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Hang gliding and wingsuit diving are two of the most amazing sports that you can possibly do. But which one is better: hang gliding vs wingsuit diving.
When you think of extreme sports that involve flying, I’d be willing to bet that the first thing that comes to mind is skydiving. But that’s not the only sport you can do in the skies, far from it. Hang gliding is becoming wildly popular and wingsuit diving is not far behind. If you’re wanting to get into this arena but you just want to focus on one sport for now, it can be tough to choose. But we’ll examine everything you want to know about hang gliding vs wingsuit diving.
Hang gliding and wingsuit diving are both extreme air sports, but they’re at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Hang gliding is typically considered fairly relaxing, focused on views and scenery. Wingsuit diving is much more dangerous and is best-suited for true adrenaline junkies.
So you want to try an extreme sport but you're not sure which one? In this article, we will compare hang gliding and wingsuit diving. Both of these sports are a lot of fun, but they have different costs, risks, and overall experiences. We will also discuss which sport is more fun and the pros and cons of each. By the end of this article, you should have a good idea of which sport is right for you!
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Hang Gliding Vs Wingsuit Diving: A Complete Guide
Hang gliding is usually thought of as the most relaxing and most leisurely extreme air sport that there is. While hang gliding, you’re attached to a large fabric wing that rides on the wing and movement of the air. The wing acts just like an airfoil of an airplane, generating lift to keep you afloat as you soar through the air.
Wingsuit diving is on the other end of the spectrum, arguably the most adrenaline-inducing extreme sport in the world. It’s basically a combination of skydiving and BASE jumping in one with the addition of flying through the air like a bird. After BASE jumping or jumping out of an airplane, you then use your wingsuit to begin soaring through the air at incredible speeds. Eventually you pull your chute and slowly descend back down to the ground.
Similar, yet very different sports!
Safety & Risks
Both hang gliding and wingsuit diving are incredibly thrilling sports, but they also come with risks that you should be aware of. I’m not trying to scare you or deter you from trying either of these incredible sports out, but it’s important that you understand the dangers associated with these sports. When you’re flying through the air with little protection, one mistake can be devastating.
The main risks while hang gliding include:
- Flying in bad weather conditions
- Collisions with other gliders or other types of aircraft
- Equipment failure or not having all of the necessary equipment
- Pilot error leading to making poor decisions
- Hard landings or colliding with objects on the ground due to low altitude
As you can see, most of the risks associated with hang gliding boil down to things that you (as the pilot) can control. This is why it’s so vital to always do certain things before every single flight, such as checking the weather and making sure all of your equipment is in good working order.
I’ll preface this next part by saying that wingsuit diving is inherently dangerous, considering it’s basically skydiving with even more risk involved. The biggest risks of wingsuit diving include:
- High speed crashes with the ground or rugged terrain
- Equipment failure (wingsuit, parachute, etc.)
- Uncontrollable spinning known as flat-spins
- Burble preventing the parachute from opening
- Tail strikes (if jumping from an airplane)
- Colliding with other divers
- Canopy collisions after deploying parachutes
While some of these things are still in your control like with the risks of hang gliding, there is quite a bit more that can go wrong while wingsuit diving that you can’t really control. This is one of the main reasons that wingsuit diving is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous extreme sports in the world.
So we’ve been talking about the risks involved with each sport, but let’s dive a little deeper and look at the numbers to see which sport is statistically more dangerous. For hang gliding, statistics are readily available thanks to annual fatality reports published by the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA). Unfortunately, wingsuit diving statistics are not yet so closely monitored, but we’ll do our best.
Based on USHPA’s fatality reports, there is an average of around 3.5 deaths per year among hang gliding members. The total number of members fluctuates between 3,000 and 4,000 annually, meaning roughly 1 in 1,000 hang gliding members suffer fatal injuries each year. There is no data on how many flights there are per year, however, which makes comparisons difficult.
