Airbus Group chief executive Tom Enders took the controls of the two-seat Perlan II glider during a 10-minute test flight Friday rom the windswept, high-desert airport in Minden, Nev., raising the public profile of a volunteer team of aviation adventurers hoping to make history in about four months.
Afterwards, Enders – a licensed helicopter pilot and skydiving enthusiast – pronounced the Airbus-sponsored composite vehicle ready to achieve the Perlan team’s goal of shattering the winged altitude record of 85,069 feet set by the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird in 1976, using a unique and barely understood weather phenomenon instead of afterburning engines to lift two pilots as high as 90,000 feet over the southern tip of Argentina.
“I have every confidence that [chief pilot] Jim [Payne] will make the 90,000ft in Argentina, if not more,” Enders says.
For the complete story by Stephen Trimble of Flightglobal, click here.
Photo by Airbus