk of accidents and fatalities. Winds can gust unexpectedly, which can throw you off balance or cause you to lose control of your glider. Fog and low clouds can also make it difficult to see obstacles and other aircrafts.
- Landing mistakes: A bad landing can result in serious injury or death. If you land too fast, you could hit the ground at a much higher speed than you intended.
- Equipment failure: Hang gliders are susceptible to equipment failure, which can result in a crash landing.
Hopefully these risks haven’t turned you away from giving hang gliding a shot just yet. There are plenty of ways to lower the chances of anything bad happening while you fly.
How to Avoid The Risks Associated With Hang Gliding
To reduce the risk of accidents while hang gliding, you should always follow the safety guidelines set out by your instructor and everything you learned during your lessons. In addition, you should:
- Always fly with a buddy: Never attempt to fly on your own – only do so when accompanied by another experienced pilot.
- Check the weather conditions before flying: Make sure that the weather is suitable for flying before taking off. Do not fly in poor weather conditions.
- Wear appropriate clothing and gear: Make sure you are wearing clothing and gear that is appropriate for the weather conditions, as well as something that can hold up in an emergency landing. Never fly in shorts or sandals.
- Stay alert at all times: Always be aware of your surroundings and the aircrafts around you. Do not become distracted while flying.
Most of these might seem like the basics of hang gliding, and that’s because they are! As long as you follow these simple tips, you lower your chance of anything bad happening greatly.
What Are The Risks Of Paragliding?
Paragliding might seem like this incredibly dangerous activity, but, like hang gliding, it’s actually pretty safe. That said, there are still some inherent risks to paragliding to be aware of. And, to be completely honest, the risks are almost the exact same as those associated with hang gliding since the sports are so similar to one another!
That said, paragliders also have an additional risk, and that’s of the wing itself getting tangled up in one way or another. A strong gust of wind, or perhaps something like a bird could fly right into it. And since it’s a loose fabric wing, it can easily get tangled up on itself. If this happens, you lose all lift and start heading to the ground.
How Can You Avoid These Risks?
Since most of the risks of paragliding are similar to those associated with hang gliding, I won’t bore you by repeating the exact same things again. However, we can briefly discuss the one major additional risk of paragliding that I mentioned above.
If something happens to your wing while paragliding, the number one thing is to not panic. More often than not, you can use the guide cables to wriggle the wing of the paraglider enough to untangle it or to dislodge whatever is stuck in it. Then as soon as the air hits it, the wing will immediately spread back out and generate lift again on its own.
That said, this is why it’s so important to have the right equipment each time you go gliding, especially a knife and a parachute. In extreme circumstances, having a knife is essential for cutting yourself free from the tangled up fabric and then you can pull your parachute to safely come back down to the ground.
How Many Gliding Deaths Are There?
While comparing the safety of different sports can often be difficult, if not impossible, we got lucky with this one. Both of these sports can be compared easily since they’re both overseen by the same organization, the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Associated (USHPA).
Every year, USHPA publishes annual fatality records for all recorded deaths in each sport among its members. USHPA members can be used to represent the entire population of people that participate in these sports since most hang gliding sites in the US require an USHPA rating for you to be able to fly. So let’s dive into those reports and see which sport is safer.
Based on the annual fatality reports , there is an average of 3.5 fatalities per year while hang gliding. Based on data from the same reports, there is an average of 5.9 hang gliding deaths per year. With those two numbers alone, it would seem that there’s a stark difference between the two sports, but that’s not the entire picture.
You also have to take into account how many hang gliding pilots there are and how many paragliding pilots there are. According to the organization, the number of hang gliding members fluctuates between 3,000 and 4,000; for paragliding members, it’s 4,000 to 5,000.
So there are more paragliders out there, and if we assume that the average paraglider pilot goes on as many flights as the average hang gliding pilot, then there should be a bit more paragliding accidents. All taken into account, there is roughly 1 fatality in every 1,000 hang gliding pilots and 1 fatality in every 760 paragliding pilots.
Is Paragliding Safer Than Hang Gliding?
There is no definitive answer when it comes to which sport is safer since it depends on your own definition of safe vs dangerous. Both sports have their own risks, and there are ways to minimize those risks and stay safe while participating in either activity.
However, purely looking at the fatality numbers, it seems that hang gliding may be a bit safer than paragliding. There are fewer fatalities each year associated with hang gliding accidents compared to paragliding accidents, but this difference alone probably shouldn’t be the driving factor behind your decision to choose one sport over the other.
So, if you’re trying to decide between the two sports, it might be wise to go with hang gliding if you just want the statistically safer option. But remember that both activities can be dangerous if not done properly. Heck, I recommend trying out both sports and seeing which one you enjoy more!
