Public Statement of the members of the Paraglider Manufacturers Association (PMA)

Severe criticism of the DHV Safety Class Tests

Facing no longer acceptable market distortions caused by the execution of the Safety Class Tests by the Deutscher Hängegleiterverband (DHV) and the related incomprehensible classification of the concerned paragliders, the members of the Paraglider Manufacturers Association (PMA) have decided at their annual meeting in St. Hilaire, France, on September 17, 2015 to publicly - also in the interest of the general public - their criticism which has been expressed right from the very beginning of these tests.

The members of the PMA are, without exception, manufacturers that have been active on this market for a very long time. Through the quality and security of their paragliders, the characteristics of which have been further developed and improved thanks to constant innovation and research, they have gained an excellent reputation worldwide. These manufacturers are widely recognized throughout the paragliding industry for their high level of expertise when it comes to the assessment of the quality of a paraglider and its appropriateness for a specific target group.

For several years now, the DHV as a self-appointed product testing institute has been carrying out so-called "safety tests", allegedly in order to inform the public about the required level of "personal piloting skills".

However, according to the manufacturers, by the Safety Class Tests no higher level of security can be achieved but - to the contrary - they create a high level of insecurity on the market for all market participants - both in the amateur and the professional sector –, for pilots, flying schools, paragliding instructors and organizers of safety trainings.

Those "test results" do not provide for reliable information concerning the real characteristics of a paraglider. The DHV is testing paragliders of EN/LTF-A and EN/LTF-B categories of different sizes without any identifiable system and with harnesses that do not meet the EN/LTF definition for a harness to be used for test flights. Furthermore, the DHV does not test according to the regularly updated EN/LTF criteria developed by an international expert circle, but has randomly put together some other criteria.

Maneuvers are simulated in these tests that, under real conditions, would simply not occur for many of the various paragliders. In addition to that, the deployed measuring instruments are not available on the market, they are neither verified nor accredited, and the process at these test flights is not made public by the DHV. Therefore, the test procedure is not comprehensible and the test results are not verifiable and it is therefore impossible to take these tests into consideration for the development of a new paraglider.

Moreover, the assessment of the paraglider by the Safety Class Test pilot often stands in contradiction to the practical experience and the flight behavior which has never been criticized by the pilots who have bought this paraglider and have used it for a long time.  

Against this background it is therefore no longer acceptable for the manufacturers that the paragliders are being tested with these "safety tests" under unrepeatable conditions, which can neither be reproduced nor understood during proper flight sessions.

As a result, the manufacturers, while conceiving a new paraglider, are simply not put in a position that would allow them to orientate themselves on the incomprehensible test criteria of the DHV and can simply not draw any conclusions from these tests.  

On the contrary, it is completely impossible to use the achieved test results in any manner for the development of a new paraglider or to make use of them in any other way.

A bad test result as such - a classification in the classes 4 or 5 - does lead to a massive loss of confidence on the part of the customers so that often the manufacturers do not have any other choice than to withdraw the paraglider from the market, while the same paraglider, stigmatized by the DHV, is continuously being used in other parts of this world without causing any problem and without generating criticism related to its safety.

In this context, the manufacturers do also have sincere doubts as to the question whether the DHV fulfils the criteria developed by case law for the proper conduct of such product tests by test institutes.  In principle, according to settled case law, the test institute only has a margin of judgment if the tests are carried out neutrally, objectively and with the required expertise, and if the way in which the products are being tested as well as the test results seem appropriate.

On the one hand, the question is whether the DHV as test institute as well as the employed test pilots, who additionally do mostly work as employees of flight schools, test pilots for manufacturers or organizers of safety trainings, meet the requirement of independence.

On the other hand, it has to be asked whether there is a lack of the required objectivity during the execution of these tests since the DHV is testing incomparable paragliders in an arbitrary way and without any system with tests which cannot be reproduced.

The DHV admits partly this fact itself: "...However, and this should always be considered, the absolute comparability of the devices is not feasible. In order to achieve that, it would have to be possible to test all paragliders in exactly the same way. Yet, this is not possible...". ¹

In a letter to the DHV the manufacturers have made the DHV aware of their points of criticism in order to find a solution to this no longer acceptable situation by discussing it in a joint meeting. Unfortunately, the DHV does not take seriously the criticism shared by the great majority of the manufacturers, since, until now, it has not shown any willingness to discuss.

The manufacturers therefore request openly and with great emphasis that in the future the DHV refrains from carrying out the Safety Class Tests in this way and that it deletes the test results published so far on its website.


¹ Opens external link in new upload/files/2014/sicherheit/artikel pdfs/dhv safetyclass_artikel_info186.pdf