Instructor with The Austrian Parabelteam
Never in my life I thought I would be working as an instructor on parabolic flights...
After I got to know "Pauls Parabelfluege" (Austrian Parabelteam) through the internet and because of my experiences on the ESA flight had the occasion to participate as an instructor in his first commercial mission (view the report about APM 1 and 2), I had further occasions to fly as an instructor in his team.
I flew 9 Missions with the Austrian Parabelteam as an instructor. In the links at the end of the page under the headline "Mission reports" you find the reports of the respective events.
Altogether I flew 305 parabolas on 15 missions (including the two flights during the ESA Student Campaign, one flight with European Space Tourist and the MIRIAM-2 campaign) and I still like it! This is more than one hour of weightlessness!
Since 2005, after 3 years of successfully conducting parabolic flights without any technical problem or injuries, the Austrian Parabelteam cannot perform parabolic flights in this way in Europe any more due to certain airworthyness regulations. This is due to - despite fulfilling all the former regulations - the german aerospace authorities since 2005 demand the reconstruction of the engines for airplanes intended to use for parabolic flights, which exceed by far the financial budget of the small company " The Austrian Parabelteam". We just don't have a Peter Diamandis like e.g. the Zero-G Corporation in the US as a sponsor on hand for financing this...
The crazy thing in this story is that during test flights with this airplane during airworthyness certification parabolas are flown with these aircraft and no damage is allowed to occur to the aircraft. Additionally on no mission flown by the Austrian Parabelteam - whereas approx. 90 min of weightlessness were experienced altogether - no damage occured to the used aircraft.
By the way, the German Space Department - the DLR - qualifies its flight hardware for their rocket flights on their own, just by flying it and justifying if it is good or bad for use ( also for financial reasons, because such an aerospace or space certification is expensive as I know from my job). Principally, it would be that easy: For a small company like "The Austrian Parabelteam" such a regulation could be used by the authorities, especially because the airplanes to be built do have to fulfill certain parameters (an airplane must have acceleration tolerances usually in the range of -2g to +4g) and also because of 3 years of experience with different types of aircraft it is almost sure that the flights are safe. THIS would be a relief for a start of this business...
Unfortunately, what I postulated above is da dream, and that's why Paul Bierl has another idea to avoid the engine reconstruction:
The Zero-G glider
This is a transport glider - by the way this would be the first civil-use transport glider in the world - with which parabolic flights would be performed. The glider would, like every other glider, be towed to the appropriate altitude of 3000 m by a sufficient tow plane. There the pilot would release the tow line and - after the tow plane cleared the dedicated airspace - fly the 10 - 20 parabolas.
Contrary to the opinion of many laymen, flying parabolas with a glider is no problem. In contrary, every glider pilot doing winch launches is used to this, since a launch interruption first thing requires flying a parabola (you don't need to worry, the pilots are trained for this;-). Who ever has watched a winch launch of a glider will know why... (just think of flying a kite)
Here I don't want to discuss this further to avoid confusion.
This is a sketch of the Zero-G glider:
With the Zero-G Glider parabolic flights with approx. 10 seconds of weightlessness could be performed by The Austrian Parabelteam as before. The flights would as before be open to the public, event marketing, science institutions etc. The only difference would be to board a glider and therefore no motor noise would be experienced during the flight - which in my opinion would add even more space reality to the "zero-g experience" and thus make it the more exciting!
Everywhere where this project was presented, The Austrian Parabelteam experienced great interest in the provision of such a glider, including the European Space Agency ESA and Prof. Ernst Messerschmid, one of the german astronauts from the D1-Mission in 1985.
For the Zero-G glider to be built, the only thing missing is the sponsoring and a glider manufacturer willing to develop and build it - and not to forget, after that the airworthiness certification. Then the fun could begin...
These are the planned data for the Zero-G glider:
Zero G Glider 07 “triple zero”
- Cabin: 1,80 m height - 1,80 m width – 4,00 m length
- Lenght: 13,0 m
- Height: 3,80 m
- Wingspan: 21,00, m
- Wing area: 63,00 qm
- Wing load: 68,00 kg/qm
- Glide index: 28
- Max. speed: 190 kt / 350 km/h
- Empty weight: 2.400 kg
- MTOW: 4.300 kg
- Max. forces: +9 g / -6 g
- Crew: 2 pilots, up to 3 instructors / camera operators, 4 passengers
- Towing: e.g. Pilatus PC6, AT-802
For further information see Pauls Parabelflüge.