After 5 weeks of preparation in El Calafate and 2 weeks of practice flying the Perlan 2, Airbus Perlan Mission II set a new unofficial World Record for Absolute Altitude without an engine of 60,669 feet (18,492 meters) measured by GPS. Normally aviation altitude is measured in aircraft with pressure altitude. Those numbers were 61,982 feet (18,892 meters), but the rules for high altitude soaring records now require GPS data.
The team of 20 had reported to the hangar in the dark for the two previous mornings. However the weather conditions which were just on the edge of high altitude stratospheric wave simply did not break in our favor. So the team stood down after Chief Pilot Jim Payne consulted with our weathermen Dan Gudgel and Walt Rogers. But, on the morning of Sunday August 26 Jim said "It's a go!" for he and Morgan Sandercock to fly. The surface conditions were cold but breezy. Arne had the Egrett climb like a homesick angel powering to 42,400 feet before the Perlan 2 released. During the 5.6 hour flight CapComm had at least 8 full time folks monitoring any weather forecast updates, real time tracking, Virtual Cockpit links, Twitter commentary photos and info, our telemetry data on multiple screens for our Life Support Systems Data (LSSD), and real time flutter excitation data analysis by Lars Bensch. This is a high tech aviation team focused on flying safely to ever increasing higher altitudes in the stratosphere. On this day our Perlan Project goals of Exploration, Innovation, and Inspiration were achieved.
There are a few photos taken in-flight by Jim or Morgan. Only the Garmin Virb 360 tail camera worked. There is a copy of the high point video footage on the Perlan Project YouTube channel with a link below. As the barogram trace documents Jim and Morgan spent a lot of time early in the flight searching for lift to climb higher. They moved where the forecasts indicated but it was not always as forecast. High altitude wave soaring above the tropopause has only ever been done once by Einar in Perlan 1 and now twice by Jim in Perlan 2. The forecasts do not have hundreds of soaring flights or thousands of commercial flights to use to tweak their models as in wave below 25,000 feet. So we are trying to help validate the forecasts by flying through areas of forecast sink and lift on the way down to fine tune the models. Perlan Explores!
Upon landing the tire was flat after 5 hours in the extreme cold. The surface winds were very gusty and at our limits for crosswinds. We had a second truck of people to help with the wings while we aired the tire then pulled the Perlan 2 off the runway. We had 2 guys on each wing due to the strong gusty conditions. Jim and Morgan really liked the hot chocolate we brought them upon exiting the glider. The Aeropuerto control tower flashed lights and the fire department blew the siren to help us celebrate.
We had so much to do with pulling the glider into the AeroClub Lago Argentino hangar (it's a very tight fit with the wing tip coming under helicopter rotor blades), taking tons of celebration photos, unloading the cold cockpits, downloading the High Altitude Flight Recorder files for verification, and putting everything on charge that we delayed the champagne until the dinner at La Tablita. Jim thanked the exuberant team for all their time and energy which made the world record claim possible. Perlan Soars High! Jackie
For a short Airbus video about the record day see https://youtu.be/HkEuDm9MxFM
On OLC the flight trace can be found at https://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-3.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?dsId=6875513
For tail camera video see our Perlan Project YouTube Channel https://youtu.be/SyoznEqdKVM