That said, the best we can do is estimate. If each pilot averages just one flight per month during the calendar year, we’re talking roughly 36,000 to 48,000 annual hang gliding flights. With 3.5 deaths, this comes out to a fatality rate of about 7 to 10 deaths per 100,000 flights, or 1 death in every 10,000 to 15,000 hang gliding flights.
Again, wingsuit diving data is not so readily available, but that statistics have been estimated over the years. According to one site, it’s estimated that the death rate is roughly 1 in 500 jumps. That’s 20-30x more than the fatality rate of hang gliding.
Another site says that BASE jumping has a fatality rate of 0.2% to 0.4%, and wingsuit diving is even higher because of the higher risks involved with wingsuit flying. These BASE jumping statistics are about 200 to 400 deaths per every 100,000 jumps, or one death in every 250 to 500 jumps. This is more like 20-40x more than hang gliding.
So yeah, wingsuit diving is significantly more dangerous than hang gliding and should only be attempted by people with the right training, experience, and abilities.
If you want to get into either of these sports, then one of the main things to consider is which one is more affordable.
When you get started with hang gliding, you’ll want to start by going on tandem flights with a certified instructor. This price will vary depending on where you’re located and the specifics of the flight, but you can typically expect to spend around $150 to $400 for a basic package of tandem hang gliding flights. If you decide to buy your own glider and gear from there, the price will go up into the $3,000 - $10,000+ range.
Due to the dangers associated with wingsuit diving and how difficult it is, you would actually struggle to find a reputable company that offers tandem wingsuit diving for inexperienced flyers. So the only cost to really compare is to look into what it costs to buy the equipment yourself. A basic suit will cost upwards of $1,200 or more, then another few hundred for other equipment.
Which One Is Harder To Learn?
If you're interested in hang gliding, you can usually learn how over the course of around 5 to 10 lessons that typically take a few months to complete. The main things you have to learn are how to launch the glider, how to steer it, and how to land. You’ll also need to know how to check the weather and inspect your equipment before flying so you know you’re good to go.
Wingsuit diving requires extensive preparation in order to prevent injury or death. The very first step is learning how to skydive, which takes a minimum of 25 jumps to become proficient enough to earn a solo license. From there you can learn the basics of wingsuit flying with an experienced instructor which will take many hours. You never want to begin wingsuit diving without extensive understanding of everything involved, including the dangers.
All told, learning how to hang glide is far easier than learning how to wingsuit dive. In the grand scheme of things, it will also cost you a lot less in total!
Which One Is More Fun?
Let’s start off by saying that both sports are exhilarating experiences and both are incredibly fun. It really comes down to your personal definition of what’s fun and what’s not.
Hang gliding is more about the view and the peacefulness of being in the air. You can see for many miles around you, and there are very few things that can compare to the feeling of floating on a thermal updraft. Hang gliders typically fly much slower than wingsuit flyers, so if you want to go as fast as possible, this might not be the sport for you. However, hang gliding does offer a sense of serenity that cannot be found in any other sport.
Wingsuit flying is all about speed and excitement. When done correctly, wingsuiting offers an incredible rush as you zip through the air at high speeds. It's also much more active than hang gliding – you'll be using your arms to control the wing and navigate around obstacles at all times. It’s also quite a bit more dangerous, so if that is the sort of thing that gets your blood going, wingsuit diving might be more fun.
Hang Gliding Vs Wingsuit Diving: Which Is Better?
Both sports offer unique experiences that cannot be found anywhere else. Ultimately hang gliding is more about the peace and tranquility of being in the air, while wingsuiting is all about the rush and excitement of flying quickly through the sky.
So...which is right for you?
If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, go with wingsuit diving. If you're after a more peaceful experience, hang gliding is the way to go. Both sports have their pros and cons, so it really comes down to what matters most to you. Whichever one you choose, we guarantee you won't be disappointed!