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 11 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.
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.
That's why since this happened Paul Bierl has launched the following project:
The project SARA:Mercury
SARA stands for "Small Austrian Research Aircraft", what means nothing else than flying parabolas with a glider.
Contrary to the opinion of many ordinary people this 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).
But the SARA flights were executed with an aerobatic glider, type MDM-1 Fox. After a detailed briefing and a tow to ca. 1500 m above ground level the glider is released. The parabolas are flown significantly steeper than it is done with big aircraft, so during the pullout you will experience 6 - 7 g acceleration. But that's why a duration of weightlessness of about 10 - 12 seconds is reached. In comparison: When you fly a parabola with similar angles as in the A310 of Novespace (app. 45 - 50°) with a glider usually the duration of the weightlessness is 3 - 5 seconds, with a significantly lower g-load during pullup and pullout phases. The maneuver is usually repeated 10 times during a SARA mission.
Correspondingly, there are also smaller experiments possible on a SARA mission, but because of the tight space in a glider sadly no free floating.
For further information and booking see Blufly SARA:Mercury (german).