Airbus’ Perlan II glider shattered its own altitude record Sunday, reaching 62,473 feet over the mountains of Patagonia in southern Argentina. The massive sailplane touched down at about 2:40 p.m. local time after a 5.5-hour flight riding the mountain waves that blow through the area of El Calafate Airport in the wildly beautiful area in the southwest corner of the country. “What a day!” the crew tweeted when the aircraft landed safely after the flight. The previous record of 52,221 feet was set on Sept. 3, 2017, in the same area. That record was made official only four days before the new mark was set.
The Perlan II is aiming to reach 90,000 feet as part of an effort to study stratospheric mountain waves formed by the winds blowing off the Pacific and running into the wall of mountains at the border of Argentina and Chile. The mountain waves help create the hole in the ozone and affect the climate all over the world. If it makes that goal, it will be flying in an air density just 2 percent of sea level and although the aircraft’s indicated airspeeds will be less than 100 knots, its true airspeeds will be about350 knots. The aircraft is pressurized to 14,500 feet and carries two people and scientific gear. It gets towed to more than 40,000 feet by a turboprop Grob Egrett, as seen in the video below.