Press Releases

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Media Advisory: UND to conduct pressure suit testing for record-setting high-altitude flight

Media members welcome to attend event in Odegard Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 8

Who: Representatives of Helios Horizon, including pilot Miguel Iturmendi, UND faculty members including Robert Kraus, dean of UND Aerospace and Tom Zeidlik, director of Aerospace Physiology.

What: Partial-pressure suit testing using the UND Aerospace hypobaric altitude chamber.

When: Pre-work for the event will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The pilot and a UND staff member will enter the high-altitude chamber at about 10:20 a.m., and the event will conclude at 11:30. Media members will then have the opportunity to ask questions.

Where: Odegard Hall high-altitude chamber, Room 159.

Background:

Helios Horizon is attempting to set a new world record for a high-altitude flight using a battery-powered airplane. To that end, UND is assisting the company with testing its partial-pressure suit, which is needed for pilot safety when flying at extremely high altitudes. According to Flying Magazine, the current high-altitude record for a battery-operated airplane is about 16,000 feet and was set by pilot Miguel Iturmendi in June. Now, Iturmendi is intending to smash that record by flying at nearly 45,000 feet. The flight will be held in South America following a successful test of the partial-pressure suit.

Representatives of Helios Horizon, including Iturmendi, will be at UND for the pressure suit testing on Wednesday, Nov. 8. UND’s high-altitude chamber will provide the means for that testing by creating the atmospheric pressure conditions the pilot will experience at 45,000 feet.

Iturmendi is a member of the Helios Horizon flight team and is also a pilot for the Perlan Project, which seeks to explore the stratosphere by operating a glider propelled by stratospheric waves. According to the Perlan Project, these waves play a role in scattering pollutants around the globe that impact the ozone layer. Data gathered from the flights will allow scientists to better understand the nature of climate change.

The Perlan Project also operates with the goal of flying its Airbus-manufactured glider at 90,000 feet. In 2018, the glider (the Perlan 2) reached the height of 76,000 feet, reaching the highest altitude ever reached by a glider.

Media contact: Courtney Olson, courtney.e.olson@und.edu, 701.777.4989.

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