Episode 51- Sailplane radness, the Perlan Project, Imagining the Possibilities

The Perlan project hopes to get to 90,000 feet

Imagine an engineless airplane reaching the edge of space. Crazy? Impossible? In this episode of the Cloudbase Mayhem Kevin Brooker, a passionate sailplane pilot takes us through the long history of sailplanes to the stuff that is at the far edge of what the imagination can even grasp. Just recently the altitude record was broken (52,000 feet!)- without an engine flying in wave in the Andes. But that’s just the beginning. The Perlan Project is shooting for 90,000 feet- their mission is to “explore the science of giant mountain waves that help create the ozone hole and change global climate models. This will require the engineering of a spacecraft with glider wings that can fly in less than 3% of normal air density and at temperatures of minus 70 degrees C, conditions approximating the surface of Mars.” How can paragliders and hang gliders use what the sailplane community is doing to improve our distance? How do they forecast wave, and is it possible for us to tap into this potential? This conversation was one of the most fascinating I’ve had on the show. I promise, this stuff will blow your mind.

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Show Notes:

  • Kevin gives us an abbreviated history of sailplanes. The smile of the interviewer begins:)
  • How wave was discovered and how it’s being utilized
  • What is Wave?
  • The science of lift and speed.
  • How to enter Wave with a sailplane and where and how it can kick your ass.
  • Flying 3,000km in a single day
  • The math of the Perlan Project
  • Dealing with high altitude decompression sickness in sailplanes/high altitude flight (the Bends).
  • Risk in Sailplanes vs paragliding / hang gliding
  • Hypoxia, Hydration and doubt
  • The advent of motor gliders

Mentioned in this episode: Honza Rejmanek, Alas Del Hombre, Miguel Gutierrez, Matt Wilkes, Perlan Project, Dick Butler, Steve Fawcett, Bob Harris,


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