About THE AUTHOR
I’m Tom Savage, and I love hang gliding. It’s a passion of mine that I’ve been pursuing for years. I’m always looking for new opportunities to fly, and I love sharing my experiences with others.
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Hang Gliding vs Paragliding
Keen to try something exciting, or are you a flight buff who wants to know what it feels like to takeoff in the most rawest way possible? Hang gliding vs paragliding is the decision which most will make.
There are many similarities between hang gliding and paragliding. They both takeoff from the ground, they offer basic, non-powered flight, and they are both more accessible than mechanical forms of flying.
However there are some differences, which may lead you to choose one over the other.
A hang gliding pilot will be in a position where they are lying face down. Modern paragliding harnesses are like a chair, where the pilot sits upright. This is often more comfortable and less daunting for beginner pilots, however adrenaline junkies will get a kick out of the hang gliding ‘superman’ position.
Complexity of Flight
A paraglider is easier and less physically demanding. Hang gliding is a more physical demanding sport with greater need to shift body weight while turning. Even a 104 year old woman has recently performed a paragliding flight.
Paragliding can be learnt in fewer lessons, hang gliding takes more effort to learn and become confident. However some people have learn paragliding in as few as ten lessons. Hang gliding or paragliding, which ever you choose, we recommend after your lessons to continue flying with experienced pilots and gain experience across different weather conditions.
While minimum speeds are similar at around 25km/h or 15mph, hang gliders can do close to 150km/h while the fastest paragliders can do around 75km/h. Adrenaline junkies or those seeking to cover a longer distance may find hang gliding more suitable, while those wishing to relax and enjoy the view may prefer paragliding.
Paragliding vs Hang Gliding Safety
While paragliding is easier to learn, hang gliding is actually considered to be the safer for competent pilots. The additional weight and rigid structure of a hang glider allows it to travel at higher speed and be less susceptible to wind and weather conditions. This means that pilots are less likely to spin out of control or struggle with turbulence (particularly when taking off). Paraglider pilots are also more susceptible to knee and ankle injuries when landing as pilots often land on their feet.
We are not saying that paragliding should be discouraged, we love paragliding! With adequate training and a respect for the weather conditions
There’s no comparison here, paragliding wins hands down! Paragliders can easily fit inside your car and be carried to your launching area of choice, even if it does involve a bit of hiking. That’s because they only weigh about 10kg (about 22 pounds). As the wing isn’t solid it’s light and can be bundled up small. You just need to carefully ensure your lines are not tangled when unpacking.
Hang gliders are heavier, rigid structure which can measure 5 metres long, making transportation more cumbersome. Hang gliders also weigh about 30kg (around 65pounds). These must be transported on roof racks or in a truck.
Hang gliding has faster speeds and greater opportunities for aerial acrobatics and tricks. Paragliders can perform a smaller number of tricks, these are limited due the risk of tangling the wing lines and the importance of keeping the wing relatively stable. Paragliding is a more slower, more calmer form of flight, more suitable for those seeking to enjoy the scenery and the peacefulness of non-motorised flight.
Cost to Purchase
Both paragliders and hang gliders are similar in price, however if you look hard or buy second hand, you will probably pay less for a paraglider due as there are more of these available. However, a well looked after hang glider is likely to last longer.
Most new paragliders, including wing, harness and reserve parachute will cost between $4500-$7500 USD. The wing lasts for about 300 hours of flying time. It’s recommended to replace the wings after this time due to the gradual wear UV rays can cause, which can diminish the strength. The lines will usually outlast the wing, with the exception of competition lines which last for about 150-200 flying hours. This may sound costly, however costs can be saved by buying a second hand wing from a reputable person affiliated with a club, who may be looking to upgrade from a beginner/intermediate wing to an advanced wing.
A new hang glider with a harness and helmet is likely to cost around $5000 – $7000 USD. A well looked after hang glider which has not been crashed is likely to last 8 – 10 years before it requires replacement due to gradual wear and tear from UV rays.
Hang Gliding vs Paragliding – Our Conclusion
Both hang gliding and paragliding are amazing ways to experience the feeling of flight in the rawest and simplest way possible. There are many similarities amongst the two – they both leverage the principles of lift and drag to achieve flight. Both take off from the ground, and offer the thrill of takeoff, unlike other forms of human flight such as skydiving.
Many people would enjoy both hang gliding and paragliding, however there are a few small differences between the two which may determine which form of flight you choose as a long-term hobby.
Hang gliding is suitable for those who live for adrenaline. If you’re the kind of person who loves skydiving and other high adrenaline activities such as bungee jumping, dirt bikes and kite surfing, you’re probably going to love hang gliding. If you need to challenge or frighten yourself, there’s plenty of tricks you can do to keep you interested.
