On August 3, 2017 The Perlan Team was treated to nacreous clouds highlighted by the rising sun ito the east (second photo). These are pearlesent in color and are the root of the word Perlan. They are at an extremely high altitude and we were delighted to see them. From our weather balloon data, we expected good wave below 25,000 but it was not clear what would happen above that. Our wind diagram showed that the winds reduced from 25,000 to 30,000 feet. This is not a desirable trait for wave to propigate higher. Studying the SkySight forecasts indicated that the afternoon had a slightly better wave profile. So Jim Payne and Miguel Iturmendi launched the Perlan 2 about 1 pm from El Calafate. Cholo towed them to Cerro Buenos Aires on the west end of Lago Argentino. When they released at 9,700 they had 7-8 knots of lift (700-800 feet per minute up). This was the best lift we have seen thus far so we were very hopeful of making it past the tropopause at 30,000 feet.
July 31, 2017 was Tago's birthday, and all he wanted was a world record as a present. Was not to be. Jim knew that the weather would likely support weak wave and our early morning weather balloon launch indicated a weakening at 29,000 feet. But we needed the practice and the altitude check for our upgraded flutter telemetry. Cold soaking equipment also needed testing.
If I miss a day with a new blog so much seems to happen! But with 15 quality folks in El Calafate driven to make Airbus Perlan Mission II a success, that's not really a surprise! While the western US has record heat waves, we are waking up to snow and ice with -6 C temps in El Calafate. We covered the Perlan 2 with the CloudDancer covers inside the hangar when forecast winds were for gusts of 65 kts. That didn't actually happen, but in the past year 3 of the the upper windows of the hangar have blown out.
When we think there's wave we will always try to fly Perlan 2. However it is winter, and we are not that far from Antartica. Jim spotted an iceberg in the lake near the airport when we first arrived. On July 25, 2017 Airbus Perlan Mission II had lots of surface wind in El Calafate, but from the north. That made poorly organized wave and a strong crosswind. There were actually strong wind warnings for most of Patagonia. The team stayed in the hangar working, while hoping that the winds would swing more westerly. Didn't happen.
Perlan2's first wave flight over Patagonia was July 24, 2017. Tim Gardner was able to capture the unparalleled beauty of the lakes, mountains, and clouds of Patagonia. The first photo shows the town of El Calafate in bottom right. Tim uses a full tint visor which Alec photoed just before pressurization testing on the ramp. No possibility to open the vent and put the camera outside as can be done with a non-pressurized glider!
On Monday July 24, 2017 the Airbus Perlan Mission II team went all out to make a wave flight happen. The balloon team launched early and their data confirmed it was marginal for wave. We like winds from the west but there was a significant band of wind from the north at mid levels. So any wave would be capped low, yet the surface winds were very brisk.
Saturday July 22, 2017 Who flew today? If you guessed Jim, Tim or Morgan you would be wrong. And Miguel is due next week. So who flew?