Near-death experiences while hang gliding

Originally published at: Near-death experiences while hang gliding | Boing Boing


Hang gliding is dangerous? I never would have guessed.


Right up there with “accompanying a musician on a single-engine plane”.


I used to want to learn to hang glide, I even took a lesson, but the closest school is pretty far from where I live. There are some paragliders around me, but I’m pushing 40 and after Grant Thompson’s fatal accident, I no longer have interest in flight.


Every time the guy in the video let go of the bar, my stomach did flip-flops.


At least he freely admitted he screwed up. That’s better than a lot of people ever manage.


I appreciate that they took the time to explain the root cause for the failure (although they should consider doing a 5-whys exercise to get a bit deeper eg. “why was I using a loop extender?”) and suggested changes to help others avoid the mistake. Learning from mistakes is important, we all make them, but maybe we can do it less - kudos to the hang glider for giving back.


I hear you there. I took sailplane lessons in the early 1990s, and a close-call crosswind landing gave me cold feet. When your engine is gravity, you don’t get a go-around.


Near death experiences: hang gliding


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Coming at this as a rock climber: I was aghast that the extension was rigged with tape over tape. Even under just body weight any rocking action will cause one piece to saw through the other. Having hook and loop closures on any part of the life safety system seems like a bad idea even if the initial idea behind it is good. There’s been deaths in the rock climbing community due to secondary systems causing improper equipment assembly and that often (though not always) leads to those designs changing or being retired.

It was good to see some root cause analysis going on. Still, it seems like a better understanding of the systems involved would have precluded this incident even happening.


Depending on the plane, some of them can glide pretty well with out power.

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I am honestly surprised there is only one point of attachment. I would think there would be a main point and a secondary in case that failed.

I don’t like heights, so no way I’d ever hang glide. I am ok in an actual plane, though.


Interesting and valuable video, I expect, for those who partake of this kind of thing… but it seems from the newer article that the incident this week was quite different. In the second paragraph of the newspaper article you linked, Rob, it says “the hang glider collided with the rocky cliffs above the beach and fell to the sand”. Is there some other reason to think that it was a failure of harness connection that led him to crash?

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That whole connection was way more ad-hoc than I’d be comfortable with on critical safety gear. Having a single point of failure with no backup is also nuts.

I wonder if this is a reflection of the history of the sport? Parachutes were refined by the military and the rules were laid down by bureaucrats decades ago so today you’d never see someone jumping with only one chute for example. When you’ve sent thousands of boys out to use the things you get a good sense of where the failure points are.

Hang gliding however seems to have arisen more from an extreme sport setting, where it was a very niche hobby with no governing body. As far as I know there aren’t even races or contests where such rulemaking would be required, so nobody has bothered. A few deaths or close calls a year are not fretted over too much since the people doing it were expected to know the risks. Plus many, and in fact most, operators make their own stringent safety standards so it isn’t an issue for them, but with no guidance from an external body you’ll have guys like this who nearly kill themselves because they don’t really understand the risk or mitigations.


I completely agree. While I personally would never participate in hang gliding activities (I’m a great big chicken) if I were to do so, or were to observe a friend do so, I would be adamant that reducing the number of single points of failure would include a secondary attachment.

Also, I wonder if this very fortunate individual began some sort of strength training to better enable them to hang from that bar for a longer period of time.


As long as the pilot understands the need to maintain forward speed and not be afraid to push the stick forward.


After a single hard landing during hang glider training about 15 years ago, I nope’d out. Just waaaay too dangerous. Sailplanes are a different matter, though - back in high school I flew them quite a bit, and only quit because I ran out of money from my job sacking groceries at Piggly Wiggly. I’d love to get back into soaring, if it was more convenient where I’m living.

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Industrial rope access standards have evolved such that many now require two separate safety systems. Recreational systems still are (mostly) constructed with a main single point of failure - the rope. One thing I’ve learned through reading the annual American alpine club accidents in North American climbing report though is that many if not most of the safety system accidents come not from the components but from the users. Multiple safety points are still only as good as the user.

That said, I see no reason in the hang gliding scenario to have a single non-redundant master point. Granted I’m an outsider and unfamiliar with the sport but it seems really stupid.


Isn’t hang gliding by definition a near-death experience?

Unless there’s a net involved, I guess.

That’s true but it’s also a good example of how crucial a buddy check is, particularly in climbing and i’ve done a bit of it myself yet even then you can miss the obvious. This does look like something your buddy could easily miss but i agree it looks like a janky set up.

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