An experimental glider plane that was designed and constructed in Central Oregon made its first test flight Wednesday at the Redmond Airport.
The Perlan II glider has no engine, but its designers hope it will someday fly to 90,000 feet. That’s essentially the edge of space.
The glider enters airspace by being towed behind another plane. When it’s released, the glider flies by catching “stratospheric mountain waves” — air waves that extend into the stratosphere.
Wednesday morning was the aircraft’s first flight.
“It was definitely exciting,” said Mark Mahnke, who runs Redmond company RDD: Research, Design, Develop, which built the Perlan II.
“This particular type of aircraft has not flown before,” Mahnke said. “To see that hit the air for the first time and to perform so stable-y is a tribute to the design and the construction.”
During several more test flights in the next year, pilots will attempt to take the glider higher and higher.
The Perlan II has a wingspan of 87 feet. It follows the Perlan I, which was a regular glider retrofitted for higher altitudes. The Perlan I set an altitude record for flying at 50,972 feet. If the Perln II gets above 51,000 feet, it will set a new record.
Stephan Fymat, who sits on the board of directors on the Perlan Project, said the project chose Redmond carefully for the experimental glider.
“Redmond has a mini-industry here of experimental aircraft design and construction. That’s what drew us to this area,” Fymat said. “In terms of where is the talent, where is the expertise, Redmond is one of those places.”
The project is funded by Airbus Group, a European aviation company that specializes in aviation innovation.
Fymat would not share details on exactly how much the Perlan II cost.
“Millions,” he said.