🪂 Paragliding | Paragliding in Taiwan

In the wake of the 2 paragliding fatalities, I cannot in good conscience remain quiet. When middle aged men foolishly run off a mountain inadequately prepared, that is theri own fault. But when you start killing children, I have to come out of the closet. I write these statments at my own peril, having been harasses, intimidated and beaten, upon publication I expect retribution. I accept these consequences.

A close scrutiny of the Taitung Aerosports Association will reveal a loose association of ’ good ol’ boys’ who run the club as a business according to a system of nepotism and coverups, capricious rules, no accountability and wreckless negligence. The parent group, Taipei Paragiding Association is not much better.

One of the most popular buzz phrases in paraglding is" Attitude is everything." The current political-economic climate among the associations undermines the proper attitude for safe paragliding.

The knowledge base is out dated and never upgraded. They resist attempts by foreign professionals to introduce the newer, safer techniques for fear of loosing face. The system of testing is a superficial formality. Questions on the written tests are often obsolete or just plain wrong. Test are administered unproctored. The results are not even considered. Certifications are handed out according to favor and intimidation rather than skill.

The Taitung Aerosports Association is little more than a perforated milk bucket for government money. They were recently awarded 200,000,000 NT for an air park despite thier terrible safety record. Each competition is subsidized to as much as 5 million NT. Last year 6 pilots were hospitalized, including the General Manager and safety officer.Very little of this money goes into skills development. The coaches, being relatively underpaid, are insufficiently motivated to provide good instruction or assume any kind of responsibility. They’re damn good pilots. But, not all who fly are suitable to be coaches.

One of the ‘good ol’ boys has wrecked a 700,000 NT powered hangglider 3 times, ‘by no fault of his own’. He is not required to pay for it. Meanwhile, other members are nickle and dimed.

Tandem pilots are the lowest paid on the island and are not allowed to purchase thier own equipment but are required to rent gear from the club.

The tea shop at the take off zone does a millions of dollars a month business in season only because the pilots fly there. Yet, he insists that the take off zone is large enough and castrates the tandem pilots fees.

The club membership roster is hammered with ‘ghost pilots’.

The Gen. Mgr ‘plays’ the media very well to maintain an emminence front. But below the surface there is absolutely no substance. He’ll blow the dust off the chest banner that reads ’ Safety Officer’ and parade around in front of the press. But as soon as the cameras are gone it’s business as usual. The common battle cry among tandem pilots is " Get out of my way. I’m making money." The TV news last year proudly proclaimed pilots from 8 countries at the competition in Hualien when in fact there were none, or ‘ghost pilots’ at best.

Lu Yeh Kao Tai boasts the best and safest site for paragliding. And it surely could be. But safety and convenience issues are constantly pushed aside for profits. Kao tai has the SMALLEST TAKE OFF ZONE in Taiwan, but the biggest parking lot. The take off zone is open to spectators, children, puppies, wheelchairs, and food vendors. This is unacceptable. It is coated with cement rather than grass, the industry standard.

The club is run iron fisted through intimidation and harassment. If you don’t spout the party line, if you’re not one of the ‘inner circle’ , or if the Lu Yeh resident pilots don’t like the color of your skin, you’re ostracized.

The clubs are subsidized by the head count at the competitions. So, new pilots with as little as 7 flights in their log book are pressured into participating in the competitions.

Accidents are not reported. The injuries are later explained as something else, " Oh, I fell out of a tree. " or " I had a motorcycle accident." Two tandem pilots are at Lu yeh have visual disabilities requiring eyeglasses but never wear the. Another is hearing impaired. The general manager of the club is bankrupt, has had all of his property on auction and is in debt for tens of millions. And yet, contrary to County law, he continues to administer the finainces for the club.

Unlike foreign pilots on Taiwan and in the rest of the world, many local pilots are secretive about thier knowledge and skills preferring to maintain thier competitive edge. Hence, the collective knowledge base doesn’t grow. If you don’t join the ‘Gan -bei’ hours and stroke the coaches inflated ego, you get absolutely no instruction beyond take off and landing.

There is no accountability. In case of an accident the coaches reply, " He wasn’t MY student." He was a wreckless and irresponsible pilot. He didn’t respect his coaches. " And, of course there’s no one to speak for him now. He’s dead…

…because he wasn’t trained properly, because he didn’t get the kind of guidance that any participant in this sport needs throughout his flying carreer.

The prioities in the club are money, face and more money. Safety and quality control are merely masks we put on for the media. Coaches make money flying tandem. They don’t make money coaching. So, in a country where money is our God, what would you expect? The club makes money from government subsidies. The club is run like a business. New pilots are merely clowns in the flying circus. They are expendable.

