Yesterday we had such dense fog that the noon time Aerolineas flight diverted from El Calafate. This morning we had hard ice on the car windshields. We got a dust of snow on the ridge to the south but heavier snow on higher hills to north. More water in the "dry" lake meant more flamingoes this morning. They obviously are not restricted to tropical climates!
One of our biggest challenges with Airbus Perlan Mission II in El Calafate is the limited bandwidth for Internet connections. The AeroClub Lago Argentino helpfully expanded the Internet capacity in the hangar. But 15 team members plus multiple computers for telemetry, tracking, weather, and communication means a high useage load! Videos were just not possible. Airbus wanted to share some of our breathtakingly beautiful in-flight videos with the world. A 4 minute clip was literally taking hours to upload -- as long as there were no hiccups to slow it down even further. Thanks to Airbus we now have a satellite receiver at the hangar for that very thing.
On August 5, 2017 we said farewell to Dr Elizabeth Tattersall aka "the Balloon Doc" as she had to return to teach college classes. ET lead the balloon crew through initial training and early morning launches for a month. She will be missed. We celebrated one month in Argentina with a team dinner. Some of the team continued the celebration with Salsa dancing. Who knew the tower chief Hector could also work the party crowd and dance?
Even when it's not wave weather the Airbus Perlan Mission II team is always busy. On August 4 we visited with the Naval Prefactura on the shores of Lago Argentina. If the Perlan 2 uses the BRS whole glider parachute, it will drift with the wind. We are safety minded and realize that a water landing is possible, but not likely. But flight test protocol underscores being prepared. It was great to meet with these folks and discuss Search and Rescue procedures.
On August 3, 2017 The Perlan Team was treated to nacreous clouds highlighted by the rising sun ito the east (second photo). These are pearlesent in color and are the root of the word Perlan. They are at an extremely high altitude and we were delighted to see them. From our weather balloon data, we expected good wave below 25,000 but it was not clear what would happen above that. Our wind diagram showed that the winds reduced from 25,000 to 30,000 feet. This is not a desirable trait for wave to propigate higher. Studying the SkySight forecasts indicated that the afternoon had a slightly better wave profile. So Jim Payne and Miguel Iturmendi launched the Perlan 2 about 1 pm from El Calafate. Cholo towed them to Cerro Buenos Aires on the west end of Lago Argentino. When they released at 9,700 they had 7-8 knots of lift (700-800 feet per minute up). This was the best lift we have seen thus far so we were very hopeful of making it past the tropopause at 30,000 feet.
July 31, 2017 was Tago's birthday, and all he wanted was a world record as a present. Was not to be. Jim knew that the weather would likely support weak wave and our early morning weather balloon launch indicated a weakening at 29,000 feet. But we needed the practice and the altitude check for our upgraded flutter telemetry. Cold soaking equipment also needed testing.
If I miss a day with a new blog so much seems to happen! But with 15 quality folks in El Calafate driven to make Airbus Perlan Mission II a success, that's not really a surprise! While the western US has record heat waves, we are waking up to snow and ice with -6 C temps in El Calafate. We covered the Perlan 2 with the CloudDancer covers inside the hangar when forecast winds were for gusts of 65 kts. That didn't actually happen, but in the past year 3 of the the upper windows of the hangar have blown out.
When we think there's wave we will always try to fly Perlan 2. However it is winter, and we are not that far from Antartica. Jim spotted an iceberg in the lake near the airport when we first arrived. On July 25, 2017 Airbus Perlan Mission II had lots of surface wind in El Calafate, but from the north. That made poorly organized wave and a strong crosswind. There were actually strong wind warnings for most of Patagonia. The team stayed in the hangar working, while hoping that the winds would swing more westerly. Didn't happen.