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Airbus Perlan Sets New Glider World Altitude Record


The view from the Airbus Perlan II glider’s tail during its record-breaking flight. Photo: Airbus

The Airbus Perlan II glider has set a new world altitude record for gliding.

Chief pilot Jim Payne and co-pilot Morgan Sandercock completed the historic flight in the Perlan from Comandante Armando Tola International Airport in El Calafate, Argentina, reaching 52,172ft – surpassing the previous altitude record for a glider, 50,727ft, set in the unpressurised Perlan 1 in 2006.

The Airbus Perlan Mission is an initiative to send an engineless aircraft to the edge of space. The project will attempt to reach 90,000ft, a world altitude record for any wing-supported flight, with or without an engine.

The Perlan reaches high altitude by riding stratospheric mountain waves, rising air currents that are significantly heightened a few times a year in only a couple places on earth by the polar vortex. The area around El Calafate, nestled within the Andes Mountains in Argentina, is one of those locations.

The Airbus Perlan Mission II will return to Minden, Nevada, where the all-volunteer team will modify and enhance the glider based on information acquired in this year‘s test flights.

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