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2 die in paragliding accident in Gunma

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I attended one of these schools in Gunma a decade ago. Paragliding is a rather easy sport to start, but it has some serious consequences when things don't go right. Like parachuting, the landings and takeoffs are always dangerous, but I believe paragliding is the most dangerous because the gear is not like a military purpose parachute, and you have to run off from high place with an open parachute. After a couple videos in the office we went out to start live paragliding. The hardest part is running fast enough to get the parachute to open fully before jump off. Luckily, I was able to take off and land without a hitch, but some other folks couldn't. It was ugly! Not to mention, as we were waiting our turns. There were others more experience paragliders around too, and they were crashing and breaking the rules that we were told not to do in the videos.

There are no guarantees with the quality of instructions in Japan in this sport, and anybody can just go out anytime and start doing it. What can go wrong?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

RIP.

Paragliding holds risks, as do other similar activities.

The staff member had 20 years of experience. Undoubtedly he was qualified. But accidents do happen. No matter how much experience one has and no matter what precautions are taken.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@hdon

It seems suspicious to registered on one site to make single post.

First, I clearly stated that this was my opinion from my experience with a paragliding school in Japan which is where the accident happened.

Second, saying that paragliding is safer than other common activities just show either your lack of understanding of statistics or you willingness to mislead because you are defending your job. Paragliding is not as popular which the population is small; thus, the number of fatalities are smaller. Let's not forget all the injuries not necessarily reported in these statistics. (broken bones, sprains....)

Example:

According to the USPA skydiving was exercised in the USA in 2014 by ca. 36,770 of its members[1] while DHV says it had ca 35000 active pilots in 2015[2].

As for injuries, in the year mentioned there were:

729 skydiving injuries with 24 fatalities = ).03 = 3%

220 paragliding injuries with 10 fatalities = 0.04 = 4%

Paragliding has fewer fatalities, but overall, it is more dangerous than skydiving for that year.

See how that works?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@hdon

HD: It wasn't luck, it was circumstance. When flying tandem, the only thing required from the passenger is the run, all the work is done by the pilot. It is a short 10-25ft run and most of the time, you are lifted early by oncoming winds. What you described was a very low or no wind day were, if the pilot cannot get the wing inflated properly, he/she aborts the launch. That's not 'ugly', that is being safe. 'Ugly' would describe trying to get off launch with an improperly inflated glider. If the glider does not feel right, the pilots simply stops and aborts, that is what is supposed to happen. Pilots cannot control the weather conditions but we can control if we fly or not and if conditions are not right it is simply better to not launch. BTW, we never 'jump', jumping is very bad on a launch, we simply run and let a solid glider 'carry us off of launch.' Your tandem pilot should have instructed you on this.

Another reason you are barking up the wrong tree. I never mentioned a pilot. I didn't have a pilot. None of us had a pilot. We did it on our own on hill that was suppose to be considered safe, but like I said people still got hurt. At the end of the course, any one of us could've just simply taken our gear to a higher location and started paragliding. Having a pilot is a new concept compared to when I took the course.

You have been missing the whole point of my posts. That is "This is Japan!", so international standard rules don't always apply.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A sudden change of the wind conditions can impede the steering a lot.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

30m is about the altitude where if your glider is fully collapsing then you have no chance to make a comeback. And the consequences are severe and/or fatal. RIP

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Silvafan

Oh, and one more point on the stats thing, for clarification (shame we cannot edit our own posts.) A skydiving flight lasts usually under a few minutes. Paragliding flights can last hours. For each person doing it, the PG pilots spent countless hours compared to skydivers so on an hourly basis, we are far less risky. Just another take and why it is important to be specific.

Look, not looking to pick a fight, just addressing points. Perhaps when I'm in Japan, we could get into details over Sake and not have to clutter the postings so much. Good discussion though.

Cheers,

:-Don

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Silvafan

HD: Let's clarify again...

SF: It seems suspicious to registered on one site to make single post.

HD: No big conspiracy, I saw the discrepancies that needed to be addressed in your post and registered to address them. Registration was required in order to address them. If I see another article that requires a response, I will reuse my login.

