While the polar vertex has begun to spin high over El Calafate, our Airbus Perlan Mission II team has begun to arrive in Argentina. Tim Gardner and Alec Guay were all smiles as they exited the Mendoza airport yesterday July 2, 2017.
From January through April 2017 the Perlan team kept a low profile while working on upgrades for the Perlan 2. Here's a partial list of improvements that are ready for Campaign Two in Argentina. Probably most significant is the ability to seal the cabin for pressurization while in flight. This allows air circulation with cooling and drier air during the hour-long tow from El Calafate. Now the desiccants can easily keep up with the increased humidity from two pilots wearing insulated cold weather flight suits. Jim developed the concept and Andrew Oullet designed the hardware. John Kregl from Automated Metals manufactured the parts for the new system, and Greg Scates installed and reinforced the new latches. Hangar testing went very well. The good news is that it worked flawlessly on the first test flight from Minden.
For 2017 the Perlan Project shipping to Argentina has been much smoother than last year. The trailer inside the container departed Minden on May 16. That was one day behind schedule. It loaded unto a Hamburg Sud vessel out of Long Beach with 5 hours to spare. It took a late gate exemption to make that cut off. Thanks to Claudia Ortiz of A.Hartrodt we did make the sailing.
The vessel went to Mexico where it transshiped to a different vessel headed to Chile. Since that second boat was 2 days ahead of original schedule we were not sure our container made it onto the new vessel. But it did, with 2 hours to spare! That is cutting it way too close for my mental health. But Hamburg Sud was awesome ensuring that our baby was well cared for every step of the way. They are great people to work with. You want to do business with a company that cares for its customers.
Since Jim and Jackie would be in Washington DC on June 22, 2017 for a National Aeronautic Association award program, Airbus decided to leverage that trip for Perlan. At 8 am Kristina Messner from Focused Image took us to the ABC television station for an interview about Argentina Campaign Two with David Kerley. See http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/video/meet-man-attempting-break-world-glidi... Then we drove over to the Airbus Center on Pennsylvania Ave.
Ken McKenzie and Jamie Darcy met us on the 8th floor of the Airbus Center. At their museum I was amazed to see a 1:4 scale of the Perlan 2 glider monopolizing one wall. There was more great interest by top name media - NBC, WTOP radio, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Aviation Week, USA Today, Science magazine, and others. See https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/06/22/glider-project-aims-highe...
After a fabulous wave flight on May 12, we took the wings off Perlan 2 that afternoon. We added Roger Tanner to our pack up team. Greg Scates once again masterminded the loading of the container. We decided to use the winch on our old 4x4 pickup truck to get the trailer up the reinforced ramps. (With a lighthearted photo of 2 "winching wenches," Sandra and Jackie) Even got the elusive Stewart in some photos.
The Airbus Perlan Mission II team has been keeping a low profile in Minden. We have quietly upgraded several systems in preparation for our return to high altitude wave attempts. On May 12 the team gathered for a final test flight of those systems. We waited for sprinkles and overcast sky to turn into foehn gaps and wave bars. The map shows wave bars right over Minden, which is exactly in the corner between Nevada and California. Here is the full story.
Chief Pilot and weather forecaster Jim Payne set the pace for the team. Morgan Sandercock would be copilot operating the new spherical 360 camera and the flutter vibration exciters. Doug Perrenod with Sandra Sandercock would be CapCom. Greg Scates was there to watch all his days of modifications and installations perform flawlessly. Stewart Tattersall led the ground crew for launch and recovery. Stewart's built in windsock (beard) is priceless when hooking up the tow rope from a limited viz cabin. Really! And I tried to keep it all rolling along and take photos. Sort of a human checklist, so to speak.
From May 2-5 Teachers in Space visited Perlan in Minden, sponsored by Perlan Project. Chris Murphy was team lead for 3 Ashford School science and robotics teachers. Kathryn Craven, Dorey Manfre, and Carly Imhoff have just completed training for Perlan 2 high altitude flights and balloon flights. Their students designed one of the cubesats. Perlan team member Doug Perrenod was the liason with Liz Kenneck of Teachers in Space.
After designing, implementing and installing various upgrades for season two in the Sierra, Airbus Perlan 2 flew its first wave mission April 22, 2017. All systems worked flawlessly. Although wave lift was weak above 25,000 feet they managed 30,960 ft on GPS altimeter reading. This is highest we have been in our methodical envelope expansion, higher than Mount Everest's 29,000 feet.
Jim Payne and Miguel Iturmendi launched at 9:30 behind Silvio Riccardi in SoaringNV's Pawnee. Our morning ground crew of Tim and Jackie was augmented by Alan and Brad. Also helping in preflight activities from Airbus were Ken, Severin, and Denis. Michael was capcom assisted by Doug. Definitely a team effort!