On September 9, 2016 we flew the first Airbus Perlan 2 flight from El Calafate, Argentina. It would be a short Functional Check Flight (FCF) for the aircraft which had traveled over 14,000 kilometers by truck, boat, and truck to reach its southern Andes home. That's over 1/4 the distance around the world.
Weather changes rapidly here just 1500 kilometers from Antarctica. It went from snow showers to clear blue flying skies in only a few hours. We waited out the snow and opted for the clear blue. However that gave us a shorter window between regular scheduled commercial airline flights into El Calafate. Chief pilot Jim Payne and Flight Test Engineer Miguel Iturmendi pressurized in front of the Aero Club Lago Argentino hangar and launched only 15 minutes later. Fabulous teamwork! Enjoy some of the in-flight tail camera photos thanks to Alec Guay, Perlan intern. Also enjoy some photos from team photographer Martin Heltai.
At Minden we noticed that the Perlan 2 was a magnet for attracting all kinds of other aircraft flying at the same time. Seems that holds true in the southern hemishere also. After the Perlan 2 launched behind Cholo flying the Laviasa Pawnee (Puelche) there was a record of 3 commercial flights all wanting to land only10 minutes apart. So Jim decided to be a Good Citizen of the airport. He released from tow early, performed some in-flight flutter and telemetry connection testing, flew an approach to stall, and then put the boards out (spoilers or air brakes) to land and clear the runway prior to the 3 in-bound flights. Martin's long lens photo shows a commercial flight as we towed back on a parallel taxiway.
Success was declared by the team, to finally be airborne over the skies of El Calafate less than a year after first flight in Oregon. It truly takes a team to make the Perlan2 soar! The Perlan "Calafites" are in a group photo with the flag of Argentina. Then we were joined by other Argentine Perlan supporters of the first flight in Argentina for Perlan 2.
Below is the link to Martin Heltai's photos of the day. Use with attribution.
Heltai 2016/09/09 First Argentina Flight Photos