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Airbus Perlan 2 glider eyes record attempt
Perlan 2 at 30,000ft. © Airbus

Airbus Perlan 2 glider eyes record attempt

The Airbus-sponsored Perlan 2 glider is flying over Patagonia in preparation for an attempt to break the world gliding altitude record in the coming weeks.

Airbus continues to fly the Perlan 2 glider in Argentina in preparation for an attempt to break the world gliding altitude record in the coming weeks. Over the summer, the glider — flown by pilots Jim Payne, Morgan Sandercock, Tim Gardner and Miguel Iturmendi — reached a new high altitude of 32,500ft (9,900m)

The current phase of testing is taking place in El Calafate, in the Patagonian region of Argentina, one of a few places on earth near the the North and South poles where a combination of mountain winds and the polar vortex create the world’s highest “stratospheric mountain waves” – rising air currents that Perlan pilots believe can eventually carry their experimental aircraft to the edge of space.

Over the next two months, the all-volunteer exploration team will seek for the rare waves in an attempt to break the world gliding altitude record of 50,727ft (15,460m), set by Einar Enevoldsen and Steve Fossett in Perlan 1 in 2006. Along the way, the aircraft will continue to collect scientific data on the atmosphere made possible by the Perlan 2 aircraft’s unique attributes. It will also provide insights into high altitude turbulence and radiation effects on pilots and aircraft.

The aircraft, which has a gross weight of 1,800lb (816kg) and a wing span of 84ft (25.6m), was developed by The Perlan Project, a volunteer-run, non-profit endeavour supported by Airbus and a group of other sponsors that includes Weather Extreme Ltd., United Technologies and BRS Aerospace.

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