Einar Enevoldson – Pilot, Dreamer, Statesman

Mar 29, 2023 | Blog, Team Members

Family, friends, and colleagues remember Einar’s life.

On a recent afternoon, a group gathered at the Julia Morgan Hall, University of California Botanical Garden to celebrate the life of Einar Enevoldson, whose vision inspired The Perlan Project.  Old friends to great grandchildren spoke about how their lives were better because of Einar.


Einar inspired us to dream more and do more. For 67 years Einar inspired us by exploring the sky above us. He flew above 50,000 feet in 17 different types of aircraft. We celebrated world records that started in 1948, when at age 15, he set a model glider endurance record with his home-built glider.  In the US Airforce, Einar set seven “time to climb” records in his jet fighter.

At the DLR, in Germany, he saw evidence of waves at the top of the atmosphere at the edge of space. He pursued the dream of soaring those waves and inspired hundreds of people to join him in that quest.

In 2006, Einar set his final world record exploring the waves propagated upward by the Polar Vortex over the Southern Andes. He most likely set a world record for the 58 years between his first and last world records. Everyone in attendance celebrated that we have dreamed more and done more because of Einar.

His achievements were honored, but most of all people celebrated the man who had touched our lives.

Einar made us think more.  Einar loved to read and to think deeply.  He often engaged people in discussions of philosophy, history, literature, and science. He challenged our thinking. Family and friends remembered how he would, upon occasion, take a controversial position that would fuel the conversation and the exchange of ideas.  Some speculated that his love of thinking and exploring ideas made him willing at times to explore concepts and positions that challenged common wisdom and established paradigms. Many in attendance recalled discussions and debates that challenged their thinking and expanded their minds: Everyone celebrated those discussions.

Einar inspired us to respect and honor each other more. Almost everyone who spoke of Einar celebrated that, after being with him, you grew in your appreciation for how the differences between us create stronger teams and a richer tapestry of life experiences.  We celebrated that we are better people because of Einar.

Thank you, Einar.


Continue reading for a commentary on aviation highlights of Einar Enevoldson.  Photos by Bertha Ryan, NASA, BJ Holden, Tago DePietro, and Jackie Payne. There’s also a 2:43 minute highlight reel video with additional photos at this link. https://youtu.be/GS0_Q57TBLk
Einar’s first world record at age 15!
Einar Enevoldson in F-104

Enevoldson in cockpit after his last glide flight in the X-24B with F-104 chase planes flying over. Flt B-34-47.  11/12/75
Enevoldson and Dick Scobee (later killed in Space Shuttle Challenger) with F-111 TACT.  3/15/76
Ray Young and Enevoldson with YF-12A after Einar’s first flight.  12/13/77
Einar in NASA’s PIK-20E doing laminar flow studies.  April 1983.
Einar in Schweizer 1-36 modified for deep stall configuration, exploring the aerodynamics of high angle of attack and high sink rate. This is the same principle that Space Ship One used to return from space.
The DLR lidar graphic which caused Einar to dream of soaring stratospheric waves. Einar was then working for Grob in Germany and set a record in the Grob Egrett.
The Perlan dream begins with Einar and Steve Fossett before a Perlan 1 flight in California City in March 2004. Einar chose the term “Perlan” to honor his Scandinavian heritage. It refers to the pearlescent color of extremely high stratospheric clouds. (50-80,000 feet)
Einar in Perlan 1 cockpit prior to takeoff.
Susana, always good cheer!
In El Calafate, Argentina 2005 with Tago DePierto
Record setting day after years of chasing the stratospheric wave: 50,744 feet!
Einar’s induction into the Soaring Hall of Fame at Elmira, NY in May 2011
Einar and Bertha Ryan at the book signing.  Bertha had just published the book about Einar “Soaring Beyond the Clouds”.
Soaring giants: Paul MacCready, Joachim Kuettner and Einar Enevoldson
With old friend Andy Pilmanis.  Andy is a research physiologist in high altitude medicine at the Air Force Research Lab, and has done extensive studies of decompression sickness.
The dream of a pressurized space glider continues. Congratulating Jim Payne after First flight of Perlan 2.  9/23/2015
April 2016 at the Minden Wave Camp. Einar explaining some aspect of the Perlan 2 glider.
Celebrating the new World Record of Perlan 2
When the Perlan 2 glider needed some upgrades after 2017, Einar visited Rosamond when the Perlan 2 was upside down. With a strong sense of humor Einar is supporting the fuselage with both hands in the Perlan group photo.

Einar and Susana attended the Soaring Convention in Reno in 2018 when Perlan 2 was the featured sailplane.

He rallied the troops in Washington DC when Perlan Project was a finalist in the Collier Trophy competition in 2018.

He attended both 2019 Perlan Project Board meetings as Chairman of the Board.

In 2020 Einar was selected a Distinguished Statesman of Aviation by the NAA.  Unfortunately Einar passed on April 14, 2021 after a long battle with cancer.  His Celebration of Life was delayed until March 2023 so people could gather more comfortably. Einar is dearly and sorely missed. We know he will be present in our hearts and minds in 2023 supporting and celebrating a new world record to fulfill his dream of soaring in the stratosphere.

Soar in Peace, Jackie

For Einar’s NASA bio see https://www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/about/biographies/pilots/einar-enevoldson.html

For a link to Einar’s obituary see https://www.colmacremation.com/obituaries/Einar-K-Enevoldson?obId=20814233

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