Airbus Group (Toulouse, France) reported on May 9 that the company's CEO, Tom Enders, on May 7 joined the Airbus Perlan Mission II team in the role of co-pilot on the latest test flight of the Perlan 2 glider, the world’s first engineless aircraft designed to reach the edge of space. The flight was led by the project’s chief pilot Jim Payne at Minden-Tahoe Municipal Airport (Tahoe, NV, US).
The Perlan 2 is a composites-intensive pressurized sailplane designed to ride air currents that, in certain mountainous regions near the north and south poles, can reach into the stratosphere. In September 2015, the Perlan 2 successfully achieved its first flight in Redmond, OR, US.
An experienced helicopter pilot and an aviation enthusiast, Enders also took the controls of the glider to experience the unique handling qualities of an aircraft optimized to fly in air almost as thin as the atmosphere on Mars.
“Experiencing the Perlan 2 glider in flight was truly remarkable,” says Enders. “Airbus Perlan Mission II is all about pushing the boundaries of innovation, refining our understanding of our environment and climate change, and inspiring a new generation of aerospace pioneers. We’re honored to see this dedicated team of volunteers carry our name on a journey that will eventually take them to the edge of space.”
The Airbus Perlan Mission II team will relocate its operations to the Patagonia area of Argentina this summer, where conditions will allow the team to begin higher-altitude flights that will ultimately take them as high as 90,000 ft/27.432m, yielding new discoveries in climate change and space exploration. Despite having no engine, the glider’s true flight speed at that altitude will be more than 400 mph/644 kmh, in air that has less than 2% the density of what it is at sea level. The crew will breathe pure oxygen provided by a rebreather system, similar to what astronauts use in space.
Track the progress of the Airbus Perlan Mission II flight test program via Twitter @PerlanProject.