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Safest Type of Flying

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Nims11

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In doing some research about airplane safety I originally assumed that a sailplane would be much safer than a powered plane but found statistically this is not true. In looking at Hang Gliders is appears that they are much safer than sailplanes or powered. Is that because they go so slow and land so slow?

I am wondering if a powered sailplane, that uses propulsion to find lift and give needed power to land, would not be the safest type of flying? If most accidents occur in sailplanes during the landing then perhaps having power at landing would help insure that you landed on good terrain, and at the right approach and so forth?

Thanks.
 

BJC

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There are all kinds of statistics about "safety" and there are some experts here who will, I'm sure, respond, but I have one thought that I want to share with you.

In any hazardous endeavor, the attitude and ability of the participant is the major factor in the danger faced.


BJC
 

Aesquire

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Is that because they go so slow and land so slow?

Thanks.
Partly. The slow landing speed means if you land less than perfectly, you have a better chance at walking away.

There's a graph of angle of impact/speed that explains it better, but shallow angles are better than straight down, and slower means less g's to come to a stop.

One killer in any airplane is to land in a tree. Then fall out of the branches grasp, straight down.
 

Turd Ferguson

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The "safest" flying is an airline crew flying a Part 25 airplane and operating under Part 121 of the FARs. The planes have multiple redundant paths, guaranteed performance, the operating regs eliminate excessive risk and add on even more performance safety margins, etc, etc.
 

Vipor_GG

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Hadn't heard that Jan, but it is sad.
[video=youtube_share;6s0TjSewc3w]http://youtu.be/6s0TjSewc3w[/video]
 

Wanttaja

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In doing some research about airplane safety I originally assumed that a sailplane would be much safer than a powered plane but found statistically this is not true. In looking at Hang Gliders is appears that they are much safer than sailplanes or powered. Is that because they go so slow and land so slow?
What records are used to determine that hang gliders are statistically safer than powered aircraft? I can access the NTSB database to examine sailplane or powerplane accidents, but the NTSB doesn't track hang gliders. Where are you getting the hang glider statistics from?

Ron Wanttaja
 

TFF

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Statistically the safest aircraft in the world is a Bell Jetranger. Its a helicopter. Its record is tracked in millions of flight hour per incident. Safety has to do with the pilot flying the aircraft correctly. Most crashes happen because the pilot had a chain somethings done wrong. Overall design and maintenance is a much smaller part of the pie, if done per the book. The world has gone the way of dumbing down the pilot rather than saying "no" your skills are not up to the task of your ability to buy your dream plane; practice more.
 

SVSUSteve

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In doing some research about airplane safety I originally assumed that a sailplane would be much safer than a powered plane but found statistically this is not true. In looking at Hang Gliders is appears that they are much safer than sailplanes or powered. Is that because they go so slow and land so slow?

I am wondering if a powered sailplane, that uses propulsion to find lift and give needed power to land, would not be the safest type of flying? If most accidents occur in sailplanes during the landing then perhaps having power at landing would help insure that you landed on good terrain, and at the right approach and so forth?

Thanks.
Part of the issue with hang glidee statistics is that they are under no reporting mandate to a government agency or independent body so the fatality rate may be underreported.

As for adding an engine, remember that powered aircraft are at greatest risk under the same circumstances. The issue is one of human factors and not aircraft performance. The poor adherence to standardized approach procedures (too fast, too slow, too steep in turns, etc) and a hesitancy to abort an approach when the the turn is messed up is what leads to most crashes.
 

PTAirco

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I would have thought that intuitively speaking, a powered parachute would be the the safest form of powered flying and a paraglider the safest non- powered form. I presume this isn't so?
 

BoKu

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In doing some research about airplane safety I originally assumed that a sailplane would be much safer than a powered plane but found statistically this is not true. In looking at Hang Gliders is appears that they are much safer than sailplanes or powered. Is that because they go so slow and land so slow?

I am wondering if a powered sailplane, that uses propulsion to find lift and give needed power to land, would not be the safest type of flying? If most accidents occur in sailplanes during the landing then perhaps having power at landing would help insure that you landed on good terrain, and at the right approach and so forth?

Thanks.
Powered sailplanes offer some opportunities to mitigate the risks inherent in soaring flight, but also introduce some additional risks inherent in their increased mass and complexity. Overall, it appears to be about a wash.

The safest forms of flying are those optimized for transportation. Sport aviation, including soaring, is just plain sportier. Opportunities to engage in more enjoyable and more entertaining flight experiences translate directly into opportunities to enter uncontrolled flight and collide with the ground.

My preferred aviating is cross-country and competition soaring in ~15 meter span high-performance sailplanes. Statistically speaking, it is about as safe as riding a motorcycle. Practically speaking, there are a lot of things you can do to stack the deck in your favor, like:

* using auto-connecting controls
* avoiding low saves below about 800 feet
* using anticollision systems such as FLARM
* recognizing and avoiding "watch this" situations like low passes
* recognizing and avoiding situations where you try to save the aircraft at the expense of you own safety
* Recognizing and mitigating the effects of fatigue, dehydration, and hypoxia

Basically, what you do is find your preferred level of risk aversion and calibrate your flight activities to achieve it.

