Stratospheric glider returning to Minden |

Stratospheric glider returning to Minden

Staff Reports
The Perlan II flies over Argentina on Sept. 17, 2016. The stratospheric glider is headed back to Minden after completing testing in the Andes.
James Darcy | Airbus

A glider designed to fly into the stratosphere is heading back to Minden after spending the season in Argentina conducting flight tests during the South American winter.

A spokesman said the Airbus Perlan Mission II reached an altitude of more than 26,000 feet during test flights and stayed airborne for more than five hours in a single flight.

“They think that this winter in the U.S., they have a shot at surpassing the 50,727-foot world gliding record set by the founder of The Perlan Project Einar Enevoldson in 2006,” Airbus Group’s James Darcy said. “Then, team plans to return to Argentina next June to continue their mission to reach altitudes of 90,000 feet.”

He said the team learned lessons during the flight testing that will help them pursue the flight into the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The glider was boxed up and left Minden in July for the boatride to Argentina. Prior to its departure, it spent six months at Minden-Tahoe Airport.

In order to survive stratospheric conditions, the Perlan II has a sealed cabin. Pilots Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldson broke an altitude record of 50,722 feet on Aug. 30, 2006. But they found controlling the aircraft in pressure suits was difficult.

Glider pilot and Perlan Project Manager Morgan Sandercock pointed out that the sealed cabin will allow pilots to avoid the bulky and heavy suits.

The aircraft also has a parachute mounted behind the cabin in case of emergency.