On July 14, 2017 the Airbus Perlan Mission II team was finally ready to take to the skies of El Calafate, Argentina. The pressurized 2 seat glider was purpose built to fly high in mountain and stratospheric waves.
El Calafate has two sources of soaring weather in the winter time. Mountain wave is created from winds off the Pacific Ocean over the Andes Mountains. But the southern tip of the Andes is also under the South Pole’s polar vortex. Typical mountain wave runs out of energy around 35,000 feet. But if the polar vortex is spinning at that altitude and above, it contributes additional energy to keep the mountain waves growing higher. (Very simplified description of very complex weather) Eleven years ago Einar Enevoldsen and Steve Fossett set the current soaring altitude record above El Calafate at 50,722 feet. They wore pressure suits but felt a pressurized glider would be a better approach for going higher. Thus began the idea of Perlan 2 before they even landed from their record altitude.
We have spent the past week preparing the Perlan 2 to fly high. The rebreather system was ready, the oxygen and air supply systems were serviced.
The local airport authorities were briefed.
The pilots were more than ready.
Our communication and telemetry team was on alert. The weather balloon test flight had gone well. Ground support assisted with the test pressurization in front of the hangar.
But rather than making the planned short functional check flight, it turned out to be a “dress rehearsal.” The tow plane had fouled spark plugs. After changing to new plugs and making a short test flight on its own, there was not enough daylight left for Perlan 2 to take a tow.
We are now planning for a wave flight on Sunday 16th. The wave forecast looks promising. You can follow our blogs at http://perlanproject.org/blogs We also will have a Virtual Cockpit running during any wave flights of Perlan 2. http://perlanproject.cloud/VirtualCockpit.html This will show the near real-time moving map, airspeed, altitude, wind speed and direction, oxygen level, battery level, and (soon) some notes real time from El Calafate.
Perlan se Eleva!