This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
For most people wanting to get into gliding and diving, it’s tough to choose between hang gliding vs skydiving. Let’s see which one is better.
That’s a really tough question to answer, since I’m a huge fan of both sports. That said, even though they both take place in the sky and involve flying through the air, they’re actually very different sports that elicit very different feelings and emotions. So it might not be quite as direct a comparison as you might be thinking!
Hang gliding and skydiving are two of the most exciting sports that you can do, taking you through the air like nothing else can. Overall, hang gliding is more relaxing with much longer flights, while skydiving is much faster for just a short time. Both are about equally as fun and expensive.
So, you want to try an extreme air sport but you’re stuck on the fence between hang gliding and skydiving. Before going any further, let me start by saying you can’t go wrong with either one. They’re both exhilarating experiences that you can’t get from anything else. That said, we’ve created this complete guide to compare the two sports top to bottom so that you can decide which one is right for you.
The goal when we created Flight Notch was for it to be your one-stop-shop for all things related to gliding and diving. As passionate enthusiasts ourselves, we absolutely love this stuff and want to share our knowledge with you. But with a subjective topic like this one, we wanted to include more opinions than just our own, so we consulted as many other experts and enthusiasts as possible to get you the best information you’ll find on the web.
Hang Gliding Vs Skydiving: A Complete Guide
Hang gliding is an extreme air sport where you’re suspended from the bottom of a fabric glider that looks like a giant wing or kite. Unlike a parachute, this glider has a rigid frame that you’re attached to and that enables you to control the glider, steering it through the skies by shifting your weight. Additionally, there is no free falling while hang gliding!
Skydiving is a sport that most of you likely know about, which involves jumping out of an airplane and free falling for a short time before deploying a parachute and drifting back down to the Earth. While descending with your parachute, you can steer it by pulling on guide wires to adjust the angle rather than simply shifting your weight.
With those brief overviews out of the way, let’s get into the good stuff. Here’s your complete guide on everything you want to know about hang gliding vs skydiving.
Safety & Risks
Both sports are relatively safe when compared to other extreme sports — such as BASE jumping — but there are some risks involved. With hang gliding, some of the main risks include:
- Colliding with another hang glider or aircraft
- Crashing into objects on the ground like trees, buildings and power lines
- Dealing with poor weather conditions
- Equipment failure or having the wrong equipment
- Pilot error and poor judgment due to loss of focus
With most of the risks involved with hang gliding, barring unforeseen equipment failure, they can be mitigated by how you approach the situation. By staying focused at all times, checking your equipment and the weather before going on a flight, and staying calm in the case of emergencies, hang gliding can actually be a pretty safe activity!
With skydiving, some of the main risks include:
- Opening your parachute at too low or too high an altitude for safe deployment
- Not knowing how to steer clear of other skydivers when you are in freefall
- Colliding with other divers after deploying your parachutes, known as canopy collisions
- Equipment failure
Similarly to hang gliding, most of the risks that are associated with skydiving can be greatly reduced by paying attention, checking all of your equipment on a regular basis, and only diving in weather conditions that are conducive to doing so.
So which sport is more dangerous? Well, let’s take a look at the actual statistics to get a better answer to that question. Before we get into that, we also have an article directly comparing these two sports to see which one is safer, so feel free to check that out for more in-depth information about the safety of hang gliding vs skydiving.
Based on published data from the United States Parachute Association (USPA), skydiving has a fatality rate of 0.40 per 100,000 jumps. This means that, on average, there’s four skydiving fatalities for every one million jumps. This is actually a much lower number than even I expected when I was doing the research on this topic!
On the other hand, the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA) reports an average of 3.5 deaths per year among hang gliding members. While these numbers cannot be directly compared since USPA’s report is per flight and USHPA’s report is per year, it gives us an idea of how dangerous each sport is.
So we’ve established that both sports offer a unique experience and come with unique risks, but which one is more affordable?
