Stratospheric glider yielding insights into high-altitude aerodynamics, flight safety and Martian exploration
For the third time in a week, Airbus Perlan Mission II has set a new world altitude record for a glider, this time soaring the engineless Perlan 2 to 76,124 feet, in the process collecting vital data on flight performance, weather and the atmosphere.
Yesterday’s flight by pilots Jim Payne and Tim Gardner surpasses even the maximum recorded altitude in level flight of the U.S. Air Force’s famous U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft: 73,737 feet, flown by pilot Jerry Hoyt on Apr. 17, 1989.
The U-2 is powered by an engine that generates 17,000 lbs. of thrust. By contrast, the Perlan 2 is engineless, weighs just 1,500 pounds, and soars to its record altitudes on rare stratospheric air currents formed by mountain winds combining with the Polar Vortex.