On May 16, 2018 the National Aeronautic Association awarded Perlan Project the Most Memorable Soaring Record from 2017. This recognized the high altitude flight flown by Chief Pilot Jim Payne and Morgan Sandercock to 52,221 feet on September 3 from El Calafate Argentina. Accepting the award for the Perlan Project, Jim said it was really for all the team. "We did not do it alone." Jim noted that this was a long-held dream of Einar Enevoldson and Steve Fossett from 2006.
Teachers in Space Jim Kuhl and Chris Murphy visited Perlan in Minden May 4-7, just in time to help with our first check flight of 2018. Their focus was on the new cubesat housing built by Alec Guay for a grad level university class. (He got an "A" naturally.) Alec and Greg worked really hard to engineer the rack so that it would protect the cubesats and not get in the way of other Perlan science equipment or the wing spars. That real estate is very very very scarce.
Perlan 2 is back in the air! It was a beautiful flight with an excellent shake-down performance.
A critical upgrade for 2018 was to build a new front hatch. The original clearly worked to 54,000 feet, thanks to Keith Kongslie's work in 2016. But it was not a perfect match between hatch and fuselage. Jim and Greg decided perfection was the goal. And on May 4 (Star Wars Day - May the fourth ...be with you) perfection was accomplished. Greg Scates and Mike Malis have worked on the front hatch project for months. Both are retired from Lockheed Martin and have decades of composite experience between them.
During the off season 2017-2018 Perlan 2 has had several upgrades. More battery power was desired. New insulated battery boxes meant the old telemery and science wiring needed to be moved. Since Perlan 2 is the most sophisticated glider ever built this was a monumental task for Morgan and Stewart.
We also took the opportunity to install Inertial Measuring Unit (IMU) from our sponsor VectorNav. Greg made the carbon fiber deck and Miguel and Jim secured the IMU (small red square about the size of a quarter) in the rear cockpit. Pat Arnott from UNR brought 2 students on a Saturday to install a new UVA/B sensor and extremely sensitive temperature probe. Morgan described the process in detail below:
On April 28, 2018 three Perlan team members went to the Southern Aero Medical Institute to test the Perlan re-breather system and emergency bailout bottle. Dr Paul Buza met Miguel Iturmendi test pilot, Tim Gardner safety pilot, and Alec Guay observer at SAMI. The state of the art hyperbaric chamber allowed safe testing of Perlan’s emergency equipment. The test was a huge success.
Perlan Project team members were integral in the success of Minden Wave Camp '18. There were over 60 pilot wave campers plus family and of course SoaringNV staff to tow, instruct and support. Tim Gardner organized the guest speakers and instructed in unusual attitude recovery.
During the off season in 2017-18 we wanted to do several upgrades to the Perlan 2. Most of these would either require back-breaking contorsions to get inside the cockpit and work on the ceiling or........invert the glider. So Perlan 2 hangar acrobatics was invented.