Just to go hang gliding with an instructor, it typically costs around $150 to $400 or more for a standard flight package. On the other hand, skydiving typically costs anywhere from $150 to $300 or more for a tandem jump. So all said and done, the prices of the two activities are nearly identical, so it shouldn’t really have too much of an effect on your decision on which one to try!
Which One Is Harder To Learn?
Both skydiving and hang gliding can be fairly daunting to take on. Both are potentially dangerous sports that require a lot of attention, skill, training, and preparation in order to perform safely. Because they’re both so complex, it’s hard to say which one is harder without taking into account the individual learning capabilities of each person who attempts them.
We have full articles dedicated to discussing how to get started with hang gliding and how long it takes to learn how to hang glide, so I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details here. But for all intents and purposes, most people can learn how to hang glide and be able to solo glide by themselves after about 5-10 lessons over the course of a few months.
Skydiving, on the other hand, requires a bit more training and official licensing since it’s much more heavily rated by the FAA. In a nutshell, you need to have 25 supervised skydives under your belt before earning your USPA-certified A license. Only after receiving this license can you legally skydive solo without supervision.
Next, let’s take a brief look at the minimum requirements for each sport.
Hang gliding generally requires more training than skydiving, since if you’re going skydiving you’ll typically be attached directly to your instructor unless you have the experience to solo dive. Additionally, there are more stringent physical and mental strength requirements for hang gliding since you have to be in control for much longer periods of time without losing focus.
Skydiving, on the other hand, has no specific fitness requirements, but does require that you can jump out of an airplane without feeling too terribly scared or nervous. I know, easier said than done. Of course you can be scared while you’re waiting to jump out of the plane, but if you’re genuinely breaking down over it, an instructor would be irresponsible to force you to continue with the jump!
So overall, it seems like hang gliding is easier to learn than skydiving, but skydiving has fewer restrictions in terms of who can do it. The vast majority of skydiving is done in tandem, whereas many hang gliding pilots have the desire to begin solo flights as much as possible.
Which One Is More Fun?
Both hang gliding and skydiving are thrilling sports that can provide a rush like no other. So, which one is more fun?
Well, that depends on your preferences. Hang gliding tends to be a slower sport, with beautiful views of the landscape below as you sail through the air. Skydiving, on the other hand, is much faster and provides an adrenaline rush as you free fall through the sky before opening your parachute, though the entire thing only lasts for just a few minutes.
So, if you’re looking for a leisurely experience with stunning scenery, hang gliding would be the better choice. If you’re looking for an exhilarating experience with lots of excitement and maximum speed, then skydiving would be a better option.
Hang Gliding Vs Skydiving: Which Is Better?
Hang gliding and skydiving are pretty much only similar if you just consider the fact that both of them give people a chance to fly. However, there are many things which separate these two sports from each other.
For starters, hang gliders use a wing-like structure mounted on their back while skydivers use parachutes to slow down after free falling out of a plane. Additionally, hang gliders can soar for long distances while skydivers plunge straight down or make turns at high speeds before opening their chute. But Skydivers have an advantage over hang glider pilots when it comes to speed — they go much faster!
People also tend to think that skydiving is the much more dangerous sport of the two, but that’s not actually the case. Even though we can’t directly compare the fatality numbers to each other, hang gliding seems to be just a bit more dangerous than skydiving. It seems that the more leisurely nature of gliding makes many people automatically think it’s a bit safer.
The best way to learn about these two sports would be by experiencing them first hand, which I whole-heartedly recommend. But if you can only try one, it's really up to you which one you would prefer! This is subjective and depends on your own preferences. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, then skydiving would be a better choice. But if you want to enjoy the scenery and fly for longer distances, hang gliding is the way to go!
In conclusion, both sports are a lot of fun and provide people with a unique experience. It ultimately comes down to what you're looking for in a flying sport. If you haven't tried either one yet, I recommend giving them both a go. You won't be disappointed.