Perlan 2 Glider Continues Record-Breaking Mission

A Grob Egrett towed Perlan 2 to 44,000 feet over the Patagonia mountain range in Argentina. Airbus Perlan Mission II

The Perlan glider team is continuing its mission to reach greater heights. The team is currently in South America attempting to catch the mountain waves of the Patagonia mountain range in the southwestern corner of Argentina.

A Grob Egrett turboprop towed Perlan 2 on its 48th flight to just over 44,000 feet before releasing it into the stratosphere. The August 17 flight is the highest glider tow ever recorded. The flight was described as a “rocket ride” as the two airplanes soared to 40,000 feet in only 45 minutes. The Egrett towed Perlan chief pilot Jim Payne, and pilot and flight test engineer Miguel Iturmendi to three hours of soaring around the mountain range.

The Perlan team is still making tweaks to the glider's design. A clear vision plenum had been applied to the left and right eyeball windows that allow the pilots to see outside. The pilots were challenged as the windows frosted over in the severe temperatures, which dipped to around minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Payne removed the plenums and scraped off the ice just before landing at the Comandante Armoando Tola International Airport in El Calafate, Argentina.

The flights of the Perlan Mission can be tracked live on the organization's website through its Virtual Cockpit, as well as receive text alerts before a launch by texting Perlan to 57682.

Click here to see a video from the Virtual Cockpit of the Egrett releasing the Perlan 2 at 40,000 feet on the first high altitude tow. The curvature of the Earth gives away the stratospheric release. Last year, Perlan 2 broke the ultimate altitude record for a glider as it soared to 52,172 feet.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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