On September 12, 2018 the weather supported stratospheric wave in Patagonia Argentina. Clouds were expected in the afternoon so a 10 o'clock launch was selected. This would be another envelope expansion flight, faster not higher. On this same day we had invited many dignitaries to a presentation and unveiling of a commemorative plaque in the main airport terminal. (Blog on that to follow.) So there were representatives from Air Force, Navy, EANA, ANAC, Hyperbaric Chamber, the mayor, and all aeropuerto jefes at the airport.
Have you ever had a lot of people watching as you did a repair? The foam around one hatch got split and then leaked when test pressurized on the ramp. (One of the reasons we never leave the ramp without a perfect pre-test.) Tim, Alec, Loris and Jackie did a super quick, but perfect replacement job. Once we got to the runway (only 15 minutes behind schedule) the crosswind was 13 knots 60 degrees off centerline from the right. All the jefes were now back behind the runway threshhold lights. As Jim said later, nothing like a max performance takeoff with the chiefs watching. Perlan 2 has never launched with such a strong crosswind before. Alec and I talked about how the wing run should go, and Alec made it happen. The video looked like same-old same-old.
The tow was the roughest Arne had encountered. Jim called it moderate turbulence. As the rotor pitched the Egrett around, Arne said the stall warning went off a few times. When Jim saw the Egrett pitch with its tail so high that Jim saw the belly of the Egrett, Jim said, "Oh this is about to get fun!" (YouTube will be published soon.)
Arne and Miguel really wanted a highest tow release of a glider ever. So the goal was 45,000 feet. Above 40-42,000 it is very thin air and much harder to climb. So this time Jim and Miguel vectored Arne along a stratospheric lift band so the Egrett could climb faster in rising air. They reached just over 45k at the north end of the best lift band from SkySight. And Matthew Scutter was in CapComm for the flight.
Test points were captured with Perlan's telemetry and Miguel had the VectorNav IMU running. Jim said as they flew south along the lift band the sky was totally white - no horizon. Jim only did test points flying north as he could see the ground and keep all his focus on the test points. One data point needed repeating from previous flight as there had been a little uncertainty about it. ATA had said good but Jim wanted to be absolutely sure. It was all good.
The clouds kept encroaching from the Andes to the airport. So it was time to come back and land. After landing Jim took a selfie. The smile says it all. In the photo with Jim, Miguel and Arne, Jim's fingers show 4-5 symbolic of the 45,000 foot tow. And for the final time in 2018 we displayed our Argentina flag for a commerative photo. As Jim said, "We got 'er done!"
This has been a rewarding campaign for Airbus Perlan Mission II. We took a long shot in getting the Egrett prepared as the world's best tow plane. (another blog is coming). For us using the Egrett was a game changer, allowing Perlan Project to focus on our mission of soaring stratospheric wave. We now have flutter clearance to start next year aiming ever higher. We have enjoyed sharing our journey with you the reader. Thank you for riding along with Perlan 2. Perlan Soars High! Jackie
For a look at the flight track, altitude trace, and Jim's commentary go to https://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-3.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?dsId=6904830