SSA 2012—The Perlan Project: An Interview with Greg Cole


The Perlan Project has one bold and ambitious mission: to soar higher than any fixed wing manned aircraft has flown—all the way to 90,000 feet. The flight will use atmospheric waves extending up through and beyond the stratosphere. Such waves are produced when a high altitude jet stream that circles the polar regions (the Polar Vortex) interacts with mountain ridge systems.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the Argentine Andes extend to near the southern tip of South America and are aligned north-south. During the Southern Hemisphere winter, the high altitude winds of the southern polar vortex blow almost perpendicular to the southern Andes, which makes Argentina the ideal location for the Perlan Project.

A sailplane designed to fly at such extraordinary altitudes will encounter conditions quite unlike those at lower altitudes; therefore, a completely new aircraft design is required that takes into account the extremely low pressure and the resulting aerodynamics and human factors.

Greg Cole, founder and chief designer of Windward Performance, is a key member of the Perlan team. Windward has designed and is building the Perlan aircraft under Greg's direction. Your Café staff caught up with Greg in the exhibit hall at the SSA convention in Reno and asked him to tell us about the project as a whole and the design and construction of the aircraft.

Rand Baldwin

Rand is a Soaring Cafe Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief.Fascinated by soaring since early childhood, Rand learned to fly sailplanes while in graduate school (at Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics), and earned his private glider rating at Yankee Soaring in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He joined the M.I.T. Soaring Association in 1974, where he completed his Silver Badge and became a flight instructor. After moving to Huntsville in 1977, Rand flew and instructed on weekends at Eagleville Sailplanes south of Nashville, Tennessee. In 1985, he and a handful of other soaring enthusiasts organized the Huntsville Soaring Club at Moontown Airport. Rand chaired the 1996 SSA National Convention and has served as an SSA Director-at-Large, SSA Governor and State Record Keeper for Alabama. He has set two U.S. national soaring records and many AL and TN state records.

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  3 comments for “SSA 2012—The Perlan Project: An Interview with Greg Cole

    March 23, 2012 at 10:21 am


  2. S.Chase
    March 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Hello Greg…just a comment; where are the posters and t-shirts that you mentioned in your online interview?

  3. March 29, 2012 at 9:50 am

    For more information about Perlan Project T-Shirts, posters, etc., I recommend that you contact their staff at .

    Thanks for your comment!

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