Airbus Perlan II, the world’s first attempt to send an engineless aircraft to the edge of space, made history on 3 September by soaring to over 52,000 feet in the Patagonia region of Argentina, setting a new world altitude record for gliding.
Chief pilot Jim Payne and co-pilot Morgan Sandercock conducted the flight from Comandante Armando Tola International Airport in El Calafate, Argentina, surpassing the previous 50,727-foot world record set in the unpressurized Perlan I in 2006.
"We are celebrating an amazing victory for aerospace innovation and scientific discovery today, and we’re so thankful to all the volunteers and sponsors whose years of tireless dedication have made this achievement possible,” said Ed Warnock, CEO of The Perlan Project.
“We will continue to strive for even higher altitudes, and to continue our scientific experiments to explore the mysteries of the stratosphere. We’ve made history, but the learning has just begun.”
Perlan II aims to fly a glider to the edge of space using stratospheric mountain waves, rising air currents that are significantly heightened by the polar vortex a few times a year in only a couple places on earth. The area around El Calafate, nestled within the Andes Mountains in Argentina, is one of those rare locations where these rising air currents can reach the stratosphere.
Ultimately, the Perlan team is hoping to fly to 90,000 feet, which would be a record for a wing-supported aircraft powered or unpowered.