As 2018 comes to a close, it's time to look back on an awesome, amazing, ultra successful year for Perlan Project. The Airbus Perlan Mission II achieved many first-ever milestones with our core Perlan team plus our around the globe supporters. Included in this blog are a few photos, but there is a link below to a YouTube celebration of the "Perlan Best of Argentina." Those selected 150 photos come from the team during two months out of thousands of photos. Let no one doubt Airbus Perlan Mission II is a team effort every step of the way. Yes, the 3 world record altitude claims are sweet, but they are merely icing on the cake.
In addition to 3 soaring world record altitude claims in just a week, another first-ever in 2018 was the concept, design, fabrication, certification and test of a Grob Egrett as a tow plane. (Aside: Miguel Iturmendi claims you must be very careful of what you wish for inside Perlan Project -- Someone on the team might take it as just another challenge. In January Jim wished for an Egrett tow plane, and by May thanks to Einar Enevoldson's contacts, and Miguel and Mike Malis' work, Jim and Miguel were actually towing behind the Egrett.) The flight on September 12 demonstrated the first-ever tow to 45,000 foot. It was the 8th tow above 40,000 feet in a gradual envelope expansion.
Perlan 2 also demonstrated the highest sustained true airspeed ever recorded for a sailplane of 303 mph or 489 kph. This equates to a Mach number of 0.46 M. Who ever attributed a Mach number to a sailplane before? This was achieved on September 12 when Jim Payne and Miguel Iturmendi were flight testing envelope expansion for speed. That critical flight set the foundation for higher flights in 2019. The current calculated mach limit for Perlan 2 is 0.62M. For comparison, the highest flight of 76,124 feet on September 2 "only" had 265 mph (464 kph) with a Mach of 0.43.
The upgrades during 2018 demonstrated the safety and efficiency of Greg Scates' new first-ever custom hatches, new BattleBorn batteries and insulated boxes, and Doug Perrenod's new KISS cannisters on the rebreather system. By using the new Garmin VIRB 360 camera the pilots could look all around and below them for drastically improved visibility.
Perlan 2 is the first glider to carry and use High Altitude Flight Recorders HAFR to document the incredible altitudes achieved harnessing the power of the stratospheric wave. Thanks to the Soaring Society of America's (SSA) generous donation of 2 specially made LX-9000s and Stanford's Space Rendezvous Lab donation of calibration time with their top of the line GPS signal generators. Perlan Project is the first to use the recent HAFR rules from the International Gliding Commission and Federation Aeronautique Internationale. This has been uncharted territory for each organization.
Our science data collection repeatedly showed unforeseen dramatic temperature differentials in very close proximity in the stratospheric wave above 40,000 feet. Morgan Sandercock kept the engineering and science data under his keen observation. Previously aircraft with engines had not caught the subtle but important changes. Balloons rose through that area of unexpected differences without being able to validate any comparisons. Perlan 2 has the first-ever ability to linger in an area without polluting the data collection.
Tim Gardner led the charge to acquire and use first-ever in-flight soaring weather forecasts of high altitude wave in the cockpit. He also spent more days getting the Perlan 2 simulator ready for the Soaring Society of America's convention in Reno in March. To fly our Perlan 2 simulator was a first-ever highlight of the show! And since it was Reno (where gambling is legal) there were possibly a few side bets on who would land safely and who would crash the sim. I'm just saying....What happens in Nevada stays in Nevada!
The Airbus Perlan Mission II has captured the imagination of aviation fans around the globe. Aviation Week has awarded the Perlan Project a 2018 laureate for technology and innovation. For the 2018 wrap-ups AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) included the Perlan 2 flights as "a record-breaking glider flight to the upper reaches of the atmosphere." And Flying Magazine included "a record shattering glider" as one of "the top aviation stories of 2018." These general aviation magazines joined coverage by soaring and international media such as Gliding International, SSA Soaring, Soaring NZ, Segelfliegen, LuftSport, Air and Cosmos, OLC magazine, 2019 Guinness Book of World Records and many, many others. For a list of links to 2018 media coverage see http://perlanproject.org/2018-world-record-flights-pending In 2018 our social media fans increased to over 13,000 on Perlan Twitter and over 14,000 on Perlan Facebook.
There are still upgrades we continue to work on for Perlan Project. Michael Batalia is making great progress to bring you real time video from our tail cameras. The challenges are immense but we hope to have the first-ever high altitude glider streaming video next year. This year for the first time ever 12,000 fans watched our Perlan Virtual Cockpit online as soaring history was made when the Perlan 2 soared above the highest altitude of the engined-powered U-2 plane. There were individual Perlan blogs about most of the first-ever milestones listed above. Stay tuned to these blog pages as we continue to share Perlan news for 2019. As Jim Payne says "90,000' in '19"
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! See link for a "Best of Argentina" video montage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk1dMGErSrI
Perlan Soars High! Jackie