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This Glider Is Set to Soar Higher Than Any Plane

The flight altitude record for a non-rocket aircraft belongs to the SR-71 Blackbird. In 1976, the military jet was the first to soar higher than 85,000 feet. Nearly 40 years later it looks like that record may finally be broken by an aircraft with significantly less engine power.

The makers behind Airbus' Perlan 2 believe their glider is capable of reaching altitudes of 90,000 feet using nothing but the force of rising currents. Wave lift is a phenomenon that occurs when high-strength winds pass over mountain ranges; the upward velocities can grow so high that they'd theoretically have the potential to send the Perlan 2 higher than any plane has ever flown.

The aircraft’s two pilots will be fed oxygen through a rebreather, a device that recycles breathing air and infuses it with pure oxygen. Reaching altitudes of that height will offer a unique opportunity to study the highest level of the stratosphere, and the glider will be equipped with scientific instruments to gather data and collect samples of the ozone layer. The air density at that altitude is also similar to the atmosphere on Mars, so the flight could give us an idea of how planes or helicopters would fare on the red planet.

After being towed by a plane to gain some initial altitude, the Perlan 2 successfully flew for the first time last week when it soared 5,000 feet over Oregon. The ambitious team behind the glider plans to have it flying 90,000 feet over the Andes in Argentina within the next year.

[h/t: WIRED

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Here Are the Best and Worst Days for Christmas Travel
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Flight delays are always a hassle, but the holidays add an extra layer of stress. No one wants to be stuck at the airport while their family is digging into Christmas dinner. And even if you fly long before the holiday itself, airports are always more hectic during the holiday season. Between the high volume of travelers and the whims of winter weather, getting off the ground doesn’t necessarily feel like a given when you leave for the airport.

But not all airports and days are equally prone to flight issues, according to U.S. Bureau of Transportation data from the last five years, as analyzed by the electric supply company Elite Fixtures, which previously analyzed the worst airports for Thanksgiving travel.

A green chart lists travel delays and flight cancellation statistics by date.
Elite Fixtures

On average, you’re less likely to be delayed if you’re traveling the week before Christmas or on the holiday itself, the data shows. December 25 has actually had the lowest percentage (18 percent) of delayed flights over the last five years, giving you a good excuse if you want to flee to the airport directly after your family’s holiday meal. Traveling December 18 and 19 is also a good idea, since only 26 percent of flights are typically delayed on those days.

A red chart details travel delay and cancellation statistics by date.
Elite Fixtures

Beware the 22nd and 23rd of December, though. On those days, an average of 32 percent and 34 percent of flights get delayed, respectively. The few days after Christmas are also likely to stick you with an annoying delay—33 and 34 percent of flights are delayed on the 26th and 27th.

A green-and-gray U.S. map highlights the 10 best airports for holiday travel with plane icons.
Elite Fixtures

Airlines don’t encounter flight difficulties in equal measure across all airports, though. If you’re flying through one of the airports above, congratulations! The likelihood of getting delayed is less than at the Houston or Oakland airports, both hubs with the highest rates of holiday flight delays in the U.S.

Unfortunately, no matter what day you fly and where you fly from, there's no way to really predict whether your flight will leave on time. You'll just have to hope that Santa brings you the seamless holiday travel experience you put on your Christmas list.

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Mapped: The 10 Airports Where You’re Most Likely to Get Stuck Over Thanksgiving
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Every year, some unlucky Americans end up stranded at U.S. airports trying to get home for Thanksgiving. But your risk of getting stuck at the airport for hours on end varies depending on where you’re flying. Using five years of data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Elite Fixtures collected statistics on the worst airports to travel through around the Thanksgiving holiday, a time when airports are traditionally at their busiest.

The results show that delays aren't necessarily tied to the airports where the weather tends to be worst or those that see the most passengers. What airline you are flying, whether you’re on a regional flight, and the route you’re traveling can all affect your likelihood of getting stuck, and so the percentage of short-haul flights or the number of, say, Delta flights out of a certain airport might affect its overall score negatively. Still, you might want to avoid airports like Chicago’s Midway or the Oakland airport. Good luck with Houston or Dallas, too.

Below, the 10 worst:

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