Since I was a little kid, I dreamed of flying. But how? which aircraft? All aircraft are a bundle of compromises. Some designs fly well at low altitudes but are unable to sustain flight at high altitudes. Some are optimized for high altitude but fly poorly at low altitudes. Some are designed to carry heavy loads and some carry little more than a pilot. It was really a tough decision, but at the end I decided that I wanted something really special, something silent and majestic, capable of flying at really high altitudes and finnaly, two years ago I reached my dream, I became a glider pilot.
Why glider? Gliders are a simple and elegant way to fly like no other. They fly in harmony with the atmosphere rather than using engines to overcome gravity and weather. The glider harnesses the natural flow and poser of a complex atmosphere and gains height by finding “lift” or air rising faster than the natural sink rate of the glider. Gliders are highly technological, sophisticated in terms of aerodynamics most than any other aircraft, but they are at the same time quiet and graceful. Ever since our species has dreamed of flight we have imagined doing it like birds, just wings and our wits, dancing among the clouds.

When you reach the goal of becoming a pilot, you can consider yourself like free. from the pilot’s seat at elevated altitudes, flying with condors and eagles, you have a spectacular view. Which gives you a feeling of freedom never experienced before. This is what I want, feeling free in contact with the wild nature.

Soaring over Alps


In a glider at 25 thousand meters to study the hole in the ozone Taking advantage of the mountain waves and the polar vortexes to climb where traditional motorized planes can not reach.

Fly higher than any jet aircraft, no engine or fuel: it is the Perlan II project, with which an international group of scientists, entrepreneurs and aviation experts wants to reach the stratosphere, at over 25 thousand meters of altitude, where the air is so rarefied that it resembles more the space emptiness than the earth’s atmosphere. Here are the chemical reactions, still not entirely known, that are causing the hole in the ozone and global warming. At this altitude, however, the air has a density equal to 2% of what we breathe at sea level: the jet aircraft can not fly so high because their engines, however powerful, can not create enough push under the wings to keep them in flight.


How can a glider succeed that, when to fly is based only on winds and currents? The only way forward is to combine the knowledge of atmospheric science with the most advanced aerospace technologies. When it takes off, Perlan II must be as light as possible, like a spaceship, and strong enough to withstand extreme stratospheric conditions. The rarefied air and the abundantly subzero temperatures will be similar to those that could be encountered flying over Mars, so the aircraft must be equipped with a life support system.


To bring this spaceship without a motor up to over 25 thousand meters, scientists will rely first on a phenomenon called “stratospheric mountain waves”. These gigantic “waves of air” are formed, for example, when the winds of the Pacific Ocean hit the mountain range of the Andes and rise at speeds of over 10 meters per second (about 36 km per hour). «Surfing it», Perlan II can reach an altitude of about 18 thousand meters. Very high but not a record: you can also get there with fairly dated military aircraft, like the U-2, the SR-71, or scientific, like the ER-2 of NASA.


To cover the remaining 7,000 meters and rise higher than stratospheric clouds with typical iridescence of mother-of-pearl, Perlan II will exploit another fascinating atmospheric phenomenon: the polar vortexes. These are huge persistent cyclones (their diameter can reach 2,000 km) that are formed because of the particular jet-shaped jet currents that occur at the polar latitudes and at high altitudes during the winter months. Jet currents caused by the strong difference in temperature between the equatorial and polar air (which in winter is not reached by sunlight and therefore becomes increasingly cold). The equatorial hot air can not penetrate into the cold air wall and then starts to rotate around it, in an easterly direction. Within these vortices, particularly in the one above the South Pole, the ozone hole occurs.


Once reached the top of the mountain wave, Perlan II «will ride» the upward currents of the polar vortex and will reach the maximum altitude for glider with human crew, breaking the record of 15,461 meters, established in 2006 by the first Perlan project . Here it will fly in the total quiet of the stratosphere for a few hours, conducting experiments to help scientists understand the reasons that lead one of the three oxygen atoms that form the ozone to react with the clofluorocarbons (Cfc), remaining “attached” to the molecules of chlorine and fluorine for over 50 years.

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