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Why Argentina Was Chosen For Record-Breaking Perlan II Attempts


Airbus Group's Perlan II glider is attempting to break the world record of wing-borne altitude this summer in Argentina, aiming to reach 90,000 ft. height. Though many past world altitude record attempts took place in New Zealand, this year the Perlan II team decided attempt its flight in El Calafate, Argentina.

So why did the team choose Argentina?

The glider needs very specific geographical and meteorological conditions to reach a record altitude. First, because the glider will ride into the stratosphere on mountain waves, the location needs a long set of mountains such as the Andes or the Sierra.

The Perlan II also need a stable lower level atmosphere to get a bounce at a minimum of 20 knots, optimal 40 knots of wind. To fly a glider to 90,000 ft. is only possible with the aid of a polar vortex at high altitude providing upward moving airflow. The chosen site in Argentina is not near the highest part of the Andes, but is closer to the polar vortex  —  5.5 degrees farther south than test areas in New Zealand.

Sweden’s mountain regions would also qualify as ideal glider territory, but the reason the team picked a southern location over a northern location is because the northern places that meet the requirements are too dark, too cold and have bad weather. These areas also have a lot of landmasses that can change weather, which is detrimental to finding the right time to fly.

CEO of Airbus Group Tom Enders checking the Perlan II before his test flight in the glider.

Argentina meets all the above requirements and also has the added benefit of having a large mass of water, offering favorable weather conditions. There is only about three days per season, June to October, that have proper atmospheric conditions for the Perlan II to attempt to break the record. The team is hoping that these optimal times occur during the day, that the weather does not fluctuate and that the plane is working properly in the short time frames.


Below is a video of the Perlan II glider take-off during Tom Ender's test flight this month.

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