Yes, the original hatches worked for Perlan 2 to 54,000 feet. But the team wanted perfect hatches made to exactly fit the contour of the fuselage openings. The best description of the hatch shape is a Pringle's potato chip. 3-D curvature - both compound and complex. Once the new front hatch was proved a success (see http://perlanproject.org/blog/perlan-2-perfect-pressurization-test ), Greg Scates started on the new rear hatch.
The Perlan saga continues with a new chapter. The first ever tow by an Egrett was designed, fabricated and tested by the Perlan Project team and AV Experts. For Argentina a much more powerful tow plane had been a dream; one hour on tow to 10,000 feet was typical. Then Jim Payne said "What we really need is Einar's Egrett." The Egrett is a very large, very powerful single-seat plane capable of flying relatively slowly.
The 2018 Argentina Campaign for Airbus Perlan Mission II has begun. Sending a glider on an expedition to Patagonia is a monumentual undertaking. If you don't bring a spare with you then the campaign may end early. There is no Amazon Prime or overnight shipping. But the container is a fixed size and the Cobra special built trailer takes up most of the volume.
Early on Saturday morning during Memorial Day Holiday the Perlan team and special guests gathered for a last check flight before packing up for Argentina. Teacher in Space Jim Kuhl's former student Drucilla's cubesat experiment about growing moss in a Mars-like environment reflected her interest in planentary science. It flew in Argentina and again on Saturday. Drucilla and her mom were able to participate in the full flight regimen.
Once the Perlan 2 was back in the air, a goal was to start training back up Perlan pilots. Tim Gardner is an instructor in power and gliders, teaches recovery from unusual attitudes, and has many hours of wave flying. The Perlan 2 is difficult to fly for various reasons - limited visibility, and handling lag being the primary concerns. These are compromises we live with due to pressurization and the wings optimized for 60,000 feet.
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.