Pressurized glider reaches new high altitude on journey to the edge of space |

Pressurized glider reaches new high altitude on journey to the edge of space

by Kelsie Longerbeam

RENO —The Perlan II was the main presentation at the 2018 Soaring Society of America Convention in Reno during the weekend. It has the ability to fly up to 90,000 feet to the edge of space to explore the science of the giant mountain air waves that contribute to ozone holes and the changes in global climate models.

“This is the only pressurized glider plane ever. It will eventually be the highest flying wing borne plane in history ever designed,” said The Perlan Project CEO Ed Warnock. “It’s up for a Collier award, which is like the Oscar for aviation. People who have landed on the moon have received this award.”

The Perlan Project formed recently, as of 2010, and Warnock informed that the name is after the pink and blue pastel clouds made of nitric acid, that form at the high altitudes that only their glider can reach.

The Perlan is possibly most known for the high altitude record (52,221 feet absolute altitude and 41,770 feet gain of height) it achieved on it’s flight in Argentina within the Patagonia mountains, on Sept. 3, 2017.

This flight was flown by chief pilot Jim Payne. Payne holds 14 world records for flying, most of which were flown in the air waves of the Sierra Nevada. At the convention, he educated the public about the unique technological systems designed for the custom-built, high altitude glider.

“During my flight, I had to have electric heaters and a defroster because we reached temperatures of minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Payne.

The engineering of this spacecraft requires glider wings that can fly in less than 3 percent of normal air density and at temperatures of minus 158 degrees Fahrenheit, conditions very similar to the surface of Mars. It has an enormous wingspan of 84 feet, and a take off weight of 1,900 pounds. It is made completely of carbon.

Also available by Perlan at the SSA convention was their Perlan Project simulator. This offered guests an opportunity to experience a ride in the glider via a simulator. The journey simulated was none other than the record setting trip over the Patagonia mountains of Argentina.

For now, the purpose of the Perlan is to gather data on climate change. It will fly through the troposphere and high into the stratosphere to run experiments on heat, mass, and chemical changes between these ozone layers. It will measure how much chlorine-based chemicals and ozone are actually in the stratosphere to aid scientists in understanding the growth and shrinking of the ozone hole. The science is not just geared toward climate change, it also will help to understand how to fly spacecrafts in higher altitudes and other aerospace engineering science.

The plane is currently based at the airport in Minden because of the outstanding soaring conditions.

Perlan said these missions will provide education and inspiration for young people seeking careers of exploration and adventure in engineering and science.

Payne said, “Anyone who is interested should come down to the airport and take a flying lesson. So many people say to me, I wish I had done it sooner!”

To learn more contact the Perlan Project at