Perlan Container 11,000 miles One Way

Jul 19, 2023 | Blog, Support Teams

When Airbus Perlan Mission II conducts a “high” tech campaign in remote Patagonia we must take everything we need plus any spares with us. We started packing in April. The glider trailer was designed to fit into a standard 40 foot shipping container – as long as we removed the long tongue and replaced it with a very short dual hitch ball securing support. And after we had 6 inches removed from the top of the tail fin on the trailer. (Thanks Greg Scates and Tom Stowers) Why not get a bigger container like the high cubes which are easily available? The answer is the narrow tunnels through the Andes mountains in their winter time of July. On a typical truck in South America the high cube is too tall for the tunnels. A “low boy” trailer is very hard to procure and uber expensive. But a standard 40′ container will fit through the tunnels nicely. This year the Andes roads have been closed for days over and over again due to snow. For comparison the Andes are 50% longer and 50% higher than the Sierra.

So space inside the container is really tight. We have very narrow metal shelving units which can be secured to the wall. These shelves can only be in front of the trailer tires. There are scant inches between the tires and the walls of the container. We even remove the fenders. There’s barely room for a person to move sideways between the trailer (once it’s in) and the shelving. Our plastic tubs can be strapped to the shelving units. We aim to use every cubic inch of space in those tubs. Our (empty) air bottle is secured to the floor. Silvio’s pull dolly is strapped along side the air bottle. Our metal rigging stands fold and are secured to a wall.

Getting the trailer into the container is a team effort. To get up the ramp for the heavy trailer requires not only push from behind but also a rope attached to the front of the trailer through pulleys and attached to our SUV outside to help pull. (Come-along) Once the wheels are inside the container, the nose must be lifted high so the tail will go down. The (shortened) tail barely fits through the opening of the container doors. The video shows how tight and how carefully we squeak it in. Once completely inside the container, the nose of the trailer is captured on a custom support in front and the tail has a few inches of clearance under the roof. [One year we wedged a thick styrofoam sheet between the top of the trailer tail and the roof of the container. I vacuumed  styrofoam shavings out of the container for an hour after delivery.] We also have custom welded chocks for the tires to control fore/aft movement. The back of the trailer has beefy racheting straps to control side sway. There is a welded bar under the trailer floor which we tie down to control up/down movement.

Just the strapping process took 2 hours with the experienced team of Stewart, Morgan, Tim and Jim. They strapped by flashlight and closed the container doors by car head light.





Early the next morning our crane driver from Connolly Crane and our truck driver for the empty truck (certified to enter the Port of Oakland) arrived. These are experienced operators. We had a small betting party on the total weight of of the container which I won – 17,000 pounds. Due to the way the container must be packed it is not symmetrically loaded. The center of gravity was about 1/3 from the front of the container. Only a small adjustment in the lifting straps was necessary for the crane. They also had to be cautious that the front didn’t jam when lowering onto the truck. In under 2 hours we said “Adios and Hasta Luego” to our baby. We will see it again in July. With best case scenarios the container will crane on or off 10 times from Minden to El Calafate.

The cargo vessel NYK Meteor took us out the Golden Gate bridge, south past Los Angeles, past the tip of the Baja of Mexico, through the Panama Canal to Cartagena, Columbia. There we have our only transshipment to another vessel. Callao Express headed back through the Canal to the Pacific coast of South America. This was a big vessel 333′ long and 48′ wide – a post Panamax size. So west bound our container went through the new Canal locks!

Yes we bagged two transits of the Panama Canal in only one booking. Ocean-going logistics works in mysterious ways.



Thanks to Claudia Ortiz from Hartrodt in LA and Jorge Caliri from Hartrodt in Mendoza. We really depend on them to get the Perlan Project container from Minden to Oakland, to Panama, to Cartagena, Columbia to San Antonio, Chile, to Mendoza, Argentina, to El Calafate, Argentina and return!

Our container arrived in San Antonio, Chile near Santiago on May 30. It was trucked through the Andes by Tribal Trucking and taken to customs in Mendoza, Argentina on June 7. From Mendoza it still has 2,000 miles to drive to El Calafate.

Over 11,000 miles one way. And a huge thanks to all the Perlan team near and far who helped with the preparations, the flying, the packing and loading. May your world return to normal until July!







As I write this final paragraph the container just trucked out of Mendoza Customs today July 18. The temporary importation process into Argentina was new. That was an unplanned 5 week stop. However we built 6 extra weeks into the shipping schedule so we will be right on time in El Calafate. (This ain’t my first rodeo, cowboy! But it will be my last.)

We have so much to share with our fans. You can expect several blogs a week on our own website starting now. Perlan’s social media channels continue to be very active. We hit a new high with a reach of 327,000 on our Facebook when we announced the return to Argentina for Airbus Perlan Mission II. Got lots of exciting new innovations to share in the next few weeks, so continue to check out the blog for new announcements.

For a fun video see the Perlan YouTube channel link

Perlan Soars, Jackie

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