Weather forecasting is as much art as science, especially in Patagonia. Airbus Perlan Mission II has the best forecasts and satellite photos available this year. Last year the GOES 13 satellite photos for southern Patagonia were only published three times per day. This year the GOES 16 satellite photos are every 15 minutes which is a huge improvement; usually not quite an hour old when we can see them on-line. We are launching our Perlan weather balloon to confirm any forecast soundings and create our own SkewT charts.
On August 24, 2017 there was not a strong indication of wave. But if you look at the multi-day outlook it was the best we would see for the next 5 days. The Perlan team is great, we are all wanting to do our part to make it happen if at all possible. So we decided to fly and explore.
Christian from the tower really liked the poster photo presented at the morning briefing. Jim burried his head in the cockpit on the ramp before climbing in. Miguel was ready to fly again. Stewart was launch chief and was signaling to take up slack of the tow rope on the runway. The surface winds were brisk so Perlan 2 did a little shimmying to indicate she was eager do her part and fly. https://youtu.be/GVahhAJxsEk We waited for the Eurocopter to also takeoff so there would be a photo chase of the launch for the first time this year. https://youtu.be/BiJ9tfRXiC4 The tow was the longest ever at 75 minutes. Release altitude was just over 12,600 feet. Cholo used my hand warmers for the return trip to the airport. If the tow plane engine is not working while on descent it doesn’t make much heat.
To the west was pretty solid cloud coverage topping at 11,500 feet. That made any exploration difficult when top of lift was 17,000 in only one place. In CapComm Tim scoured the forecast maps and suggested possible better lift zones. Unfortunaterly Perlan 2 only found sink in that area, so had to return to known lift to climb again. Sometimes forecasts a few hours old can’t keep up with actual conditions. We wanted to explore to the north between the lakes as that had the best forecast. Granted, it wasn’t a good forecast, but it was the best available for the day. Perhaps if there had been a good possibility of 40,000 feet and strong lift ahead there would have been more appeal. But sinking into the “soup” and landing on a gravel estancia airstrip was too much risk for the conditions, said Jim and Miguel. Miguel got great photos of Lago Argentino through his side window and of the forward looking view from inside his cockpit. You can see how important the tail camera display is.
Suzanne is doing a great job of taking my iCloud-shared photos and videos and posting to Twitter and Facebook during the flight. Loris’ Virtual Cockpit is being watched on several continents while the Perlan 2 flies. Jim and Miguel made the best of what conditions they could find; you play the cards you are dealt. Below is link to the flight posted on OLC, the OnLine Contest soaring website.
We will keep improving the Perlan 2 and flying every chance we can. Perlan Soars! Perlan Se Eleva! Jackie