With chief pilot Jim Payne and co-pilot Morgan Sandercock at the controls, the Perlan 2 glider took off from the Comandante Armando Tola International Airport in El Calafate, Argentina and surpassed the previous record of 50,727 ft (15,462 m) set by the unpressurized Perlan 1 in 2006.
Yesterday's record flight is the latest phase in the Perlan Project's mission of sending an engineless glider to the beginning of space – an altitude of 62 mi (100 km). To achieve this, the Perlan 2 has an ultralight construction of only 1,100 lb (500 kg) when empty and a wingspan of 84 ft (27 m), as well as a pressurized cabin, an oxygen breathing system, and an emergency recovery parachute.
In order to reach extreme altitudes, the aircraft rides on the updraft of the peculiar confluence of Andean winds and the southern polar vortex in the south of Patagonia that generate the world's highest "stratospheric mountain waves." According to Airbus, Argentina is one of the few places on Earth where the rising air currents can reach the stratosphere at a few times of the year.