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.
Our founder Einar Enevoldson was the test pilot at the Grob factory in Europe many years ago. He was the test pilot for the G-520 Egrett, a 108 foot (33 meter) wingspan, turbo prop, single-engine, 750 horsepower, super plane. Through Einar’s contacts at Grob he discovered AV Experts had an Egrett available.
Mike Malis (retired aviation engineer, tow pilot and glider pilot) led the charge to find appropriate tow equipment for the Egrett. Mike procured, refurbished, designed and fabricated tow component parts for the Egrett which he installed a few weeks before the actual tow test. Certification was obtained. Jim talked to Sherman Griffith and they located a traditional glider in Texas which happened to be a Grob 103 like the one in which Jim had soared to 42,000 feet.
Thanks to Dennis Tito, Tim Gardner could fly Dennis’ turbo Cessna 206 to Texas with Jim and Mike. They had to cross the Grand Canyon on Memorial Day heading east. Miguel Iturmendi joined them in Texas for the test mission. The ground test included figuring the power setting for taking off with a glider with minimum prop blast. In one photo the Cessna (in a corner) looks so tiny compared to the Egrett.
Jay Miller contract with Airbus was able to come take some photos. Tim flew Jay in the 206 as a photo chase while Jim and Miguel flew in the glider behind the Egrett – 10,000 feet altitude in under 10 minutes on tow. The Egrett “never broke a sweat!” For the Perlan team we continue to figure out how to safely do something in aviation, even if it’s never been done before. This is an exciting, leading-edge aviation team poised to do amazing things in Argentina – if weather supports us!
For a video including footage of the first take off behind an Egrett and first (perfect!) rope drop by an Egrett, with the turbine noise clear for the low altitude drop, click on this link. https://youtu.be/q-1qBOUMfwo
Join us as we share more of our saga in the days leading up to Argentina. You can follow us on Twitter @PerlanProject. That is where we will be connecting with our followers on any flying days in Argentina. You can sign up on the front page of our website for a personal email notification when we have published a new blog. We are investigating a text message service to notify when we are flying in Argentina. And (first-time public invitation) we have researched options for live photos from the glider while flying high to be streamed on the Internet. Stay with us as the adventure continues, as atmosheric science is validated, and as students are inspired.
Perlan Soars! Jackie