Perlan 2 Sailplane Soars Higher

Glider flies to 30,615 feet out of Minden-Tahoe Airport.

Perlan II
The Airbus Perlan Mission II sailplane broke its own record by soaring higher than 30,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.Photo by James Darcy, Airbus Americas

The Airbus Perlan Mission II sailplane broke its own record this week, soaring to 30,615 feet out of the Minden-Tahoe Airport in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in western Nevada. The glider was flown by Perlan chief pilot Jim Payne and pilot and flight test engineer Miguel Iturmendi.

The Perlan 2 team recently made modifications to the pressurized glider, installing heating equipment for the battery, and air and oxygen regulators to ensure they function properly in the extreme high-altitude environment.

In the coming weeks, the Perlan 2 team will continue to fly from Minden in hopes of catching stratospheric mountains waves to break the world altitude record of 50,727 feet, which was set by the first version of the Perlan. The ultimate goal for the Perlan 2 is to reach 90,000 feet. There are also plans for a third glider, which will be designed with transonic wings and has a goal of topping 100,000 feet.

Perlan pilots
Perlan chief pilot Jim Payne (right) and pilot and flight test engineer Miguel Iturmendi.Airbus Americas

The elusive stratospheric mountain waves can be found in very few locations around the world, including the the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the Andes in South America, where the team will relocate to continue flight testing later this summer.

The Perlan project was conceived by former NASA research and Air Force pilot Einar Enevoldson, who holds the absolute altitude record for propeller driven airplanes and sailplanes at 60,700 feet and 50,722 respectively. Enevoldson has flown above 50,000 feet in more than 17 different types of aircraft.