(November 7, 2020) Perlan Project Glider Soars into History with Jim Payne

November 7, 2020 @ 10:00 am 1:30 pm PST

(November 7, 2020) Perlan Project Glider Soars into History with Jim Payne

Nov 7, 2020 from 10:00 AM to 1:10 PM (PT)

RSVP and Information: https://conta.cc/32Eu10o


Volunteers are needed for all AIAA activities, please contact cgsonwane@gmail.com


AIAA LA-LV e-Town Hall Meeting 11/7Perlan Project Glider Soars into History


Jim Payne


The Perlan ProjectTest Pilot / Instructor,

United States Air Force Academy – Retired

Consultant with NASA

Manager, Northrop’s Global Hawk Program

Test Pilot, Northrop’s Firebird Program

Test Pilot of the Year – Kincheloe Award, SETP.

2019 Guinness Book of Records Aviation Page

Inspiration and Patriotism Award, Living Legends of Aviation (2018)


Saturday,November 7, 202010 AM

An AIAA LA-LV Zoom Webinar

Zoom connection information will be provided in the confirmation email after registration / RSVP. Thank you very much !


RSVP and Information: https://conta.cc/32Eu10o


Jim Payne started soaring at the Air Force Academy in 1971. At the Academy he made his first wave flight and was immediately hooked. His paper for his senior technical writing course was “A Report on High Altitude Sailplane Flight.” He graduated Outstanding Cadet in Soaring in 1974. He flew the F-4, F-5, F-16, F-16XL among other aircraft for the Air Force. Jim was the first pilot selected to pioneer the Air Force Institute of Technology master’s with a follow-on assignment to AF Test Pilot School. He turned down a full ride to Stanford since it was not coupled with TPS. In 1983 Jim earned his Gold and Diamond Altitude legs in a SGS 1-26 in the Tehachapi wave. When he was assigned to the staff at the US Air Force Test Pilot School he was part of the Soar Eagle Project. The team equipped a Grob 103 with a pressure suit system. Soaring in this sailplane Jim earned a Triple Lennie Pin for a flight to 42,200 feet. With the advent of GPS flight recorders, Jim pioneered wave speed records.


Jim taught Flight Test at the United States Air Force Academy. When he could not find a good text book to use, he wrote his own. He instilled a love of flying and leadership into the next generation of AF commanders. Jim coached the USAFA cross country soaring team through several camps and contests. Jim managed the US International Soaring team for 5 World Championships. He was the Open Class Pilot in the South African World Championships in 2001.


After Jim retired from the AF he consulted for NASA and then managed Northrop’s Global Hawk multi-million dollar program for 10 years. He moved to Northrop’s Firebird program and flew first flight before retiring (again). He now works full time volunteering as Chief Pilot for Perlan Project where he developed and led the test program.


Awards/RecordsFor many years he held the fastest world record at 247 km/hr (154 mph), a record that was listed in the 2006 Guinness. In recent years Jim has used the wave to win numerous OLC Championships: World Champion in the OLC Classic 6 times and World Champion in OLC Speed 8 times. Jim was awarded the 2001 Lilienthal Medal winner (highest award given by the FAI for gliding) and is a member of the Soaring Hall of Fame. He has set 17 World Soaring Records and over 95 National Records. Jim and his brother Tom were National Open Place Soaring champions. Jim won the Baron Hilton Cup and the Return to Kitty Hawk race across America in 2003. Jim was awarded the Soaring Society of America’s highest honor, the Eaton Trophy, in 2003. One of his records has been chosen as a Most Memorable Record an unprecedented nine different years by the National Aeronautical Association. He flew the challenging Perlan 2 from first flight in 2015 through the world record-setting high altitude flights in Argentina in 2018. In the Air Force Jim was Top Gun of his Aggressor class and a Distinguished Graduate of his 1982 USAF Test Pilot School class. In 2018 Jim was selected Distinguished Alumnus of TPS. The Society of Experimental Test Pilots selected Jim for the Test Pilot of the Year – Kincheloe Award. In 2019 the Guinness Book of Records selected Perlan’s 2017 World Record for their aviation page. Jim received the “Inspiration and Patriotism Award” from Living Legends of Aviation for 2018.


Jim’s fastest soaring flight was a 300 kilometer Out and Return speed of 305 kpm (189 mph) along the Sierra Nevada mountains. His furthest flight was 2,907 km (1,806 miles) from Minden, NV. His highest flight is in the Perlan 2 at 76,124 feet pressure altitude from El Calafate, Argentina. His longest flight was 15.6 hours in the Patagonia wave.


SURFING IN THE SKYGlider pilots have surfed on mountain waves since 1932. The process is like surfing on a wave in the ocean, except the glider is in the wave rather than on the surface of the wave. Einar Enevoldson, a NASA Test Pilot, saw evidence that in regions closer to the Poles, in winter, the waves could extend above the troposphere and well into the stratosphere.


Previously, no one had searched for waves in the stratosphere in sub-polar regions in winter. From 1992 until 1998 he gathered more evidence that these waves existed, and might be strong enough to lift a sailplane to remarkable altitudes. In 1998 Dr. Elizabeth Austin joined Einar in the search for an understanding of stratospheric mountain waves. She found that the Polar Vortex, and one of its principal components, the stratospheric polar night jet, existing only in winter, provided the high speed wind in the stratosphere that powered incredibly high waves. The Perlan Project was formed to explore these waves and soar them to the edge of space.


Tentative Agenda

10:05 am Dr. Chandrashekhar Sonwane (Welcome, AIAA LA-LV Section Chair)

10:10 am Jim Payne

11:40 am (TBD)

1:10 pm Adjourn


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November 7, 2020
10:00 am – 1:30 pm PST
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AIAA Los Angeles-Las Vegas Section