mattbell: (Default)
[personal profile] mattbell
Hang gliding induces the most intense mental flow state I've encountered in a long time. The instructors at Mission Soaring have also found a method of instruction that provides a smooth challenge ramp that makes it easy and safe to start. It's a good combination. My best flight from my first day:

Also, I think taking videos is a really useful learning tool, and I'd recommend it for other sports. My gliding partner and I took turns videoing each other.

Furthermore, if you think I'm gambling with my life, please read this report by the USHGA (summary: 1-2 deaths a year in the US since the late 1990s) and take into account that the hang gliding community includes people who fly with no harness on rough currents close to the ground and people who do acrobatics that their glider was not meant to do.  This means that the risk for relatively risk-averse people is substantially lower.  The USHGA is good about having a strict rating system and not certifying pilots who cannot pass specific tests.

Date: 2010-10-21 01:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
this falls under the category of something i will never do because i feel the risk of general catastrophic failure when dealing with such a flimsy mechanism is too high

it's a problem cuz i would work directly towards jumping off of cliffs as fast as possible

oh, that and birds. fuck birds.

Date: 2010-10-21 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Apparently equipment failures of hang gliders are rare.

Cliffs? Perhaps you would prefer this teaching method, apparently more common in nations with less active legal systems. :-)

Date: 2010-10-23 06:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
big brass balls

Date: 2010-10-21 05:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Why hang gliding and not paragliding? Paragliding gear is a lot easier to own and store...

Date: 2010-10-21 06:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It looks like paragliding is less safe by a factor of 2-3, based on # of fatalities per member.

You're right that paragliding has a lot of logistical advantages though. I don't relish owning something that is 8ft longer than my car.

Date: 2010-10-21 06:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
From my research and talking with a lot of pilots (of both sorts), the general consensus I heard was that paragliding is safer for beginner and advanced pilots, but that mid-level paragliding pilots more often take too many risks and get in over their head.

Flying conservatively, I'd venture that paragliding is fundamentally safer.

Your thoughts?

Date: 2010-10-21 06:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, I've only taken one lesson, so I'm not exactly an expert. I'm basing my thoughts on reading the USHPA's annual reports of injury/fatality statistics.

It would be interesting to see the statistics broken down by pilot skill, with all the tandem accidents removed.

Date: 2010-10-22 02:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I just learned that newer hang gliders fold down to 84", which means you can take them on airplanes. This is nice.

Date: 2010-10-21 06:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Also, I'm thinking I might have stumbled into one of those great sports rivalries, like skiers and snowboarders, skateboarders and rollerbladers, windsurfers and kitesurfers...

Date: 2010-10-21 06:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh man, I did stumble into a hornet's nest.

Date: 2010-10-21 03:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
BTW - I do think there are some parallels to the skier / snowboarder thing. Since paragliding requires less investment in space and gear, and since the basics can be learned relatively safely by someone who is "just playing around" without formal instruction - it tends to attract a lot more hot-dogger types than hang gliding.

These are the folks who are most likely to get themselves hurt as the try intermediate level flying without having a solid grasp of the basics.

I think it is more a personality issue some of those drawn to it have than an actual safety issue with the sport...

Date: 2010-10-21 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Perhaps you're right. It's hard to account for those sorts of things when comparing statistics.

I am drawn to hang gliding for another reason as well. This may be a silly thing, but it's important to me -- in hang gliding, I get to fly in superman pose. This is how I fly when I dream.

Date: 2010-10-21 04:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Not silly at all, and I certainly understand the appeal of hang gliding. I did the basic class at Mission Soaring Center years ago, and loved it.

Interestingly - when I fly in my dreams, I am usually levitating in a vertical position.... Hmmm....

Date: 2010-10-22 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Cool video! Looks fun.

It's funny how different the statistics can look depending on how you report them. I find it very odd that that USHGA report quotes the number of fatalities per year, but never says out of what? They have a plot of fatalities per year, saying that since they have decreased recently it is therefore safer. But what if it has decreased because less people have been hang-gliding due to realizing it's too dangerous? (I'm not saying that's the case, but nowhere in the document can you find out how the number of total number of launches compares with total fatalities).

If these statistics are right:

Then at least in 1987, the number of skydiving fatalities per jump was 1 in 75,000 whereas the number of hang-gliding fatalities per jump was 1 in 2308. In other words, a single hang-glide back then was about 30 times more likely to be fatal than a single skydive. However, they've both gotten safe since then, and I imagine things have changed a lot.

Also, as the person linking to this points out, the data is coming from a skydiving guidebook, so it may be biased. I'll admit that most of the numbers I saw were from skydiving related sources, since that was my hobby for several years.

It's interesting that the hang-gliding numbers have dropped so much since 1999 (around the peak of my skydiving involvement). Although since the total number of fatalities is so low, I wonder how statistically meaningful any of the numbers are for hang-gliding.

Date: 2010-10-22 02:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I looked up the number of hang glider pilots in the US so I could get the per-pilot fatality rates for a fair comparison. (There are around 5500 registered pilots currently).

Hang gliding was a hell of a lot less safe back in the 1980s. Training programs were much weaker, flying was less regulated, and the gliders were far harder to fly. None of the hang gliding manufacturers will sell you a glider if you're not USHGA rated for it, and the owners of the launch site won't let you launch if you don't have the requisite skill rating. According to the school's owner, there were so many deaths in the 70s and 80s that the community realized it needed to shape up to prevent the sport from getting a black mark.

I think individual behavior far outweighs the specific sport as a risk factor determination for any of the mature extreme sports. Skydiving, hang gliding, and paragliding have all been around long enough that equipment failure under normal use is uncommon and training programs are good. Kiteboarding is probably getting to that point but not there yet.

Once someone becomes proficient at any of these sports, the question of what they do next determines their risk level. People who are purely in it for the adrenaline rush will need to push the envelope to keep getting the rush, and this dramatically increases their risk level. I just want to fly around and look at the pretty scenery. :-)


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