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Extreme sports like hang gliding and skydiving aren’t typically considered to be inherently safe. That begs the question: is hang gliding safer than skydiving?
One of the biggest reasons that people don’t get into skydiving or hang gliding is because of the risks that are involved. If you’re thinking about trying one of these incredible activities out, then maybe the deciding factor for you is going to be which one is safer. So let’s dive in and see which one is safer: hang gliding or skydiving.
Hang gliding and skydiving are both relatively safe sports as long as proper precautions are taken to mitigate risks. That said, skydiving has a fatality rate of about 0.40 deaths per 100,000 flights and hang gliding fatalities total about 3.5 deaths per year on average.
Hang gliding and skydiving are both extreme sports that involve falling through the air at high speeds. They are both a lot of fun, but which one is safer? In this article, we will discuss the risks and rewards of each sport, and then decide which one is safer. Hang gliding seems to be a bit safer than skydiving, but there are still risks involved in both sports. With proper preparation and caution, however, you can minimize those risks and enjoy either sport without worry!
Here at Flight Notch, our biggest passion — outside of gliding and diving of course! — is sharing our knowledge and experience with you, our readers. So we don’t want to produce anything except the best, most helpful, and most accurate content that we can. Do this one, we take our own knowledge and combine it with research and input from other experts and enthusiasts from all over. So when you read our articles, you can have the confidence that you’re getting the answer you’re looking for!
What Is Hang Gliding?
Since we have other articles dedicated to explaining what hang gliding is in much more detail, I’ll spare you the extraneous stuff here.
Hang gliding is a sport where the pilot flies a glider — which you can think of like a giant kite — through the air by using air movement and riding on the wind currents. The pilot is suspended from the glider by straps, a body hardness, and a hang loop. It’s somewhat similar to how you would hang from a hammock on your porch, but I guess only if you were laying on your stomach!
The large wing of the hang glider operates like a giant airfoil, similar to the ways in which airplane wings create lift that enables planes to fly. The pilot controls the glider by shifting his or her weight left and right, similar to riding a motorcycle or a jet ski here on earth. There is also a bar that the pilot grabs with their hands to steer, pull up, and nose down while flying.
What Is Skydiving?
I’m sure we pretty much all know what skydiving is at this point, but I’ll give an incredibly short overview here as a quick refresher.
Skydiving is a sport where you jump out of an airplane and freefall for a little while before opening your parachute and slowly descending the rest of the way to the ground. The vast majority of people that go skydiving do so with a tandem jump when they’re attached to a certified instructor. Solo skydiving is on an entirely separate level of excitement!
Hang Gliding Vs Skydiving: Which Is Safer?
Now that you’ve gotten a quick refresher of what each sport is, let’s get into the good stuff. We’ll discuss the risks of each sport and how to mitigate them and then we’ll get into the actual statistics to see which sport is more dangerous.
What Are The Risks Of Hang Gliding?
Even though hang gliding is often considered to be one of the most relaxing and leisurely aerial sports, it’s still an extreme sport that can be also dangerous. There are a number of risks involved in hang gliding, including:
- Loss of control and resulting accidents
- Getting lost while flying
- Bad weather conditions that can make flying unsafe
- Running into obstacles or getting stranded in remote areas
- Equipment failure resulting in panic and accidents
As you can see, there is quite a bit that can go wrong while hang gliding, so it’s important to be aware of what’s going on at all times so that you can mitigate the consequences of these dangers.
How to Avoid Risks While Hang Gliding
To minimize the risk associated with hang gliding, it’s important to take some precautions before you fly:
- Make sure you are properly trained and know how to fly your hang glider safely
- Always check the weather conditions before flying and don't fly in bad weather
- Never fly alone, make sure you have a buddy to fly with
- Be aware of your surroundings and avoid flying into obstacles
- Make sure you are familiar with the area where you are flying and know how to get back to the launch site if needed
Hang gliding is a thrilling sport but it is important to be aware of the risks involved before you take flight. By following these safety tips, you can help minimize the risk of injury or accident while enjoying this exciting activity.
What Are The Risks Of Skydiving?
Skydiving is an extreme sport that has a number of inherent risks. Here are some of the most common dangers associated with skydiving:
- Canopy Collisions – If two parachutes collide in mid-air, the result can be catastrophic. This is why it’s important to always maintain a safe distance from other skydivers, and to be aware of their location at all times.
- Hard Landing - If you are not careful, you could land without properly preparing for the impact. This can result in broken bones and other injuries.
- Incorrect Gear – While proper gear is essential to skydiving safety, using incorrect or defective equipment can lead to serious injury or even death
- Parachute failure - If your parachute does not deploy correctly, there is a risk of serious injury or death.
- Incorrect Body Position – An incorrect body position can lead to an uncontrolled fall through the air and result in injuries such as broken bones or even worse.
Some of these might seem extreme, but that’s the thing with skydiving. Since you’re free falling towards the Earth, if something does go wrong that you can’t fix, the chances of experiencing fatal injuries are high.
How to Avoid Risks While Skydiving
Thankfully, there are plenty of easy ways to lessen the chance of any of these risks becoming reality:
- Always use proper safety gear and inspect it before each jump
- Maintain a safe distance from other skydivers
- Do not attempt any maneuvers that you are not trained to do
- Never jump alone
- Make sure your parachute (and all other equipment) is in good condition and deploys correctly
- Stay aware of your body position at all times
- Use only reputable skydiving facilities
- If something feels wrong while you’re in the plane, listen to your intuition and abort the jump
Skydiving is an exhilarating experience, but it’s important to be aware of the risks involved before you take the plunge. With these safety tips in mind, you can help minimize the dangers and have a safe and enjoyable skydiving experience.
How Many Hang Gliding And Skydiving Deaths Are There?
One of the best ways to compare the safety of extreme sports like skydiving and hang gliding is to look at how many deaths there are in each sport per year. Here in the US, these statistics are gathered and published by the United States Parachute Association (USPA) and the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Associated (USHPA) for skydiving and hang gliding, respectively.
According to USPA, there are about 0.40 fatalities per every 100,000 jumps. This means that roughly 1 in every 250,000 skydiving jumps results in fatality. In layman’s terms, the chance of dying while skydiving is actually incredibly low. I was even surprised at these numbers myself.
Based on the fatality reports from USHPA, there are roughly 3.5 fatalities per year among the organization’s 3,000 to 4,000 annual members. Keep in mind that these numbers are fatalities per year rather than per flight, unlike the skydiving ones.
This is a key distinction because the two rates cannot be directly compared. Therefore, a direct comparison is not actually possible without knowing how many flights USPHA members make per year. But for hang gliding to have fewer deaths than skydiving, the members would need to make nearly 900,000 flights per year!
Bottom Line: Which One Is Safer?
Overall, it seems as though skydiving is a more dangerous sport than hang gliding on the surface. There are more fatalities associated with skydiving each year by far, but that’s not the full story. Once you take all of the relevant numbers into account, both sports are actually just about as dangerous as each other, with hang gliding likely resulting in a few more fatalities per year for the same number of flights vs dives.
However, this does not mean that you should avoid skydiving or hang gliding — simply be aware of the risks. Both sports are absolutely incredible activities that offer experiences you can’t get from anything else in life. So I highly recommend giving them both a shot, you won’t regret it no matter which one you try!