How safe is paragliding?

If you love something, you can accept some risk but still a curious question. Lets check statistics for 2015 in Czech Republic.

I personally split incidents to: fatal, major, minor.

Fatal incident cause a death of the pilot or has a serious permanent consequences
Major incident cause a serious injury requiring a professional medical treatment
Minor incident do not need any professional medical treatment

It is important to know that both numbers of reported flights and reported incidents are lower than in reality. Especially minor incidents are very often not reported and making any assumptions is a serious fingersucking.
Fatal incidents: 0
Major incidents: 6
Minor incidents: 5

Total: 11

Number of flights: 19106
Number of flight hours: 22264,76
A probability of having a incident in paragliding is each 1737th take off or each 2024th flight hour (in Czech republic, reported flight vs. reported incidents).
Still a pilot decision to take off has a huge impact as detail major incidents description shows many of them are caused under a strong or unsuitable conditions.
Major accidents:
– a pilot with asymetric collapse in low altitude hit the ground and was transported to a hospital
– a pilot was soaring near a growing cumulonimbus. Sudden change of wind direction and rotor caused a collapse near the ground and pilot was seriously injured. The pilot knew about growing cb.
– a pilot tried to take off in strong wind (8 ms, 11 ms on edge) but he took off twisted, failed to kill/fly the wing and hit ground from 5 meters on back. He broke ribs.
– a pilot soaring in a strong wind was not able to reach landing zone. Emergency landing zone was behind a tall trees and an asymetric collapse in low altitude caused hitting ground.
– a pilot on a new glider got an asymetric collapse in a turbulence caused by trees in low altitude. Pilot broke his arm.
– a pilot was found uncouscious not remembering anything and with no observers.
Still, some pilots were very lucky to survive as two minor incidents: A pilot during a basic course, ignoring radio instructions and “landing” on a high voltage powerlines. Or another pilot uncontrollably spiraling to ground but lucky to spiral around a tall tree in a final phase. Both pilots were females. Last 4 reported minor incidents are caused by a combination of low altitude and hitting a sink air.
Summary
I do not think paragliding is more dangerous then other common sports but some risk exists. It is sure that most accidents are only pilot’s fault.
Risk/passion exchange rate for pilots seems still very nice and those prefering beer+TV+couch could be surprised what is the risk of seriously falling in a bathroom 🙂
Sources:
www.xcontest.org, database export from 2015
Pilot LAA ČR magazine, 1/2016, reported PG accidents, page 16

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