The club leadership solicits foreign consultation only when it meets financial or political objectives. they refuse and ignore opportunities to engage wolrd class training even when it is merely a handshake away. Les Sharpe , wingstaiwan.com, is unquestionable one of the best coaches on the island. His techniques and strategies for training are state of the art and second to none. Yet, he is brushed aside as a foreign devil. Gabe Jebb, founding member of the world’s largest glider port, Torrey Pines, California , has been here for a month at a time on 3 separate occassions and was introduced to leadership as ready willing and able to offer training, advice, supervision, workshops. He was rebuffed.

Elementary rules of common sense are set aide for small margin profits here and there. Coaches will sell advanced gliders to beginner pilots so that the coach can unload his old glider or reduce his inventory. A new pilot will be told to take off even though the conditions are not right for a safe flight. Pilots are permitted to fly without a reserve chute or speedbar. Most coaches refuse to acknowledge that a speedbar is a safety feature to prevent a pilot from getting pushed back in strong wind. There is one Taiwan coach who FLAT OUT refuses to teach the industry standard reverse inflation insisting on only using the standard inflation techniques from TEN YEARS AGO. in the recent fatality at Saijya, authorities will find that the harness used was not suitable for the pilot size. The shoulder straps were too wide. Hence, when the passenger leaned forward, he tipped out.

The associations AT LARGE are guilty of gross negligence in the way they refuse to police thier own people, refuse to uphold a standard except when it is politically or financially expedient or when it can be used against those who try to alter the system of corruption and neglect.

These people who are in power in the associations, through thier negligence are ruining the reputation of what in other parts of the world is a safe extreme sport. And Taiwan is earning a reputation as a flying circus.

There are alot of newer members, good pilots, in the associations who have come in with good intentions and actively seek change, dedicated to upgrading. But the nature of the existing system, fostering an attitude of greed and vanity over safety and knowledge, is so pervasive that they soon succumb to tacit acceptance.

How do I know all this? I have been in the club for 5 years. I am the only foreign pilot to have been in the association so long and have gone through the system of certification from the beginning to the advanced. I have tried to leave the club 3 years ago. They would not release me insisting that I am under thier jurisdiction and subject to thier continued harassment and capricious laws. They know that it is my goal to open another club, offering pilots a egalitarian alternative making safety and training the top priority. Then they will really loose face. During my active 3 years I have bent over backward to try to improve training, increase the knowledge base, equipment and training methods. I received the take off and landing training in 1999 and was left to my own devices from there. But I learned to fly by reading everything I can on the internet and from other foreign pilots.

I am the only (sic) advanced pilot in Taitung Association NOT to have been hospitalized for a paragliding injury. I am the only pilot to have flown over 17 sites in Taitung County, from Ta Wu through Dong Huh.

Now you compare this to the Club chairman who hasn’t flown since his accident 4 years ago, or for the Gen Mgr who has flown once a year for the past 3 years and spent the rest of the season in recovery from his injuries. So why do these people stay involved in paragliding? You ask them.

Any lawyer worth his briefs will do some interviews and requisition some documents from the training records and competitions and verify these allegations. Someone will be paid. But, unless there is change in the system the death toll and the casualty rate will remain high and paragliding as a tourism attraction will never get off the ground.

So, what can be done to remedy the situation? simple: Perestroika, ’ break, and make again. lose face, save lives.

1 lose face and save lives. Admit that we have a problem in the associations
2 hire a foreign professional to upgrade coaches skills
3 revise testing materials
4 use foreign testing certification system, ie US Hanggliding Assoc., FAI, BHPA, etc
5 employ foreign testing agency to proctor exams and issue certifications
6 translate more written information into Chinese
7 Stop throwign good money after bad. Cut subsidies until this is done or they can demonstrate competence and accountability.

Malcolm Vargas aka: Ma Tai-i
Taitung, Taiwan

Ah Loon was a promising pilot. He was diligent serious and constantly seeking the right way to pursue his new found passion. May he rest in peace and in knowing that things will be better tomorrow.

Malcolm Vargas, 19 years in (Taitung) Taiwan

0972 049 819

:loco: :loco:

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It takes guts to post what you did. A nice tribute to the pilot who recently and unnecessarily lost his life. Obviously you care, and for those people who know what it takes to make a successful and safe recreational flying club of any kind, you are definitely on the right track. And for those who don’t know, they should pay attention.

I’d never fly in the current environment, but would love to get into paragliding. In the past, I’ve been into skydiving, ultralights, and hang gliding. Let me know if you ever get something independent going.


P.S. - On second thought, what is the reason that foreign pilots haven’t banded together to start a club?

I too find the Taiwan aviation scene rather appauling to say the least. Never in my life have I seen so many fatalities in the sport of paragliding than I have in Taiwan.

The number of accidents is disproportinate to the flying population: ie there is only a small flying population in Taiwan, but the number of accidents beats that of any other country I have seen who all have higher numbers of pilots.

Taiwan needs proper flying associations which are regulated according to safety and education.