Paragliding is suitable for those who are not looking to perform a variety of tricks and are not driven to achieve high speeds. Once you’re in the air, you’re the type of person who wants to enjoy the view, perhaps even take photos or a video. You may also find transporting a hang glider too challenging and enjoy the ease of carrying your paraglider while hiking to an ideal launch area and taking off into the sky.
Hang gliding or paragliding, whichever you pick, we hope you enjoy your flying and stay safe!
Hang Gliding vs Paragliding: which is easier, safer and more fun?
Hang Gliding vs Paragliding: Ever wonder what the difference between these two aerial adventures is? Which one is better? Which one is more suitable for you?
Even though many people think that these two air sports are the same, actually there are a number of factors proving that there is a huge distinction between hang gliding and paragliding. Surely, these sports have a lot of things in common, for example, both offer motor-free flight, both require air and winds, but there are many differences between them, which make them unique.
And in this blog post, I’m going to introduce you to the basic differences between hang gliding and paragliding, so that you can clearly distinguish one air sport from the other and choose one over the other for your next aerial adventure.
Check my list of differences between these two air sports down below.
1. Differences in the Structure of Hang Gliding and Paragliding
One of the most noticeable differences between hang gliding and paragliding can be seen from the equipment- the shape, size and weight of the glider.
Whereas hang-gliders are stiff structures composed of heavy tarpaulin stretched over a metal airframe with a triangle shape, paragliders are merely comprised of a paragliding harness hanged beneath a wing made of fabric cells.
By the way, paraglider wings have a rounder shape. And overall paraglider resembles a parachute, just it’s a bit more rigid and stronger than the standard parachute.
2. Hang Gliding vs Paragliding – Differences in Pilot’s Position
Both hang-gliding and paragliding require air moving upwards in order to increase the duration of the flight, nevertheless, the differences between the shapes imply that the approaches of pilots to operating the equipment must vary as well. So the next significant difference between hang gliding and paragliding is the posture of the flier.
In hang gliding, the flier is laying down in a prone – fully horizontal position similar to superman. While, contemporary chair-like paragliding harnesses let the pilot sit in a high posture in a harness between the wing, which is certainly more convenient, especially for complete beginners than the abnormal position of hang gliding.
In terms of paragliding, the wing and the harness are joined by suspension lines. The paragliding pilot pulls one of the two brake lines to make it go in the direction he wants. Using the brake lines for changing both the direction and speed is very handy and straightforward.
Furthermore, if brakes failures happen, pilots can positione the risers connecting to the rear of the wing to guide and reduce the speed of flight. From the flier posture, rather than just going with the flow of the wind, you can push yourself precisely where you want with rope pulling.
3.Differences between the Physical Demands of Hang Gliders and Paragliders
Both hang gliding and paragliding are relaxing types of sport and both aren’t demanding in terms of pilots’ physical preparedness.
With regard to the pilot’s physical agility, power and activity, there isn’t much required. However, it should be mentioned that managing a hang-glider is more complicated than a paraglider.
Paraglider pilots change direction and pitch by tugging on the strings attaching them to the awning changing the form of the wing and hence the way the wind interacts with the wing. Although it is likely to seem a little dangerous, it is easier than it seems. Over time you will start to instinctively feel how the glider will act in response to your input.
Contrarily, in hang-gliding, the bodies of pilots are connected to the craft and in order to change the direction they have to move their body weight while turning. By the way, on prolonged flights, you can become a little tired, if you haven’t trained your core. So the sportier and the more athletic you are, the easier hang gliding is for you.
4.Differences between the Speed of Hang Gliders and Paragliders
The feelings people have during hang gliding and paragliding greatly vary because of the speed differences.
Despite the fact that both gliders have about similar minimum speed (almost 15mph or 25km per hour), hang gliders maximum speed exceeds that of paragliders as a rule due to the construction of the equipment, their heavier weight, pilot’s position and particularly owing to the speed of the wing.
In hang gliding for starters, it is possible to reach from 13 mph to almost 40 mph. Moreover, advanced hang gliders can reach 100 mph. Imagine what it would feel like in the air when this speed on land alone feels extraordinarily fast. In contrast, in paragliding starters go 13-23mph and advanced ones go from 13 mph to 35 mph. Actually, going more than 35mph is threatening for paragliders conditioned by the structure of the glider.
As in hang gliding, one can reach shocking speeds, it is possible to pass fantastically large space in a small amount of time and fly in fierce weather conditions. On the other hand, light winds are favorable for paragliding.
So we can assume that hang-gliding is more suitable for high-speed thrill-seekers. While paragliding is preferable for those who get pleasure from watching the stunning blue sky and the scenic beauty of nature.
