On September 9, 2017 Perlan 2 again went wave searching with Jim Payne and Tim Gardner at the controls. The Airbus Perlan Mission II ground team prepped the glider the day before. The forecasts were not strong but there would be wave. The balloon team gathered fresh data which showed very light winds at the tropopause. But the sky started looking a bit better so they decided to give it a try.
Preparation requires a lot of checks including comms and oxygen for both pilots. We do pre-warm the cabins with a small heater and a blue quilt over each hatch. When we test pressurize the hatches on the ramp the ground crew watches thre arrow allignment for each hatch very closely.
At launch time we had to stage between a late commercial departure and an early commercial arrival. Perlan 2 was airborne behind Cholo in the CNVVM Boreo exactly 9 minutes after the airliner took off. No amatuers on launch crew! The tow was probably the most turbulent they have seen in Patagonia. On tow they only got to Cero Frias before a wall of rotor cloud blocked the way. But with 10 knots lift on the Vertical Velocity Indicator it was time to release the tow rope and soar! That was actually the fastest climb to 18,000 feet we have seen this campaign. No forecast had predicted lift anywhere near that spot, much less good lift, so we knew to be a bit open minded on the weather maps for the day. I promise you that weather forecasting is crazy difficult for our needs. Jim has a mantra "Lift is where you find it."
Once above 20,000 feet Perlan 2 headed southwest, climbed again and then flew upwind toward the west. In CapComm Loris and Morgan inspected the weather forecasts very closely. Ed and Al watched telemetry just as closely. In Perlan 2, Jim and Tim could see a stacked lenticular cloud on the border of Argentina and Chile. Some of the photos are from Tim out his side windows. Some of the photos are from the tail camera. They had to cross at least 2 ragged foehn gaps to get there. Of course the lift was not as strong as hoped for. Jim even used the phrase "ultimate tease" in describing that cloud. Then Chilean air traffic control wanted to keep their airspace clear for other traffic. But lift did not seem to go above that stacked lennie. So the high point was right at 35,000 feet.
The clouds started to fill in from north and west with both overcasts and undercasts. Perlan 2 headed back east to the airport. The most spectacular photo was one Morgan spotted on the tail camera video. Perito Moreno glacier has a chunk of ice falling off the wall seen from high above in Perlan 2. Wow! It is in Tim's and two tail camera photos in today's deck of spectacular pictures.
We will fly again when weather permits. The ultimate Patagonia Soaring Adventure continues.
Perlan Soars High! Perlan Se Eleva Alto! Jackie