Airbus Perlan Mission II soars into history, sets new world record for glider altitude

The Airbus Perlan Mission II pressurized glider soars above the peaks of the Andes near El Calafate

The Airbus Perlan Mission II pressurized glider soars above the peaks of the Andes near El Calafate (Airbus photo by James Darcy) - Credit: Archant

Airbus Perlan Mission II, the world’s first initiative to send an engineless aircraft to the edge of space, made history yesterday in the Patagonia region of Argentina by soaring to over 52,000 feet and setting a new world altitude record for gliding.

The tail camera of the Airbus Perlan Mission II pressurized glider captures a panoramic view from th

The tail camera of the Airbus Perlan Mission II pressurized glider captures a panoramic view from the world-record setting altitude of 52,172 feet (Photo courtesy Perlan Project.) - Credit: Archant

Chief pilot Jim Payne and co-pilot Morgan Sandercock completed this historic Perlan 2 flight from Comandante Armando Tola International Airport in El Calafate, Argentina.

Their effort surpassed the previous 50,727-foot world record for glider altitude that was set in the unpressurized Perlan 1 by The Perlan Project founder Einar Enevoldson and lead project sponsor Steve Fossett in 2006.

Ed Warnock, CEO of the Perlan Project, said: “We are celebrating an amazing victory for aerospace innovation and scientific discovery today, and we’re so thankful to all the volunteers and sponsors whose years of tireless dedication have made this achievement possible.”

Airbus CEO Tom Enders added: “With every Airbus Perlan Mission II milestone, we continue to learn more about how we can fly higher, faster and cleaner. But we also learn that aviation still has the power to surprise us, thrill us, and motivate us to find new frontiers of endeavour.”

Airbus Perlan Mission II pilots Jim Payne (left) and Morgan Sandercock emerge from the cockpit after

Airbus Perlan Mission II pilots Jim Payne (left) and Morgan Sandercock emerge from the cockpit after setting a new glider world altitude record (Photo by Jackie Payne, Perlan Project) - Credit: Archant

Airbus Perlan Mission II is an initiative to fly an engineless glider to the edge of space using weather phenomena called stratospheric mountain waves, rising air currents that are significantly heightened a few times a year in only a couple places on earth by the polar vortex.

The area around El Calafate, nestled within the Andes Mountains in Argentina, is one of those rare locations where these rising air currents can reach the stratosphere.

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Because of its engineless design, the Perlan 2 glider is a unique platform for scientific discovery, and is carrying aloft on every flight experiments ranging in focus from factors influencing climate change to radiation effects on pilots and aircraft at high altitudes.

“We will continue to strive for even higher altitudes, and to continue our scientific experiments to explore the mysteries of the stratosphere. We’ve made history, but the learning has just begun,” said Warnock.

Tune in to live flights of the Perlan 2 on the Airbus Perlan Mission II Virtual Cockpit here.

Stay updated on flight schedules by following The Perlan Project on Twitter and on Facebook

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