October 7, 2016.
The 2016 Argentina wave season has ended for the Airbus Perlan Mission II team. We learned and accomplished a lot, but strong wave conditions never materialized. The Perlan team put together an amazing network of supporters in Argentina.
It started with the first NOTAM for Perlan to fly to 90,000 feet. Thanks to the CNVVM (mountain wave group), ANAC (like the Federal Aviation Administration), EANA (like Air Traffic Control), and the Air Force for working together to make this historic NOTAM possible just before we arrived in Argentina.
Airbus and Jeffery Group arranged a two-part presentation in Hotel Brick in Buenos Aires. Both parts had "sold out" attendance. The media were well represented in the morning, and friends and supporters enjoyed lunch and the afternoon presentation.
Upon our arrival in El Calafate we were warmly welcomed by the Aero Club of Lago Argentino. Their hangar made all our operations so much easier. The tower people were newly organized with the one month old EANA. They were always professional and willing to help in any way. The El Calafate ANAC people were also professional and willing to help. The same support network was also in place for Perlan Project from the local Air Force LADE. The PSA airport security kept us on the right side of the rules for the airport. The airport flight planning helped make sure all our operations involving glider, tow plane, and photo helicopter went smoothly. When we were in need of help, London Supply, who runs the El Calafate Aeropuerto, stepped up to provide assistance.
Our tow plane was provided by Laviasa from Mendoza. They have the rights to build Pawnee aircraft, called Puelche in Spanish. Our oxygen was supplied by Patagonia Oxygen from Rio Gallegos.
Although the necessary winds for wave never blew our way, we still had 8 flights in 17 days. This included the first 5 hour flight with cold soak to -30 C and the first quick turn and subsequent same day launch of a pressurized flight.
Our team made considerable outreach effort with the local schools. We brought actual science and technology to life in many classrooms over a 6 week timeline. We hosted several groups of students at the hangar and even connected them with classrooms in the USA through Teachers in Space.
Airbus sponsored a South American media day on September 21. Of course that proved to be the day with best forecast for wave. So they got the real deal. Morning flight briefing, pre-launch preparation, quick photo ops just before pressurizing and sealing the hatches, and seeing the takeoff. Five hours later (after a nice lunch!) they witnessed the landing.
Through all the trip we had stellar, comfortable accommodations. In El Calafate, Santa Monica Cabins was the Perlan team headquarters. In Buenos Aires we stayed at L'hotel Palmero.
Of course the main reason for success was the Perlan team. These volunteers donated their time, expertise, and money to support the project they believe in. The ground support crew included Ed and Linda Warnock, Martin Heltai, Stewart Tattersall, Doug Perrenod, Alec Guay, Paul Carmel and Jackie Payne. The 3 co-pilots pulled double duty in the air and on the ground when not flying - Miguel Iturmendi, Tim Gardner, and Morgan Sandercock. Tago DePietro (Argentina logistics) and Cholo Miranda (tow pilot) were always available to help, and keep us out of trouble. Chief pilot and Campaign Team Leader Jim Payne also put in long hours in the hangar as well as in the Perlan 2 glider.
And a special thanks to Airbus for being sponsor AND supporters of Airbus Perlan Mission II. Ken McKenzie, Jamie Darcy, and Lindsy Caballero did anything and everything they could to help in Argentina. We appreciate all that you do!
After the glider flying was done for this season and Perlan 2 departed the field in the container, the team took a little time to relax. Thanks to HeliUshuaia for some fun flights. Next year we hope for "Onda Grande" in El Calafate!
Perlan Se Eleva!