Outdoors

Paragliding safety questioned after Chelan Butte fatality

Paraglider Matt Senior takes off from Chelan Butte on May 31, 2014, en route to setting a state free-flight distance record of 180 miles. (Heather St. Claire)
Paraglider Matt Senior takes off from Chelan Butte on May 31, 2014, en route to setting a state free-flight distance record of 180 miles. (Heather St. Claire)

FREE FLYING — Members of the close-knit paragliding community are mourning the loss of David Norwood, one of their highly regarded flyers, who crashed to his death at Chelan Butte on Wednesday.

Like all tragedies, the incident is causing some flyers to step back and re-evaluate.

I just received the following commentary from Rick Masters of Owens Valley, California, who suggests that frank discussions are hindered on chat rooms because paragliding sites often are controlled by people in the industry who don't want too much frank talk.

Masters contends that when choosing to fly paragliders or hang-gliders, one is a safer choice in iffy weather because of the frame that helps prevent canopy collapse. 

  • See a response from a paragliding forum moderator to Masters' contention.

Says Masters:

David Norwood was the 1244th soaring parachutist to die since the first paragliding fatality in the Alps in 1987 by my incomplete verified tally. Paragliding Forum does not allow me to post on the site.  If you notice the second post by pecoflea, he has received eight negative “karmas” from forum members for questioning the death rate and problematic design of paragliders.  When he accumulates enough negative karmas, he will not be allowed to post.  This keeps newbies from too much negative exposure so they keep buying paragliders.  Many forum members are paragliding equipment dealers.

_________________

If I could respond to pecoflea, it would be like this:

This is getting crazy

NO.  IT'S BEEN LIKE THIS SINCE THE BEGINNING.

Another highly experienced pilot is killed in our sport.

LIKE PAUL ANTONIASSI IN ITALY ON JULY 10?  LIKE JUDD FELDMAN IN PEMBERTON ON JULY 8?  LIKE THE 2 SOARING PARACHUTISTS IN THE FRENCH ALPS ON JULY 3 AND 5?

My thoughts again are why did this happen?

PARACHUTES COLLAPSE IN TURBULENCE.

How do we avoid this from happening to us?

USE AN AIRFRAME TO KEEP THE SAIL FROM DEFORMING.

I've been flying Hang gliders since 1974 and Paragliders since 2010 In hang gliding I remember many very scary days, but I never worried that my wing would fall apart.

In paragliding, I remember these scary days and just don't even bother to fly on strong days “period ”

Yes,, I have definitely become the chicken in my flying group.

Is there no way to make our PG wings more collapse resistant?

NO.

How about one way valves like what is in our airbags incorporated into our cells to help resist complete blowouts?

NOPE.

Probably a dumb idea , but surely we can find a way to cut the collapses down that seems to be inherent in this sport?

SORRY.  IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, SURELY IT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED BY NOW.

Well, probably a better place to post this , but I find this news very distressing and think that manufacturers need to forget about the bottom line for a while and focus all energies into creating a safer wing “Period”.

PARAGLIDERS COLLAPSE AND KILL THEIR PILOTS.  YET YOU CHOOSE THEM OVER HANG GLIDERS.  THAT'S THE PROBLEM.




You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus
Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


Follow online:


Recent posts


Close

Sections


Profile

Close

Contact the Spokesman

Main switchboard:
(509) 459-5000
(800) 338-8801
Newsroom:
(509) 459-5400
(800) 789-0029
Customer service:
(800) 338-8801