After designing, implementing and installing various upgrades for season two in the Sierra, Airbus Perlan 2 flew its first wave mission April 22, 2017. All systems worked flawlessly. Although wave lift was weak above 25,000 feet they managed 30,960 ft on GPS altimeter reading. This is highest we have been in our methodical envelope expansion, higher than Mount Everest's 29,000 feet.
Jim Payne and Miguel Iturmendi launched at 9:30 behind Silvio Riccardi in SoaringNV's Pawnee. Our morning ground crew of Tim and Jackie was augmented by Alan and Brad. Also helping in preflight activities from Airbus were Ken, Severin, and Denis. Michael was capcom assisted by Doug. Definitely a team effort!
Initial climbs were around 5 knots, but it weakened to barely 1 knot above 25,000 feet. Jim's inflight photo from 20,000 feet shows Lake Tahoe out the right window. Miguel's selfie shows the in-flight rebreather mask. Miguel's photo from back seat shows tail camera display on left, LX 9000 screen in center, and on the right our own Life Support System Display (LSSD) with software designed by Tom Payne and Morgan Sandercock. Multiple flutter excitation trials were conducted - both symetric and asymmetric. Miguel reports he can feel the vibrations from the rear seat but for Jim in the front seat it is already smoothed out. Data was sent to ATA in San Diego for flutter analysis. We have the ability to do this real time when in-flight envelope expansion is desirable when wave lift is stronger. Currently we are collecting data to verify the models.
GPS altitude is what will be used to verify any record above 50,000 feet for the IGC and FAI. At 30,960 feet on the GPS altimeter, the lift was very soft and clouds were rapidly intruding from the west so they pulled the boards. They came down at -20 knots. Situationally the SoaringNV wave camp was in full swing; with limited viz from Perlan Jim didn't want to dive through fellow pilots. So Perlan went East to the Pine Nuts and held out for 30 mintutes for the pattern to clear. The tail camera shot of Minden-Tahoe Airport and the Carson Range shows Lake Tahoe across the top. Flight time was 3.3 hours.
Once on the ground it was smiles all around from entire Perlan Team. Tom, Stephane and Laurent had arrived at the airport to help crew. 30,000 feet is a milestone over halfway to the record set by Perlan 1. We still have a lot to do in next few weeks before shipping to Patagonia, but it feels so good to be flying again.
Perlan Soars! Jackie