It is common and fair to have apprehensions about paragliding. The wing doesn't appear to be highly stable to a layman. However, there are solid reasons that make paragliding a safe sport when practiced within limits.
There are over 10,000 active pilots in the world, who have been flying safely, some for as long as 20 years without an accident!
Here are 5 reasons making paragliding a safe sport-
1. Wing technology
2. Simulation of collapse
3. Reserve parachute
4. Knowledge of meteorology
5. Flying with buddies & staying connected
1. Wing technology-
There are 4 categories of wings- A,B,C,D.
A beginner starts with a A wing. It is very high on safety, but low on performance. A pro will fly a D wing- light narrow and aerodynamic, but prone to a lot of collapses. An A wing has the technology to auto-recover. So even if there is a collapse, the wing will stabilise on its own in 1-2 seconds.
2. Simulation of collapse -
Once a pilot is ready to move to a B wing, they usually do an SIV course. It is a simulation of mishaps conducted over the safety of a lake/ waterbody. In the course, instructors teach pilots to self-induce a collapse, and learn how to recover them using controls.
3. Reserve parachute-
Paragliding pilots fly with a reserve parachute always. In case the main wing fails, there is a backup wing ready. The SIV course also gives practice of launching a reserve in case of emergency.
4. Knowledge of meteorology-
Knowledge of weather and terrain helps in safer flying. Knowing where the leeward side of the mountain is, knowing which days to fly and which days to rest, based on the weather, will help a pilot in decision-making to avoid dangerous conditions.
5. Flying with buddies & staying connected-
An important safety practice is to fly with buddies or guides at all times! Pilots should be connected via radio or satellite systems so that they can communicate in case of emergency. A pilot should know rescue channel numbers, showcase their emergency contact & blood group and avail adventure insurance to mitigate damages in the unfortunate event of a mishap.
All in all, paragliding is not as dangerous as it looks. In reality, the risks are minimal when applying the right technology, skills, knowledge and safety practices. While some risk is there, the rewards make it worth while. No other activity gives one the feeling of flying freely like a bird in the sky, with wind blowing against the face, and clouds just closeby.
Interested to learn how to fly? Check out AdventurePlay's Paragliding Courses.
Nitisha Sethia is an outdoor sport practitioner and founder of AdventurePlay. Ex-McKinsey & Co. and IIM Ahmedabad, Nitisha left her corporate job to follow her passion in the outdoors.
Adventure Play is a one-stop platform to discover and play outdoor sports in Asia.