Perlan Glider Heads to Argentina for Atmospheric Research

Glider will be used to attempt record-breaking flight.

Airbus Perlan 2
The Perlan 2 glider could set an altitude record while conducting a climate research mission in the Andes region of Argentina.Airbus Group

The Perlan 2 atmospheric glider departed the U.S. this week, on a container ship no less, headed to El Calafate, Argentina, following six months of intensive flight testing in Minden, Nevada. Once it arrives in the Andes region, the aircraft will be reassembled to begin its high-altitude climate research mission. Lacking an engine that could contaminate air samples, the Perlan 2 glider will carry experiments from earth scientists around the globe and collect that uncontaminated data on upper-level weather patterns and the condition of the atmosphere, and hopefully yield new insights into climate change.

For a brief period in August and September every year, the weather in this region of the Andes mountains often generates just the right kind of stratospheric mountain waves that could carry the Perlan 2 well above the record altitude for a glider, 50,671 feet, set by Steve Fossett in 2006. The Airbus Group and Perlan Project team believes one of the major differences in any record-setting effort this time will be the unique pressurization system on board the aircraft that will allow the two crewmembers to pilot the aircraft to heights nearer 90,000 feet in a shirt-sleeve-comfortable cabin. Fossett wore a pressure suit during his 2006 flight.

No date has yet been announced for the record flight. Science and flight geeks can track the Airbus Perlan mission’s progress on Twitter @PerlanProject and #PerlanPostcards.