Perlan Support Teams – Part Three

Sep 10, 2023 | Argentina, Blog, El Calafate, Support Teams

For the third and final blog on Support Teams for Airbus Perlan Mission II we look at several team members who wear many hats. Of special note are the words from our 3 Perlan Interns and their observations about their past two months in El Calafate.

Argentine Liason – Sandra Sandercock

Sandra Sandercock has been the Argentine Liason to organizations for Perlan Project since 2016. In her previous career as civilian project leader in the Research and Development department of the Air Force she was quickly appreciative of the possibilities of the Perlan 2 before it had ever flown. She maintained contact with the project and offered her skills and knowledge to help navigate the intricacies of governmental organizations in Buenos Aires.

Sandra and Morgan fell in love in El Calafate in 2016 and married in Buenos Aires. She officially joined the team at that point to continue her supporting role. She has helped Perlan Project establish good relations with the National Parks, Naval Prefactura, Aerolineas, PSA, EANA, ANAC and of course the Air Force. She is ever ready to be our bilingual ambassador. Without her help there would be many more mixed communications or cross-ups.

Support Roles by Tim Gardner

Like many of the amazing Perlan team members I wear several hats while not flying the Perlan. As the Perlan crew chief I take great pride in “owning” the aircraft. I oversee all work an the aircraft, prep the aircraft for flight, and perform pre and post flight inspections. As the project A&P I perform and sign off annual condition inspections and interface with the FAA to make sure all our paperwork is in order. During flight operations when I am not flying I participate as a member of the Capcom team where I serve as the communication officer, man the guidance and tracking station, and monitor the telemetry data on the ground station. The communication officer is the “third” pilot during operations responsible for handling communications between Capcom and the aircraft. The guidance and tracking station is responsible for monitoring the glider position and formulating the strategy for positioning the aircraft in the best wave based on the wave models provided by Weather Extreme and SkySight. As a member of the weather team I monitor wave forecast models, interface with our forecast providers, and specialize in the design and maintenance of our wave visualization tools.

Perlan Support Role:  Roberta Vasenden

My role, like those of the rest of my teammates, is multi-faceted.  We all wear many hats while supporting the Perlan Project.  I am most known for my role with the Grob Egrett G-520 tow plane because my husband, Arne, and I own and operate the airplane through our company, AV Experts, LLC.

I am also a member of the Perlan Science Committee, giving input and guiding the direction of the mission from that standpoint.  I hope my background in physics, geological sciences, remote sensing techniques and atmospheric sciences gives the team a more well-rounded, realistic view of what is possible, and I like to be a visionary who offers suggestions to improve the science behind the Perlan Project.  I am motivated by the challenge of working with others and bridging the gap between differing views so that we can come together as one cohesive team.  I am also on the Educational Subcommittee, leading the third branch of the Perlan mission, which is outreach and inspiration to youth around the world.  As part of this role, I am also in charge of the CubeSats we fly, which are student-built experiments  These offer schools a means to engage their students with real-world science and technology concepts as their payload flies aboard the Perlan glider or the Egrett tow plane.  Finally, I am a member of the on-site weather balloon team and also serve as one of the team photographers, providing images of what it looks like to be on the ground with the Perlan Project, allowing others to experience the thrill of discovery!

Thank you, Perlan Project and all its members, for teaming with us.  Together, Perlan and Egrett fly high! For a more in depth view of Egrett support see a previous blog at

Interns by Ivan Altunin, Rodrigo Sanz, and Elisa Vasenden

Rodrigo Sanz: Being a Perlan Project intern is not only a passion and a dream come true, it is also the best example of dedication and motivation towards work. We wake up every morning without knowing if we will be part of aviation’s history again. But all that matters is the effort and sacrifice we put sometimes to get “only to 60,000ft”. Working for Perlan makes you realize what life is about, work hard in harsh scenarios with few possibilities to achieve our biggest dreams. That is Perlan for me, “not giving up even if there’s only a 5% success probability”, as our CEO, Edward Warnock, says. Not to mention that it is such a pleasure to be part of this unique experience.

