MOJAVE – The Mojave Transportation Museum hosted its monthly Plane Crazy Saturday last weekend at Mojave Air and Space Port to another packed house.
The day’s special guest speaker was none other than Jim (and wife Jackie) Payne. Jim is the Chief Pilot for the Perlan II mission. The Perlan II sailplane’s mission to reach 90,000 feet at the edge of space in the stratosphere. Previous researchers have found that in winter close to the poles there exists “waves” of wind currents that extend into the troposphere and upward into the stratosphere. These “waves” can be ridden by sailplanes up to the edge of space to do scientific research into our ozone layer and a whole host of climate-related science at that altitude.
The original Perlan I was sailed to fame and a new record by Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldson in Argentina, where it reached 50,761 feet on Aug. 30, 2006. Fossett died in a plane crash the following year and the project idled without funding. In the enduing years, several people have stepped up to fund the project including a donation from Dennis Tito, the multi-millionaire space enthusiast who is known as the first space tourist funding his own trip into space back in 2001. A 2013 crowdfunding effort was also undertaken, which raised $2.8 million for the Perlan II project. Then in August of 2014 Airbus became a partner in the project.
Payne set a new altitude record in the Perlan II Sept. 3, 2017, reaching 52,172.
The new Airbus Perlan II is a pressurized sailplane designed for flight up to 90,000 feet (FL900). Payne and the Perlan II team spent July to September of last year in El Calafate, Argentina, for high-altitude flights using that “Polar Vortex” and flying the waves at altitude and grabbing that new record of 52,172 feet. They will seek to reach 90,000 this later this year.