We often refer to hang gliding as "free flight" because of the fact that we can fly for hours and go for many miles without any power source other than the heating provided by the sun beating against the ground and the gravity that creates our glide.
But lots of us like the term for other reasons. Hang gliding–unlike just about every other facet of everyone’s life–is unregulated by government. That’s right. The FAA does not get involved in our pilot certification (which is quite rigorous, nonetheless). The FAA does not get involved in the certification of gliders and other equipment (rigorous, and expensive, for manufacturers–and there aren’t even any "uncertified" gliders for sale (see HGMA)). The FAA does not get involved in the locations we fly. Our association, the United States Hang-Gliding Association (USHGA) coordinates with landowners to provide insurance for our flying activities. In short, you, dear citizen, don’t pay a single penny for our activities. I wouldn’t trade such rational and natural anarchy for anything, and most of those I know in the sport wouldn’t either.
Well, it pains me to prove it in such a heartbreaking way, but here it is. There was a tragic death; a great young pilot who’s been flying both hang-gliders and para-gliders since he was a boy. Chris Muller, age 29, died the other day.
He was flying in an international-level competition in Florida. Here’s the description of the crash. And here’s the reportage of his death a short time later. He died as a result of his own risk taking and error. No one, anywhere, should be held responsible or should in any way be restrained in their future actions as a result.
Even still, there are always those who speak from different viewpoints, who call for this measure or that, in hopes of curtailing future risk-taking of a sort that might lead to a similar tragedy. But you know what? In the absence of politics, bullshit, and government force (I repeat myself), such viewpoints gain little audience, if any.
This tragedy was no different. There are always those who speak with authority and sense. Read the sanity from those who knew Chris Muller.