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News Link • Transportation: Air Travel

Experimental glider smashes record for high-altitude flight

•, by Tom Metcalfe

Riding the wind above the Andes Mountains, an experimental glider has set a world record for high-altitude flight.

On Sept. 2, the sleek Perlan 2 glider carried two pilots to 76,100 feet, or more than 14 miles, over the El Calafate region in southern Argentina. That's the highest altitude ever reached by humans aboard an unpowered fixed-wing aircraft, and one of the highest altitudes reached by an aircraft of any description. Only spy planes and specialized balloons have flown higher.

The tail camera of the Airbus Perlan glider captured this view from a world-record setting altitude.Airbus

"The biggest impression is, it's a long ways down from up here," one of the pilots, Jim Payne, said after the record-setting flight, which was one in a series of test flights sponsored by aerospace giant Airbus. "The horizon starts to have a curvature in it and the sky is getting darker as we climb. … It's a fantastic experience, once in a lifetime."

The record eclipses one set during a previous Perlan 2 flight over El Calafate on Aug. 28, which reached an altitude of 65,600 feet.

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