Miguel Iturmendi Hits New Heights

Dean Sigler Announcements, Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

The Perlan Project has special words for one of their pilots.  “It’s a big day for electric aviation and soaring. This morning after months of preparation, Perlan Pilot Miguel Iturmendi made 2 world altitude record claims for electric aviation under 500kg — max. Altitude and highest altitude in level flight, 16,000 feet in a motor glider! The new claim is 60% higher than the previous record. Congratulations Miguel!”

Miguel has been higher, including a trip to 65,000 feet in 2019.  As pilots for the Perlan Project, Miguel and Chief Pilot Jim Payne hit a record height that day, although not the ultimate height for Perlan.  It’s not Miguel’s first, and probably won’t be his last record.

He’s already gone to 20,000 feet in the modified Pipistrel Taurus he’s using for atmospheric research, but the altitude was not observed and verified by a certified observer for the National Aeronautical Association.

Miguel Iturmendi and the Helios team. Kris Maynard is on right end

The actual record was observed and certified by the NAA’s Kris Maynard, but is not the end or the goal for the Helios Horizon project.  According to their LinkedIn page, “Helios Horizon is a proof of concept of a Solar Electric air vehicle capable of flying above the Troposphere.”  This would give Iturmendi experience at all levels of the atmosphere, and perhaps answer questions about the tropopause, a discontinuity between the troposphere and stratosphere.

An Impressive Resume

Besides acting as Lead Experimental Test Pilot for Helios Horizon, he’s been Flight Test Engineer and Experimental Test Pilot for Perlan for over ten years.  He performed the first flight and envelope expansion of the first Electric-Hydrogen powered Airliner, a DeHavilland Dash 8, for Universal Hydrogen.  He’s been Lead Experimental or Engineering Test Pilot for Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, Airborne Engineering Dynamics, and Honda Aircraft.

High above Lake Tahoe. Unpressurized cockpit ensures records will be in middle altitudes

He has a Commerpial Pilots License, Airline Transport Pilot License and is also type certified in the following aircraft:  A-320, B-737, BE-400, CE-525S, CE-500-550, Do-328Jet, DHC-8, HA-420, LR-35, LR-45, MU-300, SA-2000, SF-340, UAS-107. LOA: SolarStratos, Solar Impulse 2.  He is a Certified Flight Instructor and a Training Center Evaluator, giving him a broad overview of and high levels of responsibility in aviation.

His record-setting achievement in Perlan makes him well qualified to explore the thin veil of air that surrounds our planet.  One has a feeling that his findings will benefit not only aviation, but our environment and all of us.

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