As an intern, I give my best and support the team & the project. I’m always able and willing to help assembling, testing, installing and preparing the glider to fly, and do it as if it was the last thing I will ever do. However, the best part is how every member of the project gives himself to teach me and show me how this incredible aircraft works, another example of one of Perlan’s most important goals: to inspire and motivate new generations to some day do for humanity in the field of science and technology while pursuing their dreams.

Ivan Altunin: After years of following the project, working on the Perlan team has been a dream come true filled with many life changing and learning moments. From the beginning, myself and my companion, Rodrigo, agreed to make the most of our time and desired to be put to work in any way we could. Fortunately the team granted our wish and put us to work serving in a lot of roles providing support wherever needed. An amazing friendship formed as we were forced to learn adaptability, time management, and to rely on each other to get the job done. We supported everything from the camera systems, to rebreathers, to helping with CapCom procedures, and launching the glider itself. Often we would remind ourselves that the work we did was not only mission critical but life critical – and that was a burden we did not take lightly with the team relying on us to get the job done.

It would be impossible to pick a most memorable, fun, or unique experience as there are too many of them! I’ll never forget working on the glider in the cold dark hangar, seeing my breath as I install some equipment, anticipating a flight in the next few days. I’ll never forget the time spent with Morgan standing around the glider as he patiently answered all my questions and explained the nuances and engineering of the Perlan. I’ll never forget sitting in the front seat of the Perlan to test the air brakes during a pressurization test on the ground, or standing on a runway in the southern hemisphere, next to a glacial lake with a helicopter orbiting overhead, the Egrett screaming in front of me, and the Perlan wing dancing in my hand. Most of all, I’ll never forget the team members – a family of individuals, from all walks of life, succeeding in the impossible. I am grateful for the mentorship and friendship of every single one and I am honored that I was welcomed into such a diverse, dedicated, and capable team. Thank you to the team for putting me to work and teaching me all you know!

Elisa Vasenden: I am one of the Perlan Project interns as well as part of the Egrett team with my parents.  I also assist the weather balloon team and work with the CubeSat experiments.  I have really enjoyed being part of this international team of multi-talented explorers and visionaries while learning how everyone works together to achieve common goals.  I have been part of this project since I was 12 years old when my parents first got involved with the Egrett towplane in 2018.  I learned quickly that everyone has a say in the team, and each person’s voice is equally as important.  Some of my favorite things I have done with the Perlan Project are helping to prepare both the Perlan and Egrett aircraft for flight and observe the process it takes to achieve a successful and safe mission each time we fly.  In 2018 I first learned how to launch weather balloons, and now it is one of the things I look forward to doing the most, along with launching the glider.  I enjoy spending spare time with my fellow team members, learning more about what got them to where they are in life now.  Many times at team dinners, during trips, and while watching our flights from the Virtual Cockpit, we can all connect as a team and be proud of the progress we are making.  I believe one of the most important parts of our mission is inspiring youth to know that they are capable of doing anything they set their minds to.  I have taken part in giving talks at schools about our project, as well as at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2022, and hope that young people like me will see it is possible if they find the right opportunities in life.  I may not personally take up a career in aviation or sciences in the future, but I will always value this experience as it has shaped me into a more well-rounded person who can relate to others from different countries,  cultures, and walks of life.  Even when the team faces unforeseen setbacks due to weather or other aspects, seeing how we overcome these challenges and keep pursuing our goals is very inspiring to me.  I want to thank everyone in the Perlan Project for letting me be a part of this incredible team!

Photography by Jamie Darcy

Since first flight of the Perlan 2 in Oregon James Darcy has chronicled the journey of Airbus Perlan Mission II. Each Argentina campaign Jamie has supported us with gorgeous photos of Perlan flying above the unique scenery of Patagonia. We are ever so appreciative of his unparalleled talent to tell the story of Airbus Perlan Mission II with evocative, memorable pictures. You can see some of his best work on his Instagram account @jsd_photography

Exploration, Innovation and Inspiration are the primary goals of Perlan Project. Thanks to the incredible support of our team of volunteers we have achieved these goals in El Calafate in 2023. Perlan Soars! Jackie

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