Flying over Patagonia, Argentina, the Perlan Mission II from Airbus is now the very first engineless glider to reach 52,172 feet. The Perlan 1 set the previous record back in 2006 at 50,727 feet.
“With every Airbus Perlan Mission II milestone, we continue to learn more about how we can fly higher, faster and cleaner. But we also learn that aviation still has the power to surprise us, thrill us, and motivate us to find new frontiers of endeavor,” says Airbus CEO Tom Enders.
"Perlan's outstanding aviation success is the result of bold thinking. It's this kind of thinking that is the cornerstone of our vision for the future of Airbus, which we hope will inspire a new generation of aerospace explorers and innovators," Enders adds.
At the controls was Chief Pilot Jim Payne and Co-Pilot Morgan Sandercock. Together they launched from the Comandante Armando Tola International Airport in El Calafate, Argentina, for the record-breaking trip.
The mission as a whole aims to fly and engineless glider using a phenomena known as stratospheric mountain waves. This occurs only a few times a year in certain locations where air currents rise due to the polar vortex. The Argentinian area chosen for this flight is one of these uncommon spots where the rising air currents can reach the stratosphere.
“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,” says Perlan Project CEO Ed Warnock.
Next, the Perlan 2 glider will return to Nevada, where it will make further improvements based on recent flights.
Living up to Warnock's words, “the Perlan Project will attempt to reach 90,000 feet, a world altitude record for any wing-supported flight, with or without an engine,” according to Airbus.