A plane with no engine has managed to soar higher than any commercial flight, and is well on track to beating any plane ever.
Airbus’ Perlan Mission II set a new world record for altitude reached by a glider – its third in just a week.
The all-volunteer team manning and maintaining Perlan II hit 63,100 feet on August 26, 65,500 two days later, and 76,124 feet on Sunday.
Perlan II, an engine-less aircraft, was designed to reach 90,000 feet, higher than any manned aircraft has ever flown. For context, a commercial aeroplane flies at about 45,000 feet.
The glider was built to gather information on high altitude air currents – the force that allows Perlan to reach such soaring heights – in the hopes it can help commercial pilots navigate invisible areas of turbulence, NBC reported.
The aircraft is carried to great heights on rare air currents, formed by mountain winds combining with the polar vortex, a statement from Airbus revealed.
It weighs just 1,500 pounds, and two people have been on each flight.
Jim Payne, who flew on every flight in the record-breaking week, told NBC it was surreal to be so high in the sky.
‘The biggest impression is, it’s a long ways down from up here,’ he said.
‘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.’
Perlan II will continue flying until mid-September when the air currents boosting the aircraft higher and higher are expected to stop.
In that time, the team are hoping to see the glider reach 90,000 feet, allowing it to take the altitude record for a manned airplane.
The record is currently held by the SR-71 Blackbird, a US war plane which travels at more than three times the speed of sound and has previously hit 85,069 feet.