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Tue, May 23, 2023

Airbus Perlan Mission II to Attempt World Altitude Record

Ever Upwards

Airbus’s Perlan Mission II is a unique and fascinating initiative undertaken for the expressed purpose of flying an engineless glider to the edge of space—higher than any winged aircraft has yet operated in manned, level flight. The Perlan II mission sets out to make important discoveries germane to high-altitude flight, atmospheric phenomena, and purported changes to the Earth’s climate.

On 20 May 2023, representatives of Airbus’s Perlan Mission II announced its pilots and engineers had completed a successful flight test campaign in the Southwestern U.S., thereby clearing the way for a 2023 attempt to set a new aviation world altitude record for manned, level flight.

Perlan Project CEO Ed Warnock stated: “Over the past decade, we have been on a thrilling adventure to inspire, educate, and explore in the stratosphere, and Airbus has been a great partner on that journey as together we’ve attempted, and achieved, the seemingly impossible.”

Consistent with Mr. Warnock’s sentiments, the Perlan Mission II instantiates the culmination of decades of research conducted by a tireless international team of aviators and scientists who’ve selflessly volunteered their time and expertise for the nonprofit Perlan Project. The enterprise, based in Minden, Nevada, is supported by Airbus and a group of sponsors that includes Dennis Tito, Weather Extreme Ltd., Raytheon (United Technologies), BRS Aerospace, and Thales.

The pressurized Perlan II glider—which, in 2018, set the subsonic world altitude record at over 76,000-feet—was shipped from the U.S. on 01 May and is currently enroute to El Calafate, Argentina.  Upon the aircraft’s arrival in South America, the personnel of the Perlan Project will attempt to soar the experimental glider over the Patagonian Andes, where atmospheric conditions are optimal, to its service-ceiling of 90,000-feet.

Airbus Americas chairman and CEO C. Jeffrey Knittel opined: “If a glider, which is a truly zero-emission aircraft, can become the highest-flying aircraft of all time, it sends a powerful message that decarbonization of aviation is no impediment to achievement, and can even be an enabler.”

A research platform that emits no exhaust, Perlan II is ideally suited to the high-altitude atmospheric research its stewards intend to conduct in hopes of determining whether or not climate-change is an actual phenomenon or a fabrication of governments and activists. The aircraft will soar to altitudes at which the prevailing atmospheric pressure approximates that of Mars, in so doing providing unique opportunities for aerodynamic studies related to turbulence, extreme weather, and future space exploration.

By dint of the Perlan Project’s STEM partnership with Teachers in Space, the Perlan II aircraft will also carry aloft experiments designed by students.

Airbus’s sponsorship of The Perlan Project, which commenced in 2014, facilitated completion of the Perlan II’s construction. The glider, described by Mr, Warnock as “a space capsule with wings,” is equipped with sophisticated life support systems and instrumentation by which pilot safety is assured, if not wholly guaranteed.

The aircraft is able to soar, sans engine, to record altitudes by virtue of exceedingly rare air currents known as “stratospheric mountain waves,” which form when mountain winds are strengthened by the polar vortex.

The Airbus Perlan Mission II team, which comprises a company of the aviation industry’s most celebrated test pilots and renowned climate scientists, will conduct its 2023 flying campaign over an eight-week period spanning late-July through mid-September 2023. The aforementioned interval corresponds with the highest statistical likelihood of Southern Hemispheric mountain wave activity.



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