Perlan Soars at AirVenture22 – The REST of the Story

Jan 3, 2023 | Awards & Events, Blog, Flights

Perlan Project had a rare opportunity to soar at the July 2022 EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh. It’s definitely on the bucket list for any pilot. There were over 650,000 people in attendance (a new record) for the week-long perfect weather aviation extravaganza. We were thrilled to showcase the Airbus Perlan Mission II space glider and the AVExperts Egrett super tow plane among 10,000 aircraft.

Perlan Project volunteers stepped up when the invite came from EAA to fly and display on the main plaza for the Perlan 2 and the Egrett. We flew some “return to service” flights at Minden since it had been almost 3 years since the last Perlan flight.

Then we loaded the Perlan 2 and the mockup in their trailers for the 2,000 mile (one way) drive to Wisconsin.

Due to a big storm beforehand (Slosh-kosh is notorious for them) most aircraft flying arrivals were delayed to Sunday.  So Team Perlan waited until Monday morning to rig those long wings on the main plaza.

The crowd around the space glider was intense but well-behaved. Most questions started “did you really get to 76,000 feet…” It’s a good thing we had several of the team there to answer all the questions.

It’s also good that I ordered decals with the record altitudes and dates. (Thanks ET.)  Delta’s “Team USA” Airbus A330 Neo behind us was icing on the cake.

That’s almost 200 feet of combined wingspan for the Egrett and the Perlan 2. The EAA aerial photo shows how the main plaza was set up to accommodate us.

There were multiple interviews starting Monday on the plaza and throughout the week.

Flight Day

Tuesday was Innovations Day and was Perlan’s flight day. Due to our long wings and personnel intensive launch procedure we had already met with the Air Boss. They decided they preferred an EAA vehicle (tractor) to tow us to the runway after the opening flag parachuted in.

 Chief Pilot Jim Payne would be in the front cockpit and Chief Engineer Morgan Sandercock was co-pilot.

Tim Gardner would go on the runway and run the wing. Stewart Tattersall and Jackie Payne were flight support crew. Ben Reese added a strong back for rigging and pushing out. 

The Perlan ground support team included Ed and Linda Warnock, Dr Dan Johnson, Armistead Sapp, John and Mary Kregl, Greg and Beth Scates, Elizabeth Tattersall, and Sandra Sandercock. Our media support team was at Oshkosh as well – Jamie Darcy, Kristina Messner, and Suzanne Herrick. Perlan Project has always been a team effort.

The Egrett team consisted of Arne Vasenden as pilot, along with Dr Roberta Vasenden as communications and Elisa Vasenden as ground support. It was a great day for all things Perlan!

So the Egrett piloted by Arne Vasenden taxied onto the runway turning right. Whereas the Perlan 2 was towed to the left on the runway with nose pointing to the Egrett stretching the rope almost taunt. We use 300 feet of rope for better visibility from Perlan’s tiny eyeball windows.

Ed Warnock, Perlan Project CEO and Roberta Vasenden from AVExperts provided real time commentary at the announcer station. (See link below to hear the full commentary)

The launch went smoothly and the Egrett circled over the runway while climbing. There were height and geographical limits surrounding the tow but repeatedly at the morning pilot briefing they said you will get whatever you need; safety is first.

The REST of the Story

At the top of the tow the Egrett reduced power with a slight descent but the slick Perlan started to overtake. Jim had practiced this maneuver at Minden twice in preparation for Oshkosh with no problems. Jim moved to the side a bit to take out slack rope and maintain eyes on the tow plane but the rope snapped at the weak link as designed. He announced “rope break” on the private radio channel to the Air Boss. Jim was still able to manage his airspeed and altitude to make one orbit over the runway for the crowd to see …

… before landing at exactly the designated spot. (See flight videos linked below) The crowd and most of the team had no idea that there had been a rope break.

The Egrett did a low pass over the Perlan and came in for another perfect landing.

It’s on every pilot’s bucket list to fly at Oshkosh but it takes pros to make an emergency procedure in front of 80,000 people look good. So that’s the rest of the story

Airbus Perlan Mission II

We were congratulated by Jeff Knittel, Airbus America CEO, after the flight. Then we de-rigged and put it into the trailer to move 1/4 mile to the Airbus chalet because those long wings were not going to fit on any access road at the crowded AirVenture venue.

The rest of the week continued to have perfect weather. We rigged Perlan 2 and brought the mock-up for kids of all ages to climb into. We entertained thousands of people at the large Airbus display area. There were 3 individual presentations and a Perlan panel discussion on prime-time Saturday.

The evening airshow and fireworks were spectacular. Here’s a link to our 5 minute YouTube video about the Perlan space glider soaring at Oshkosh with lots of flying video

There’s also a link to the 15 minute EAA video covering the flight with Ed and Roberta talking. Thanks to the EAA for allowing us to share our part of the fabulous AirVenture ’22   

A great video by Airshow Stuff shows the Perlan 2 / Egrett tow, flights, fly-bys, and landings. They had a professional lens, higher platform angle, and access to the radio chatter as well as the loud speaker audio with Ed and Roberta.

Thanks to Airbus for hosting us at their Oshkosh pavillion. Always awesome sponsors!

Only Perlan’s social media channels have been active in 2020-2022. With the new Perlan website I’m thrilled to say the blog is back! Stay tuned for more frequent blogs covering all things Perlan. There’s a lot going on in the Perlan hangar.

Soar High, Jackie

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