Here’s a bit of levity (pun intended) during our pandemic lockdown . . .
Well before social media, Dave had a very active forum on his Meniketti website. Those fun posts are long gone, but that forum crossed my mind recently when someone asked me about flying Zero-G. I had posted about it there back in 2008; thankfully, I’d saved the text, so I figured I’d re-post the experience on my blog. Thanks to the person who recently asked me about it.
Zero G ~ February 16, 2008
I was surprised that Dave had no interest in doing this. He’s always desired to see the curvature of the Earth, but he didn’t feel drawn to experiencing zero gravity. Of course, once he heard me gush on about my experience, his interest piqued, but he’d already missed out!
In a word, Zero-G was awesome! It’s just about the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced. Ranks right up there with Dave introducing me to Jon Bon Jovi (and saying, “Jill, you can let go of his hand now.”). 😆 But seriously, Zero-G was incredible.
Leading up to that Saturday afternoon flight, people kept telling me I was crazy, or brave, but I never felt there was anything to fear . . . except puking. 🤢 (I get motion sickness on winding roads so that was a major concern to me.) Now, the thought of jumping out of a plane scares me; I’d love to experience the sensation of free-falling, but I’d have to wear like 10 parachutes . . . just in case. This felt much safer, more comfortable to me to be in an enclosed space. Oh, and before I go any further, I’m pleased to say I didn’t puke!
After our morning of pre-flight training, the airplane (a specially fitted 727-200) departed from Moffett Field. Our playground for the day was about a block of FAA-designated airspace over the Pacific Ocean, where the plane would fly maneuvers between altitudes of 24,000-32,000 feet. Ours was an historic flight as we were the first flight since Zero-G had secured a deal with NASA Ames to fly out of Moffett.
A bit of trivia: See the big hangar in the background of these first two photos? My dad designed the lighting in that hangar. Ever since I was a little kid, we’ve referred to that as “Dad’s hangar.”
Extra tidbit: Also in this photo is American cartoonist Matt Groening (The Simpsons) in the front row. Yep, he was on our Zero-G flight.
We had excellent weather for flying—sunny with a beautiful blue, cloudless sky. Perfect!
The entire flight was roughly 90 minutes:
- 30 minutes flight out over the Pacific Ocean
- 30 minutes of parabolic maneuvers (15 parabolas in total)
- 30 minutes of return flight to the airfield
Once in our FAA-designated airspace, the plane eased us in:
- First with one Martian g (1/3 your weight),
- followed by two Lunar gs (1/6 your weight),
- and, finally, the reason we were all there—zero gravity.
The pilot performed 12 parabolas at zero g. (Actually, they called out the last zero g and then tossed in another parabola so we ended up with 13 zero gs. I’m guessing that was because nobody on our flight hurled).
Each time they pulled out of zero g they’d call it out and we’d all resume lying flat on our backs on the padded floor of the plane waiting for the countdown to the next one. The pull-out portion of each parabola is a strange sensation as it generates about 1.8 gs, which makes everything feel heavy; lifting an arm or a leg was such a trip even with only that little g-force! Then they’d count down to zero g as the nose of the plane reached the curve of the parabola. Once over the top of the parabola we could feel ourselves being gently lifted off the floor as zero gravity took over. Incredible!
Every transition was very smooth. In fact, I never had any inclination of which direction we were during any of the parabolic maneuvers (which was a good thing). I never felt any discomfort—only a little queasiness on the very last parabola when I pushed too much of a somersault; thankfully the feeling didn’t stick! I know I had a smile on my face the entire time.
Everyone has dreams of flying, right? Well, this was like everything I’d ever imagined and more.
In these photos all of our nametags are upside down—that’s the deal for virgin zeronauts. After completing our zero gravity flight, the Zero-G team graduated us with a ritual where they turned our nametags right-side up. If you zoom in you’ll see that in the last photo (me with the Zero-G CEO) my nametag is properly affixed to my flight suit. Next time I fly Zero-G I get to wear my nametag right-side up from the start. Notice I said, “next time.”😉
The Zero-G company was fantastic—very professional, fun, and they thought of pretty much everything to ensure each person had an exceptional time (I’m not just saying that because of the family connection; my sentiments are sincere). The CEO even flew with us. Now that’s customer service!
Each zero g lasted about 30 seconds. So, in my lifetime I’ve flown about 8 total minutes of weightlessness!