The soaring sense of freedom and adventure that comes with paragliding is unparalleled. With the right training and equipment, it can be a safe, exhilarating sport. But like any other air sport, paragliding carries a certain level of risk. How many people die every year from paragliding-related accidents? While it’s not possible to get an exact number, we can look at the data to get a better understanding of the dangers associated with the sport.
Paragliding is an air sport where a person uses a motorized or non-motorized glider to fly. The pilot wears a wingsuit and is attached to the canopy with webbing or a harness. It can be a thrilling experience, allowing the pilot to get a bird’s eye view of their surroundings while suspended in the air.
However, paragliding can be dangerous, especially if the pilot isn’t properly trained or equipped. Common risks include poor weather conditions such as strong winds or turbulence, equipment failure, and inexperience. Other risks include mid-air collisions with other aircraft or objects, and the possibility of the pilot losing consciousness during the flight.
Despite the risks, paragliding is an increasingly popular sport. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 pilots, with an estimated 500,000 paragliders registered worldwide.
Sadly, paragliding accidents do happen. According to the US Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, there were 24 fatalities in the US in 2019, and 155 fatalities worldwide. The most common cause of fatalities is flying into rugged terrain at low altitudes, often referred to as “glide-outs”. Other causes include equipment failure, mid-air collisions, and inexperience.
In the US, fatalities tend to occur during the summer months, when the weather is more conducive to paragliding. The majority of fatalities involve experienced paragliders, suggesting that even experienced pilots are at risk of fatalities.
It’s difficult to quantify the actual risk of paragliding. The number of fatalities could be higher than reported, as not all countries keep track of paragliding-related fatalities. And while the US has the highest number of reported fatalities, the population of paragliders is much higher in other parts of the world, making it difficult to compare the risk of paragliding in one country versus another.
That said, there are a few things we can look at to help get an understanding of the risk associated with the sport.
Paragliding fatalities per 100,000 participants: According to the US Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, there are 0.24 fatalities per 100,000 participants in the US each year.
Risk per hour of flying: According to a study conducted by the International Air Sports Federation (FAI), the risk of a fatality for a two-hour flight is about 1 in 100,000.
Risk of major injury: According to the same study, the risk of major injury (defined as an injury that requires more than first aid) during a two-hour flight is about 1 in 14,000.
Paragliding is an exhilarating sport that can be enjoyed safely with the right training and equipment. While the risks can be managed with caution, there is no way to guarantee a perfectly safe flight. In order to reduce the risk of fatalities, paragliders should always be aware of their surroundings, be properly trained and equipped, and fly in favorable conditions. By taking these precautions, paragliders can enjoy their flights with peace of mind.