A project to build the world’s highest-flying glider was unveiled at EAA AirVenture on Monday, July 28 by Airbus and the Perlan Project research organization.
The sailplane will surf enormous mountain air waves to fly at more than 90,000 ft, with a mission to break all wing-borne altitude records for sustained flight by manned aircraft. It will also gather data on the atmosphere and the ozone layer. The flights are planned to take place next year, or in 2016.
An artist's impression of the Airbus Perlan II sailplane.
The venture was launched at Oshkosh by Jean Botti, Airbus Group’s chief technical officer, and Einar Enevoldson, Perlan’s founder and a former NASA test pilot. Enevoldson, along with adventurer Steve Fossett, smashed the existing altitude record for gliders in 2006 by soaring stratospheric waves up to 50,671 ft in a standard glider.
“After a thorough evaluation of the engineering and scientific planning behind the Perlan Project, Airbus Group is convinced that this important mission will be a success,” said Botti. “We believe it is critically important for us to advance climate sciences and aerodynamic research. With the Airbus Perlan II mission we particularly see an opportunity to gain experience and data related to very high altitude flight—an area of interest for future aerospace applications.”
Said Enevoldson: “We never dreamed we would be so fortunate as to secure a partner of the caliber of Airbus Group. Thanks to their technological and financial support, we are well on our way to the edge of space. Now it’s just a matter of completing the world’s most innovative glider and catching the right wave.”
Perlan Project is a not-for-profit aeronautical exploration and atmospheric science research organization that utilizes sailplanes to fly at extremely high altitudes. Enevoldson founded it after collecting evidence on stratospheric mountain waves, a weather phenomenon that no-one at the time knew existed. They can reach up to 130,000 ft.