Glider Reaches 50,699 Feet

Steve Fossett strikes again:

The 62-year-old Chicago investment mogul said he and Norwegian co-pilot Einar Enevoldson, 74, rode powerful rising air currents above the remote Patagonia region on Tuesday, reaching a record 50,699 feet.

If Fossett isn’t careful, he’s going to end up like Alexander the Great, standing on the edge of the aviation world and weeping because there are no more lands (records) to conquer.

I’ve reached as high as 13,000 feet in a glider — ironically, before I even received my glider add-on rating.  In fact, as I recall, it was on my first solo flight in a glider.  Eventually I came down because I thought my instructor would be worried.  It’s hard to imagine being four times that high.  At those altitudes, your blood will boil unless you’re wearing a pressure suit.

I love the fact that these two guys are 62 and 74 years old.  They’re considered unfit to pilot an airliner by the FAA, owing simply to their age.  Yet they’re up there, literally in the stratosphere, at twice the altitude of the airliners flying by below.

Let’s consider how this compares to the daily routine of your average 74 year old geezer.  While Joe Average is sitting on his butt watching Matlock reruns, these two characters are contemplating the curvature of the earth and the blackness of space while they “collect meteorological data for a NASA and U.S. Navy study of the polar vortex”.

In a glider.

If I was wearing a hat, it’d be off to them.

I recall hearing a rumor of some Fossett-backed project that sought to reach 100,000 feet in a glider.  Perhaps he won’t end up like Alexander the Great just yet…

  5 comments for “Glider Reaches 50,699 Feet

  1. peter
    September 1, 2006 at 12:31 am

    thank god there are still people who strive to do more.

  2. Al Burningham
    September 2, 2006 at 10:07 am

    Got to love Grandpa’s, they simply keep us kids guessing and wanting to be more like them. Jesus blessed us with them, Grey hair is the Glory of age and wisdom, they’ve earned it along with our respect and admiration. I hope to aspire to such in my time. Al Burningham, Slidell, La.

  3. September 18, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    A glider at over 50000ft, now that put a smile on my dial. Never did get the opportunity for wave flights (I presume it was wave?!) myself. But can remember getting to 13000 like the author of this blog… in a standard Libelle, over Bond Springs airstrip (central Australia, great thermals…) Only got to 800 above ground on 1st solo though 🙂

    And yeah, grandpa’s rock sometimes…. Must save up for a pressure suit and get over to New Zealand to catch some wave, in my retirement…. 😉

  4. October 16, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Have you met Bill Cornick? 73 years young. Flies more hours in a month in several types of airplanes than almost anyone. Can outfly anyone half his age in a Pitts……’nuff said.

  5. Ron
    October 21, 2006 at 8:40 pm

    Sure, I know Bill Cornick. He’s not exactly your average 70-something. Although, I did have the pleasure of watching Bob Branch fly this weekend at the Borrego Acrofest. I believe he’s 84 and is pretty impressive in his S-1S.

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