It all starts with the winter weather in Antarctica. Glider pilots around the world regularly climb to altitudes above 20,000, or even 30,000 feet, flying in the strong lift found in mountain wave conditions. But for Perlan 2 to reach 90,000 feet, the pilots will need to jump into an express elevator in the Andes, romantically named the Stratospheric Polar Night Jet.
Making its debut at EAA AirVenture 2015 is a new aircraft that’s destined to shatter records. The Airbus Perlan Mission II will use a little-known meteorological phenomenon called the Stratospheric Polar Night Jet, to reach and fly at 90,000 feet – piloted, winged and sustained flight at over 27,400m. Perlan 2 will fly higher than the Lockheed U-2 or SR-71, but it is not an exotically-shaped or scramjet-powered superplane. It is a glider.
Brien Wygle could easily be included in a conversation about celebrated Canadian test pilots, such as de Havilland Canada’s Russ Bannock, Avro’s Mike Cooper-Slipper, and Canadair’s Al Lilly. But Wygle isn’t well known to Canadian aviation historians, thanks to a twist of fate that led him across the border to a long and distinguished career with Boeing.