Stratospheric glider crosses 30,000-foot mark for first time |

Stratospheric glider crosses 30,000-foot mark for first time

Staff Reports
Airbus Perlan Mission II pilots Miguel Iturmendi (left) and Jim Payne emerge from the pressurized Perlan 2 glider after soaring it to 30,000 feet above the Sierra Nevada mountain range, while pilot Tim Gardner (right) prepares to secure the aicraft.
Jackie Payne |

A glider designed to soar into the stratosphere cracked 30,000 feet for the first time on a high-altitude flight over the Sierra on Saturday.

Pilots Jim Payne and Miguel Iturmendi guided the Airbus Perlan II from Minden-Tahoe Airport and reached 30,615 feet, according to the company.

Designed to take advantage of mountain waves, the aircraft is expected to eventually climb to the very edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Testing will continue in Minden during the next four weeks before the glider returns to Argentina next month for its second year of operations in Patagonia.

“This past year our team gained invaluable insight and experience from flying the glider in and around the Andes Mountains,” said Ed Warnock, CEO of The Perlan Project. “Using that information, we’ve made improvements to the aircraft that will help us have even greater success this year, first in Nevada and later in Argentina, if the wave and weather conditions are optimal.”

The project was conceived by adventurer Steve Fossett and Einar Enevolson to study conditions in the upper atmosphere.

In order to survive stratospheric conditions, the Perlan II has a sealed cabin. Fossett and Enevoldson broke an altitude record of 50,722 feet on Aug. 30, 2006, in the Perlan I.

The glider returned to Minden from Argentina last fall.