On September 9, 2016 we flew the first Airbus Perlan 2 flight from El Calafate, Argentina. It would be a short Functional Check Flight (FCF) for the aircraft which had traveled over 14,000 kilometers by truck, boat, and truck to reach its southern Andes home. That's over 1/4 the distance around the world.
The level of complexity for an expedition such as Perlan Project in Argentina is mind boggling. The Laviasa tow plane flown by Cholo Miranda arrived at sunset to enthusiastic team applause. It is a prototype 2 seat Pawnee (Pulche) with a bubble canopy. Sweet!
Today was delivery day at El Calafate for the Perlan Team. It was as eagerly anticipated as Christmas morning. The Cruz del Sur truck brought the container to the hangar ramp on a frosty morning. The 4 legs and chain hoists were pulled out of container and the Perlan Team started the assembly process.
We are excited to be at El Calafate! But it is very necessary to learn the rules and regulations to be good citizens of the airport. So the past 2 days have had several meetings with airport authorities. We gathered for a team photo near the black and yellow tripods mounted in concrete as height barriers for entering the airport. Those tripods were the support legs for the container of Perlan 1 ten years ago. Of course there was a lenticular cloud for a backdrop-even with a south wind.
Ten years ago on August 29, 2006 Einar Enevoldson and Steve Fossett made history with a sailplane flight to 50,722 feet (15,460 meters) from El Calafate, Argentina. They were extremely cold and their pressure suits, on loan from NASA, had inflated to the point of being stiff. After they knew they had achieved the altitude for the record they decided to come down.
Argentina and California have approximately the same population, but Argentina is over five times larger. Over a third of the population live in Buenos Aires, Over three-fourths live in cities over 100,000. This is all to say that Argentina is a vast land of unspoiled beauty. I’m an expert having been here four days.
August 27 dawned clear and calm so aeriel reconnassiance was in order. German, an instructor from Aero Club Largo Argentino took Jim and Miguel up scouting several landing strips. They took off from El Calafate on the shore of Lago Argentino. They headed west toward Andes and over flew an air strip near Perito Morena glacier and Punta Bandera. Then they headed north towards Chalten runnway, Lago Viedma, and Rio La Leona. In the Andes photo after the two river photos, Mt Fitz Roy's famous jagged pinnacle is in the center of the range. They looked at several more strips and came back to El Calafate.
The Perlan Team visited two schools in two days in two cities in Argentina. Tago, Morgan, and Cholo (Argentine tow pilot and soaring record holder) visited an elementary school in Mendoza. The next morning Jim Kuhl (Teachers in Space), Miguel Iturmendi, and Martin Heltai (photographer) visited a middle school in El Calafate. The photos tell the story!!!
Here is a link to more photos from El Calafate school. Use with attribution.