A question that we frequently get at presentations is "Why didn't you keep climbing if the lift was still there?" Even engineers and pilots don't necessarily understand (or respect) what flutter at these unexplored altitudes and associated fast true airspeeds can rapidly do to an airframe. Theoretical equations are not proven experience. We have done all that we can to approach this challenge with discipline. We don't want a case of "summit fever" to destroy all our preparations.
The Airbus Perlan Mission II team has begun to gather in southern Argentina in El Calafate. High altitude clouds over Lago Argentino welcome Perlan Project to our second home for 2 months. We have found a place to hang our hats (and jackets and gloves) in our home in El Calafate. Our stalwart CEO Ed Warnock and purser Linda Warnock were first to arrive in El Calafate. However Tim Gardner came a week earlier to Mendoza to pick up supplies and a truck to drive south. Tim and Victor Paz (bilingual friend of Perlan) stopped in Comodoro Rivadavia to give a mission brief to the EANA controllers (like ATC Center Control in US) who work the unusual high altitude pressurized glider flights.
After 4 extremely successful check flights of Perlan 2 in Minden it was time to pack and ship the container to Patagonia. This is a huge endeavor on the part of several team members over a week time frame. To safely fly from a remote area you must bring spares of any critical items. There's no overnight shipping or big box stores where we are going.
Airbus Perlan Mission II is ready for 2019! On May 28-29, 2019 after extensive software and equipment upgrades, Perlan 2 took to the skies over Minden. Jim Payne, Tim Gardner, and Morgan Sandercock were the pilots and Dana Pierson was the new tow pilot behind a SoaringNV Pawnee. (Silvio is on vacation.) After the first flight Chief Pilot Jim Payne said "Perlan's upgrades work! Great to be flying again." Co-pilot Tim Gardner agreed, " All the hard work has paid off. Unconditional success!" And Jackie Payne, Chief of Logistics concurred, "Morgan Sandercock has seriously upgraded telemetry and added IMU data to the mix. Fabulous accomplishment!"
Perlan Project had several desired upgrades for the 2019 season. In January 2019 Perlan 2 was trailered from Minden to Rosamond passing Mount Whitney along the way. (Above the trailer tires in the photo.) I joked that going to Greg Scates composite shop in Rosamond was like getting a full day at the spa, except this is for 2 months. It is much easier to work inside the inverted cockpit standing up, rather than leaned over and head down if the glider wheel is on the ground. So the Perlan 2 fuselage got inverted to hang on the custom made heavy A-frame. The frame needs to be moved with a forklift and positioned by 4 guys, one on each leg of the A-frame. Since the tail is so tall, the fuselage is fairly high off the ground. For a short video of rolling inverted see: https://www.facebook.com/PerlanProject/videos/1154159661418619/?permPage=1
As 2018 comes to a close, it's time to look back on an awesome, amazing, ultra successful year for Perlan Project. The Airbus Perlan Mission II achieved many first-ever milestones with our core Perlan team plus our around the globe supporters. Included in this blog are a few photos, but there is a link below to a YouTube celebration of the "Perlan Best of Argentina." Those selected 150 photos come from the team during two months out of thousands of photos. Let no one doubt Airbus Perlan Mission II is a team effort every step of the way. Yes, the 3 world record altitude claims are sweet, but they are merely icing on the cake.
As we celebrate the 2018 holidays Perlan Project has much to be greatful for. Thanks Laurent for getting the delightful card created. We appreciate all our friends, fans and supporters for joining our journey toward the edge of space in 2018. As our card says "may you reach new heights in 2019!"
On December 7, 8, and 9 the Perlan Team met in Minden to plan for 2019. We had a mix of informal and formal gatherings. The first event was a celebratory Holiday Party at Jim and Jackie's house for team and spouses. It was lovely to toast our accomplishments of 2018 and to anticipate the 2019 campaign in Argentina.