On September 2, 2018 Airbus Perlan Mission II claimed its third world record in a fabulous week of high altitude Patagonia soaring. The team of 20 dedicated people, and the Perlan 2 glider were ready to fly again when the weather supported our goals of Exploration, Innovation, and Inspiration.
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.
On a No-Fly day Team Perlan decided to visit El Chalten, about 140 miles north of El Calafate. The Glacier National Park extends between these two scenic areas of Patagonia. On the shores of Lago Viedma there's a large glacier, but the crown jewel is Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. As we arrived the mountain peaks were obscured by clouds. However as the day warmed the peaks finally came into clear view. Gorgeous! The outline of Fitz Roy is the logo of Patagonia clothing company.
On August 22 we awoke to an email announcement that the September 3, 2017 high altitude flight had been approved by the FAI as a Soaring World Record. This validated the US National Record awarded in March by the NAA for Absolute Altitude of 52,221 feet or 15,917 meters. This is the icing on the cake. Perlan Project has several goals: Exploration, Innovation, and Inspiration.
On August 20, 2018 for Perlan 2's third high altitude stratoshperic practice tow, Jim and Tim were ready to give it a try. The ground team supported with all the pre-flight items on the check lists. The Egrett was ready to tow. There were calm surface winds so Alec had to really sprint for his wing run. Tim took some great in flight photos of over the glaciers and inside the cockpits just before the 42,800 foot tow release. We have posted a never before seen 360 video of the 15 seconds around the release. Have a look at the contrail, the Egrett, and the clouds over the Andes. Move your cursor around to scan the entire sky. Go to https://youtu.be/Ov4xata9EZU
When your goal is to reach the edge of space, visiting someone who is already soaring above the tropopause is a great way to vacation! SolarStratus visited Perlan Project in El Calafate to see how we do it. We actually had 2 launches in 3 days so they got a deep dose of experience. Raphael Domjan, Raphaella Javet, and Frank Borrmann came to Patagonia to see the attractions of the glacier and Perlan 2. They were present for the Airbus helicopter photo chase mission (#46) and Raphael even helped on the ramp for flight #47.
As with most pilots it is almost impossible to talk about flying without using your hands. I still recall the days when Jim was a Top Gun Aggressor pilot. The hands flew! It is still the same.
On August 17, 2018 Perlan 2 made it's second tow into the stratosphere. We awoke to pounding rain from 4:30-5 am followed by snow flurries. But after that frontal passage the skies cleared as Dan Gudgel had forecast. Linda took the photo of the day at sunrise. On this flight (only #48) Jim and Miguel Iturmendi towed behind Arne in the Egrett to just over 44,000 feet (Flight Level 440). We did not expect wave. But each pilot needs to be experienced with the challenges of stratospheric flight. This is the highest documented tow ever of a glider and it was another "rocket ride." They were at 40,000 feet in 45 minutes from takeoff. So almost 1,000 feet per minute on average behind the powerful Egrett. Jim said: