The Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) has honored one of its own as Test Pilot of the Year with the Iven Kincheloe Award since 1958. This year Airbus Perlan Mission II Chief Pilot Jim Payne was selected for his flight testing of Perlan 2.
The Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) annual conference in Anaheim (Disneyland) was well attended this year. There was an after hours buffet dinner inside the park for SETP guests on Thursday evening, yet at 8 am Friday morning there was standing room only for the Perlan Project presentation.
After two envelope expansioin flights it was time to pack up Perlan 2 and our equipment to ship north. With inclement weather expected, the team took the final nice weather day for personal use. The boat trip excursion to the glaciers was popular, as was skiing in Ushuaia, or a day trip to El Chalten and Mt FitzRoy. Then the big push to pack up while it drizzled rain.
On September 12, 2018 the weather supported stratospheric wave in Patagonia Argentina. Clouds were expected in the afternoon so a 10 o'clock launch was selected. This would be another envelope expansion flight, faster not higher. On this same day we had invited many dignitaries to a presentation and unveiling of a commemorative plaque in the main airport terminal. (Blog on that to follow.) So there were representatives from Air Force, Navy, EANA, ANAC, Hyperbaric Chamber, the mayor, and all aeropuerto jefes at the airport.
For Flight #53 the objective was envelope expansion and a functional check flight of some recent upgrades performed by the Perlan Team. The goal was to fly faster, not higher, to clear more flutter excitation modeling to the right. (More details below.) Our weather man Walt Rogers was joined by Matthew Scutter, founder of SkySight, to analyze the potential clouds and any possible stratospheric wave. Lots of clouds and very little chance of lift was the verdict. Perfect for our purposes.
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.