Today we examine the Paragliding safety standards around the world.
Standards are evolving with the sport, and today there is some consensus of testing.
You may have heard people talking about a DHV 1 or a DHV 2 paraglider. Most commercially available
paragliders are tested by test pilots and put through non destructive and destructive type testing. The
organisations who conduct these tests generally do so to a set standard. These standards have been evolving over
the years. Standards have come and gone, and testing organisations have also come and gone. The driving factors
were market driven. The customer needed to understand what they were buying.
Over the last 10 to 15 years the DHV standard overseen by the Deutscher Hangegleiter Verband (German Hangliding
Association) has dominated the market. They produced paraglider ratings of DHV1, DHV1/2, DHV2, DHV2/3 and DHV3.
What do they mean? Typically a DHV 1 glider is simple to launch, it feels solid and secure in flight. It also
recovers quickly from any collapses and does not turn abruptly nor does it enter spins easily. The compromise is
that the speed and glide ratio of these wings is a little limited. There are a multitude of tests that the wings
are put through, and for each test, the paraglider is given a rating from 1 to 3. The final rating for the wing
will be highest number for that group of tests.
The wings are tested at trim speed and accelerated(with speed bar applied)
A DHV 3 paraglider is for those who want maximum performance and are prepared to forgo safety and handling. DHV
3 gliders are often difficult to launch, prone to spinning, and can turn very abruptly with an assymetric collapse.
In compensation they have spectacular speed and glide ratio.
I mentioned earlier that most gliders are tested. There are many wings which are not tested. They have unknown
reactions and are for extremely experienced pilots ONLY.
Now you may have also come across the terms CEN, AFNOR, ACPUL, FFVL, DULV, EN and SHV .
These all evolved to compete with the DHV, perhaps due to cost or patriotic pride. The problem was that the
standards did not test the same elements, thus the results are difficult to compare. Some systems were subjective
(based on the opinions of the test pilot) rather than subjective (timed recovery, height loss etc)
As of 2008, the CEN has now officially superseded the ACPUL, FFVL and AFNOR. The DHV is still conducting the
tests but they are now given the number LTF. They are simply referring to the standard and not the testing
organisation. So DHV 1 becomes LTF 1 and so on.
CEN stands for Comité Européen de Normalisation, (European Committee for Standardization). The ratings themselves
just use the letters EN, as in EN A or EN C. This new rating system is attempting to combine the best aspects of
the German DHV system and the French AFNOR system.The CEN standard is a little more stringent than AFNOR ,
and a number of completely new tests have been added.
The AFNOR tests had an emphasis on the time taken to recover from various in flight situations. The CEN,
combines these measurements with DHV-like measures of amount of surge or angle of turn
induced by those same situations. Another element of the DHV tests adopted for the CEN tests is the amount of brake
travel required just before the paraglider stalls or spins.
The CEN system classifies paragliders into 4 categories: A, B, C and D.
The DHV system had 5 categories, so the conversion is again not entirely straightforward.
An EN A paraglider is approximately equivalent to a DHV 1 wing and at
the other end of the range, an EN D class paraglider would only be flown by highly experienced competition
pilots. Curiously the EN 'B' category is also defined as suitable for initial instruction, just like 'A'.
The standard is officially known as EN-926-2. The new standard was first used in early 2006 by Air
Turquoise who has previously done certification work for both DHV and SHV.
The AFNOR system was overseen by the French Standards Institute, and it divided paragliders into Standard,
Performance and Competition classes. Standard was the approximate equivalent of a DHV 1 or DHV 1/2 Paraglider, but
since it was a broad category not all paragliders with this rating are suitable for initiation(beginners).
As with DHV, there were both load tests and in-flight tests. In fact AFNOR used 17 flying tests . The AFNOR
process was considered to be more objective than the DHV system, because the tests were either passed or failed.
Since the Afnor system had limited application AFNOR ratings are now only of interest to buyers of second-hand
paraglider wings that have no other ratings or certifications.
ACPUL stands for Association des Constructeurs de Parapente Ultra Legers. This is arguably the oldest testing
system starting well before the DHV tests. ACPUL was a manufacturers association based in Europe and managed its
own certification and testing system. AFNOR largely took over this system.
The rarely used French Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, certification.
SHV or FSVL
The Swiss Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association
Hope this helps you understand the numbers floating around in the marketplace. Naturally it is best to be guide
by you instructor about equipment suitable for you.