I am an experienced pilot in my home country (unfortunately a failed airline pilot) and have flown ultralights to twins.

When I first tried my hand at flying ultralights in Taiwan I was amazed at the quality of some of the aircraft people were using in Taiwan.
I saw one aircraft which where the canvas at the end of the wing had peeled back, exposing a strut that was not fastened to its respective slot. Tensioner wires around the cockpit frame were loose on one side and taught on the other, making the aircraft warped affecting performance and airframe loading. This could have dire consequences concerning appropriate airframe stress limits.
Yet when the aircraft took off, I saw the pilot later perform ridiculous manoevers that a “conventional” pilot would never perform with a sound airframe.

While I have no problem with amatuers, running an aviation based sport requires professionalism, organisation, experience and common-sence.

Unfortunately in Taiwan, all aviation related sports are run on the bank book, face saving, pride and negligence.

It is a true shame, as flying in Taiwan is a remarkable experience.

There is an ongoing police investigation into the fatal accident at Saichia and I know for a fact that they are very keen to press charges. It’s probably not a good idea to speculate on a public board as to the specific details of the case. That the sport aviation scene here is a mess is beyond question. Just do the math on the accident statistics compared to developed country.

Er . . . are you sure that he actually intended to perform those maneuvers?? :noway:

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My family was visiting recently and wanted to go paragliding but I said no because of my own opinion only of unsafe practices and too many accidents in Taiwan.

I almost decided to take them.

Well sad news for someone.


I appreciate the attempt to gain improvements in this industry transparency of existing problems. I wish you luck.
Every time I drive by the paragliding landing zone in Hualien I shake my head. I am no expert, in fact, no nothing about this sport except one paragliding experience in New Zealand. But when the landing zone is next to a major highway and telephone lines I am very skeptical of the safety measures.
For my one paragliding experience the instructor stood in front of the pilot with me strapped in. The pilot must grab and verbally confirm each buckle is fixed properly…from 1 to 12…with the boss watching. The whole process seemed to be very focused on safety. I felt that I was in good hands.

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This could be reposted on the traffic thread.

But paragliding, I’d kinda thought about trying it but not anymore!


10 meters? You probably could survive that depending on the ground. Guess, there was no time to react. One buckle fails and you go down? That sounds very dodgy to me.

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10 meters is like about 4 or 5 floors. That’s getting to the “hard to survive” territory.

I mean some have survived falling from 30,000 feet without a parachute, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

Focus Taiwan with a report on this woman’s death:


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Maybe this one.

“along the Jiqi coast in Hualien’s Fengbin Township”

Sounds like neglegence rather than equipment failure.

According to a video clip provided by Hsiao’s family members, one safety buckle on Hsiao’s thigh was seen loosening before the two took off.

The paragliding company told the media that the coach discovered a loosened buckle soon after they took off, and tried to fix the problem immediately.

Unfortunately the evidence was “lost”

Hsiao’s boyfriend, surnamed Li (李), accused the instructor of taking off without buckling the safety buckle. He believed the instructor also intentionally lost the GoPro attached to the paraglider to avoid responsibility for the accident.

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Sounds like a lot of chabuduo going on.

Like with traffic and all that.

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You have to be really stupid to engage in this type of activity in Taiwan. I mean, look at traffic safety, construction safety, train safety, food safety, rules, laws, standards of conduct. All subpar and no one cares to fix the problems.


I’m now trying to figure out where this was:

I’m pretty sure it was somewhere in Hualien but it doesn’t seem to match any of the locations Google brings up. Anyone recognize the valley?

I’ll say that while I know nothing about paragliding, I do know a bit about rope safety, and I checked the buckles on my son’s harness before they took off. They were fine.

Looks like they started from what is called Jialulan (加路蘭) on the map here. This is in Fengbin Township south of Baqi, close to Jiqi Beach. Looks very dodgy to me, like a private operation or something.


A video of the woman taking off has been released by the family. They’re saying that her leg straps were not buckled.

You can see the video in this link:

The same operator has another accident last month. A customer took off in bad weather and crashed into tree, leaving her with serious scratches and a fractured vertebrae.

Allegedly the operator did not call an ambulance because they were worried it would scare off the next group of customers. Instead, her friend had to drive her to hospital.


This should be pretty damning should it not?

The Hualien education department said, meanwhile, that it has determined that the paragliding instructor was licensed for the sport, but the company providing the service did not have a business permit for paragliding because it failed to meet land and facility requirements.

The department said the company, whose business operations were suspended after the death was reported, also did not have the Civil Aviation Administration’s permission to fly non-powered paragliders.


Given that related regulations do not specify any penalties for non-compliance, however, it is difficult to stop unauthorized business operators from soliciting customers, the department said.


Put otherwise: it appears that our sh&ttily crafted laws make it difficult for us, the evidently lazy shrug-of-the-shoulders government of Hualien, to enforce said laws. WTF!


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