SF: First, I clearly stated that this was my opinion from my experience with a paragliding school in Japan which is where the accident happened.

HD: Yes, but you also clearly spoke to your opinion of the nature of the entire sport which had falsities to which I spoke to correct. One bad experience does not a sport make.

SF: Second, saying that paragliding is safer than other common activities just show either your lack of understanding of statistics or you willingness to mislead because you are defending your job. Paragliding is not as popular which the population is small; thus, the number of fatalities are smaller. Let's not forget all the injuries not necessarily reported in these statistics. (broken bones, sprains....)

HD: Not misleading, the stats I was speaking to are on a per-capita basis which makes them statistically valid regardless of group size - that's how statistics works.

SF:

As for injuries, in the year mentioned there were:

729 skydiving injuries with 24 fatalities = ).03 = 3%

220 paragliding injuries with 10 fatalities = 0.04 = 4%

Paragliding has fewer fatalities, but overall, it is more dangerous than skydiving for that year.

See how that works?

HD: I see how it is a misrepresentation of the stats by selecting one year from one organization. You would have to carry to multiple years over multiple organizations around the world, the larger the sample, the more valid the stats. 1% difference for the year you specified? The results are so close they fall within a margin of error, hardly more or less 'risk.' - for that year; they could be considered equal -- that's how stats work. You also have to define and differentiate all the various forms of paragliding to get an accurate assessment - acro, competition, speed gliding, cross country, tandems, students, etc, etc. Raising fears without backing where those numbers come from or truly represent is misleading.

Also, not defending for my job, it is not my main source of income nor a requirement for my lifestyle. I do so simply to speak on a topic I am familiar with and feel it important to correct falsities were I see them, on any subject. Additionally, posting on an out-of-country article hardly protects what I do here in Canada.

SF: I never mentioned a pilot. I didn't have a pilot. None of us had a pilot. We did it on our own on hill that was suppose to be considered safe, but like I said people still got hurt. At the end of the course, any one of us could've just simply taken our gear to a higher location and started paragliding.

HD: No you didn't mention a pilot, your original statements were vague, clarity does help. Safety doesn't come from the hill, it comes from the qualifications of the instructor and the students' willingness to be instructed - and good judgement from both parties.

SF: Having a pilot is a new concept compared to when I took the course.

HD: Perhaps you should be more specific. What year was this? Tandem flying is almost as old as the sport. If you were referring to 2015, there should have been many tandems available. Regardless, if 'people' are getting hurt then it is the training at fault - not necessarily the sport. With bad training, any sport is highly risky - to which I alluded to. If you are allowed to just take your gear after a few runs on the training hill, then yes, your training is far below par - but that does not make the sport at fault.

SF: "This is Japan!", so international standard rules don't always apply.

HD: To be fair, you took lessons from one school. Perhaps it is common across Japan to have bad schools but without investigation, it should not be assumed. I will be in Japan in October and I will have a chance to visit a few schools and will report here what I find - no misrepresentation - I will report as I see it. Honestly, international standards don't always apply in North American schools either. Some instructors and schools had to be reprimanded or closed for a lack of attention to safety which is why I stated the importance for anyone checking out a school to do their due diligence. Safety starts with our individual attention to detail and not just relying on an authority of any kind. That should be the most important point.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

SilvafanToday 09:01 am JST

" Like parachuting, the landings and takeoffs are always dangerous,"

Didn't know there were takeoffs in parachuting??????

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Silvafan's comments are a mix of reality and non-reality. I'll be specific...

SF: "Paragliding is a rather easy sport to start, but it has some serious consequences when things don't go right"

HD: Just like driving a car, walking the streets, climbing a ladder, etc. Life involves risk, it is how we manage risk that makes any endeavour safer or not.

SF: "Like parachuting, the landings and takeoffs are always dangerous, but I believe paragliding is the most dangerous because the gear is not like a military purpose parachute, and you have to run off from high place with an open parachute."

HD: Dangerous is the wrong term, better to use 'risk', and again, it is about managing risk. Dangerous implies taking high risk, especially without precautions. True, take-offs and landings have higher risk than the rest of the flight, just as pulling into a street out of a parking lot or onto a highway is the riskiest part of driving. But that risk is mitigated by experience, judgement and practice.

