Riccardo Negri, the well-known host at the Osteria Angelio in Barga Vecchia is at this moment lying in a bed in the Nuestra Señora de Candelaria University Hospital in Santa Cruz, Tenerife after falling 30 metres to the ground whilst paragliding.
Riccardo believes that a technical problem with his paraglider caused his fall leaving him no time to execute an emergency manoeuvre.
In a matter of fifteen minutes, however, the rescue helicopter had already arrived and took him to the university hospital of Tenerife where he was hospitalised for a fractured vertebra and a broken leg.
As can be seen from the video, Riccardo is in good hands and in good spirits but probably at 50 years old his paragliding exploits stopped the moment he hit the ground.
Paragliding is the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders: lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing. Wing shape is maintained by the suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing, and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.
Despite not using an engine, paraglider flights can last many hours and cover many hundreds of kilometres, though flights of one to two hours and covering some tens of kilometres are more the norm. By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height, often climbing to altitudes of a few thousand metres.
The paraglider wing or canopy is usually what is known in engineering as a “ram-air airfoil”. Such wings comprise two layers of fabric that are connected to internal supporting material in such a way as to form a row of cells. By leaving most of the cells open only at the leading edge, incoming air keeps the wing inflated, thus maintaining its shape. When inflated, the wing’s cross-section has the typical teardrop aerofoil shape. Modern paraglider wings are made of high-performance non-porous materials such as ripstop polyester or nylon fabric.
Since the shape of the wing (airfoil) is formed by the moving air entering and inflating the wing, in turbulent air, part or all of the wing can deflate (collapse). Piloting techniques referred to as “active flying” will greatly reduce the frequency and severity of deflations or collapses. On modern recreational wings, such deflations will normally recover without pilot intervention. In the event of a severe deflation, correct pilot input will speed recovery from a deflation, but incorrect pilot input may slow the return of the glider to normal flight, so pilot training and practice in correct response to deflations are necessary.
For the rare occasions when it is not possible to recover from a deflation (or from other threatening situations such as a spin), most pilots carry a reserve (rescue, emergency) parachute (or even two); however, most pilots never have cause to “throw” their reserve. Should a wing deflation occur at low altitude, i.e., shortly after takeoff or just before landing, the wing (paraglider) may not recover its correct structure rapidly enough to prevent an accident, with the pilot often not having enough altitude remaining to deploy a reserve parachute [with the minimum altitude for this being approximately 60 m (200 ft), but typical deployment to stabilization periods using up 120–180 m (390–590 ft) of altitude] successfully.
Low-altitude wing failure can result in serious injury or death due to the subsequent velocity of a ground impact where, paradoxically, a higher altitude failure may allow more time to regain some degree of control in the descent rate and, critically, deploy the reserve if needed. In-flight wing deflation and other hazards are minimized by flying a suitable glider and choosing appropriate weather conditions and locations for the pilot’s skill and experience level.