On August 22 we awoke to an email announcement that the September 3, 2017 high altitude flight had been approved by the FAI as a Soaring World Record. This validated the US National Record awarded in March by the NAA for Absolute Altitude of 52,221 feet or 15,917 meters. This is the icing on the cake. Perlan Project has several goals: Exploration, Innovation, and Inspiration.
On August 20, 2018 for Perlan 2's third high altitude stratoshperic practice tow, Jim and Tim were ready to give it a try. The ground team supported with all the pre-flight items on the check lists. The Egrett was ready to tow. There were calm surface winds so Alec had to really sprint for his wing run. Tim took some great in flight photos of over the glaciers and inside the cockpits just before the 42,800 foot tow release. We have posted a never before seen 360 video of the 15 seconds around the release. Have a look at the contrail, the Egrett, and the clouds over the Andes. Move your cursor around to scan the entire sky. Go to https://youtu.be/Ov4xata9EZU
When your goal is to reach the edge of space, visiting someone who is already soaring above the tropopause is a great way to vacation! SolarStratus visited Perlan Project in El Calafate to see how we do it. We actually had 2 launches in 3 days so they got a deep dose of experience. Raphael Domjan, Raphaella Javet, and Frank Borrmann came to Patagonia to see the attractions of the glacier and Perlan 2. They were present for the Airbus helicopter photo chase mission (#46) and Raphael even helped on the ramp for flight #47.
As with most pilots it is almost impossible to talk about flying without using your hands. I still recall the days when Jim was a Top Gun Aggressor pilot. The hands flew! It is still the same.
On August 17, 2018 Perlan 2 made it's second tow into the stratosphere. We awoke to pounding rain from 4:30-5 am followed by snow flurries. But after that frontal passage the skies cleared as Dan Gudgel had forecast. Linda took the photo of the day at sunrise. On this flight (only #48) Jim and Miguel Iturmendi towed behind Arne in the Egrett to just over 44,000 feet (Flight Level 440). We did not expect wave. But each pilot needs to be experienced with the challenges of stratospheric flight. This is the highest documented tow ever of a glider and it was another "rocket ride." They were at 40,000 feet in 45 minutes from takeoff. So almost 1,000 feet per minute on average behind the powerful Egrett. Jim said:
Once the Egrett arrived and was in-processed it was time for some test tows of Perlan 2 behind the powerful tow plane. The first test flight was set up for only 11,000 feet to determine the optimum parameters.
On Saturday August 11 the Egrett finally arrived in El Calafate to provide powerful tows for Airbus Perlan Mission II. For months Mike Malis has worked on acquiring, refurbishing, and installing a tow hook on the Egrett and getting it signed off.
While we were waiting for the Egrett tow plane to arrive, it was finally time to orchestrate a dress rehearsal for a Perlan 2 wave flight from El Calafate. The max pressure test had been successful. The to-do list of preparation was almost all checked off. Systems had been checked individually since arriving in Patagonia. But we needed to test if all systems worked together, particularly the new upgrades.
With both front and rear hatches new in 2018 for Perlan 2, we wanted to verify their strength. The pilots decided what the expected pressure differential at our highest altitude might be. Then we tested above that for a margin of safety. Our Life Support System Display LSSD monitors a plethora of data. This time we wanted to pressurize to 9.5 differential psi to test the new hatches.