Thanks, Bob K.
 

Wanttaja

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I would have thought that intuitively speaking, a powered parachute would be the the safest form of powered flying and a paraglider the safest non- powered form. I presume this isn't so?
Safest...how? On the basic of fatalities per 100,000 miles (the way accident statistics are complied for conventional aircraft), I suspect powered parachutes and paragliders score pretty low.....

Ron Wanttaja
 

Dan Thomas

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Sadly people in a simulator died last week in a simulator when hit by a twin engine plane crashing into the building. fate, destiny or Murphy's law?
Being located near an airport didn't help, I suppose. One fellow I know who spends time in those big airline sims told me that there have been guys who have had heart attacks in them when the emergencies became overwhelming. The realism is that good, and the stress of needing to pass the check to keep your career can be major, too.

Still, death in a sim has to be much rarer than in any flying machine.

Dan
 

Dana

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I suspect (without any statistics to back me up) that flying hang gliders is somewhat more risky than flying small airplanes. I did look at powered paraglider (not the same thing as powered parachutes) statistics some time ago, and concluded that from a fatality standpoint per hours flown, it was about the same as riding a motorcycle, which I seem to recall is similar to general aviation as a whole. Note that the statistics available are very limited, though, and I made some reasonable but rough assumptions about hours flown. However, flying a HG, PG, or PPG you're much more likely to get injured, broken ankle on landing, etc. than killed.

The thing about flying is that (compared to vehicles driven on the roads), your safety is so much more dependent on the pilot's judgement; you don't have the random risks of other drivers you're sharing the road with. Keep your skills up and fly in good conditions? You're going to be pretty safe. Go cross country in deteriorating weather with a case of gethomeitis, or do the kind of stupid things that young inexperienced pilots do? You're likely to become a statistic yourself. Pilots between around 100-200 hours are statistically much more likely to crash than those with less hours (they're still careful) and those with more hours (because they've presumably learned a thing or two from the mistakes they managed to survive). There's some truth to the old line about filling your bag of skill before your bag of luck runs out.

Dana
 

BBerson

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I saw a video of guys with para gliders doing rolls down the side of a mountain in between trees.
Dont think they will have a long life.
 

Aesquire

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I tend to agree with Dana. Hang Gliding taken from the earliest days is riskier than powered flight.

But the stats are misleading. Thousands of people don't cover thousands of miles every day in a Hang Glider.

Back in 1975 Hang Gliding was far less safe than today. Better equipment, better training. Same thing is true of "General Aviation". Once it was a very dare devil activity. The statistics are horrible in 1918. More people died training to fly Sopwith Camels and the like than died in combat. The P-40 killed a LOT of student fighter pilots in 1944.

More B-29's went down because Curtis Wright sucked than were shot down. ( ok, that one's a freak that only happens in wartime with desperate people... like the number of Bf-109's lost in take off and landing accidents... )

Things have improved. A bit.

The NTSB doesn't do accident statistics on things they don't regulate. Ultralights, Hang Gliders, Paragliders... So the numbers are not that useful.

What the smart sport aviation folk do is try very hard to learn from their mistakes.

The USPA magazine has accident reports. ( skydiving ) So do the Hang Gliding and Paragliding folk. Broken legs and such often don't get any kind of report.

I learned to check if there was a graphic crash report before loaning out a magazine to newbies. So we as a group knew when the problems were happening. Hang Gliding went through a phase where people were dying because they didn't hook in to their gliders. Run off a steep hill and the glider flies, and the pilot is hanging on for dear life, and not in control.

It seems crazy in retrospect, how could you forget to attach yourself to your own wing? Various technological fixes were tried, like alarms, but in the end education and a change in attitude was the cure. The local club hung a control bar from a tree and we practiced trying to get up to stand/crouch on the base tube like a trapeze. ( you CAN control a Hang Glider that way. ) Very few fairly athletic guys could do that in a reasonable time. I couldn't, not fast enough. I learned to always, always, always be sure to be hooked up, and to watch and make sure everyone else was.

So I'd rate Commercial Jet travel safest, Commuter and GA about the same, with Soaring, Hang Gliding, and Paragliding ( in that order ) followed by Ultralights and quite a range of risk in that category alone.

I could be wrong, but that's my Gut reaction. A Sailplane has more structure around you than a Hang Glider, which has more than a Paraglider, and adding an engine to either actually increases the risk. ( mostly for the additional freedom to fly in conditions that can exceed limits on skill and equipment. )
 

Nims11

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Sorry I was not quoting statistics with my comment about hang glider safety, it was just coming from my reading of articles and websites. What I did read was that safety has increased dramatically in the recent years, as aesquire said. This because of better training, and better equipment, as it has become more of a mainstream sport. By safe I should have qualified that I was referring to fatality rate, or at least serious injury. With a HG being so slow, and stall speed of below 20mph, that fatalities were probably not common. Of course breaking your leg is not fun, but I would trade that for a crash in an airplane hitting the ground at 100 mph.
 
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