As for equipment, certified paraglider wings go through rigorous testing and are incredibly safe by construction. It is extremely rare to hear of a mechanical malfunction if the equipment is not old or abused. Military purpose means absolutely nothing. Paragliders (we call them wings or gliders, not parachutes) are better constructed than skydiving parachutes as paragliders have far superior glides which give you far more landing options and much more time to assess your approach. Parachutes are just designed so as not to hit the ground too hard and have a horrible glide ratio by comparrison, and that is riskier. Our glides are so good that we can soar for hours, parachutes only go down and in only a few minutes at best.

Silvafan, you should actually look at the statistics before simply professing a belief. Statistically (and studies have been done), paragliding is 'safer' than biking, swimming, mountain biking(by far), skydiving(by far), parasailing, boating, etc.

Paragliding is far lower risk than skydiving because we assemble our aircraft on the ground and have plenty of time to check it's 'flying' condition before launching and have time to abort the launch if we don't like how the glider is handling. In skydiving, you are assembling your aircraft while IN A FALL, in a very violent environment, a risk that has minimal capacity for risk management. It either opens or it doesn't, zero guarantees, and if it opens, there is no guarantee of it opening correctly(of my only two skydives, 1 did not open correctly). That risk is too much for me simply because I just cannot manage the opening risk in skydiving.

SF: "After a couple videos in the office we went out to start live paragliding. The hardest part is running fast enough to get the parachute to open fully before jump off. Luckily, I was able to take off and land without a hitch, but some other folks couldn't. It was ugly!"

HD: It wasn't luck, it was circumstance. When flying tandem, the only thing required from the passenger is the run, all the work is done by the pilot. It is a short 10-25ft run and most of the time, you are lifted early by oncoming winds. What you described was a very low or no wind day were, if the pilot cannot get the wing inflated properly, he/she aborts the launch. That's not 'ugly', that is being safe. 'Ugly' would describe trying to get off launch with an improperly inflated glider. If the glider does not feel right, the pilots simply stops and aborts, that is what is supposed to happen. Pilots cannot control the weather conditions but we can control if we fly or not and if conditions are not right it is simply better to not launch. BTW, we never 'jump', jumping is very bad on a launch, we simply run and let a solid glider 'carry us off of launch.' Your tandem pilot should have instructed you on this.

SF: "Not to mention, as we were waiting our turns. There were others more experience paragliders around too, and they were crashing and breaking the rules that we were told not to do in the videos."

HD: If crashing and breaking the rules was the case then there is something seriously wrong with the level of instruction happening, and if that was the case, I would agree entirely. I am an instructor and a tandem pilot and we take risk management and safety very seriously. When we teach, we do so in order to train pilots in staying within the rules and minimizing accidents and our students have had thousands of safe flying days that have enriched their lives tremendously. You can never eliminate risk but you can encourage the tools that make the risks minimal and the rewards maximal, and the pilots I know will tell you the rewards are amazingly worth it.

SF: "There are no guarantees with the quality of instructions in Japan in this sport, and anybody can just go out anytime and start doing it. What can go wrong?"

HD: In most first world countries, the certification process for instructors and students is very specific and clearly laid out. Specific theory and practical requirements to make safe pilots are observed and implemented. If a school is bypassing these requirements, it is grounds for their certification to be revoked and do not hesitate to report such a school or instructor to the national overseeing body.

To anyone considering flying of any kind, do your homework. Check the school out, check the instructors out, be sure they are certified and experienced and really take their time with their students and do everything possible to make the feel safe and comfortable. Check with their former students and see if they are happy or have issues. If something bothers you, do not hesitate to go to another school that makes you feel better.

What happened in this horrible accident in the article is very rare indeed. I watch the accident reports worldwide and this was quite a unique case and I will be looking forward to the full accident report to clarify what exactly occurred and add it to our repertoire of risk management procedures. My initial suspicion is that the flying conditions may have played a factor but we will have to wait for the final report to assess.

Don

Freedom Flight School, Lumby, B.C., Canada

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

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