5.Differences in the Duration of Flights
Both hang gliders and paragliders stay in the air owing to the thermal updrafts. So the duration of each flight depends on the terrain, the weather conditions, and flier skills, experience and intentions.
Both types of flights can last equal amounts of time – from 10 minutes to more than 50 minutes. At Sky Club , the duration of our tandem flights usually ranges from 10-50 minutes.
6.Hang Gliding vs Paragliding – Differences in Takeoff Styles
There are differences between hang gliding and paragliding in terms of taking off, as well. To begin with, in hang gliding there are tons of launch styles and techniques. They involve foot-launching from dunes, hills, mountains and cliffs or gliders are pulled up by aircraft, trucks and so on.
On the contrary, in paragliding one has only two options. Either moving forward as much as you can or moving backwards which is considered to be easier. It is worth mentioning that mistakes during take-off can be crucial, so being careful is necessary.
7.Hang Gliding vs Paragliding – Differences in Landing
Actually, the landing process of hang gliders is much simpler than the launching process. Moreover, owing to its exceptional glide range, the hang glider can reach a broad range of landing territories. Nonetheless, the hang glider requires a larger landing area and a longer approach. But pilots can use a drogue parachute to offset this drawback.
On the other hand, landing is easier for paragliders, as its speed is slower and it requires less space. Also, as it is very portable. One can land wherever he wants without worrying about how to carry it to the vehicle.
8.Training Differences of Hang Gliding and Paragliding
The rate of a person’s progress in paragliding lessons is higher than that of hang-gliding, as the latter has a higher speed. Hence it requires more time and endeavors to start flying confidently. learning to hang glide requires a t least 10 lessons, while 3-4 lessons can be enough for paragliding. Besides this, learning to paraglide is cheaper, but becoming very skilled in paragliding is harder.
9.Hang Gliding vs Paragliding – Differences in Transportation
If a person has to choose one over the other based on storage and transport, it’s undoubtedly that he would choose paragliding. Wondering why? B ecause paragliding equipment weighs only 10kg (more than three times less than hang glider), fits into a backpack. Hence it is much easier to assemble, transport and disassemble than hang gliding equipment. The rigid structure of hang gliders requires to transport them on roof racks, while just only the backseat of your car would be enough for a paragliding kit.
10.Differences in Cost and Durability
There are also some differences between hang gliders and paragliders in terms of prices. Hang gliding kit costs slightly more than a paragliding kit. You can buy new paragliding kits at the price of 4000-8000 USD. Whereas a new hang glider including a helmet and harness will probably cost 5000-8500 USD.
Although the equipment for paragliding is more affordable, hang gliding equipment is more durable than paragliding equipment. Moreover, possibly it will last 7-10 years or more, while paragliding kit will become useless after only a few years. This is because the equipment for paragliding is designed for flights having short duration and easier flying conditions.
11.Paragliding vs Hang Gliding: Which is Safer?
Safety is a key factor when choosing which sport to become engaged in. Both hang gliding and paragliding have weak points in terms of safety.
Some people believe that hang gliding is safer than paragliding thinking that as a hang glider has a higher weight and a rigid structure, pilots are able to travel at a faster speed. Hence hang gliders are less vulnerable to wind, cloud suck and weather conditions. However paragliders can get into trouble if the wind kicks up a little, and the wing can collapse.
Others claim that hang gliding is more dangerous as they need larger and barrier-free landing areas. Therefore the possibility of painless landing is less than that of paragliding. Apart from this, they point out that as the speed of hang gliders is faster, there is more risk of getting knee or ankle injuries during landing.
That said, personally, I believe that no matter it is paragliding or hang gliding, both can be risky unless they are approached securely. The adequate training, weather conditions, the state of equipment are factors that if not taken into consideration will have a negative impact on flights and will cause hazards.
Conclusion on Hang Gliding vs Paragliding
To sum up, although hang gliding and paragliding have some similarities, they differ in many ways. In paragliding, the learning process is easier, but paragliding flights are slower. In contrast, with hang gliders it is possible to pass large distances at a very high speed coping with bad weather conditions, whereas they contain the flaws of being heavier, having storage and transportation hurdles.
As we have seen both types of these air sports have their advantages and disadvantages. To choose one over the other you need to think about what kind of experience you want and what you enjoy more. If you are an adrenaline seeker and want to challenge yourself then hang gliding is the best option for you. However, if you want to soar to the sky and enjoy the scenic view without any tricks or fears then paragliding is more suitable for you.
That’s it. We hope that this was useful information and now the difference between hang gliding and paragliding is so clear for you that you know which one you prefer. We frankly think that paragliding is the best choice. If you agree, contact us and we will provide an unforgettable paragliding adventure to you.