The Airbus-sponsored Perlan 2 glider has reached 62,000 feet in El Calafete, Argentina, setting a new altitude record.
Airbus Perlan Mission II, the world’s first initiative to pilot an engine-less aircraft to the edge of space, made history again yesterday in El Calafate, Argentina, by soaring in the stratosphere to a pressure altitude of over 62,000 feet (60,669 feet GPS altitude). This set a new gliding altitude world record, pending official validation.
The pressurized Perlan 2 glider, which is designed to soar up to 90,000 feet, passed the Armstrong Line, the point in the atmosphere above which an unprotected human’s blood will boil if an aircraft loses pressurization.
This marks a second glider altitude world record for Jim Payne and Morgan Sandercock, the same two Perlan Project pilots who soared the Perlan 2 to 52,221 feet GPS altitude on 3rd September 2017, in the same remote region of Argentine Patagonia. The 2017 record broke a previous record that was set in 2006, in the unpressurized Perlan 1, by Perlan Project founder Einar Enevoldson and Steve Fossett.
Another first-of-its kind achievement this year for the Perlan Project was the use of a special high-altitude tow plane rather than a conventional glider tow plane. During the record-setting flight, Perlan 2 was towed to the base of the stratosphere — 42,000ft — by a Grob Egrett G520 turboprop, a high-altitude reconnaissance plane that was modified for the task earlier this summer.
To soar into the highest areas of Earth’s atmosphere, Perlan 2 pilots catch a ride on stratospheric mountain waves, a weather phenomenon created when rising air currents behind mountain ranges are significantly strengthened by the polar vortex. The phenomenon occurs only for a brief period each year in just a few places on earth. Nestled within the Andes Mountains in Argentina, the area around El Calafate is one of those rare locations where these rising air currents can reach to 100,000 feet or more.