Zero-G plans international expansion
BROOMFIELD, Colo. — Zero Gravity Corporation, which provides reduced gravity aircraft flights for tourists and researchers, plans to expand its services outside the United States in the next year.
At a press conference during the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference here March 3, Matt Gohd, who became chief executive of the company about three months ago, said global interest in the company’s flights prompted him to examine the possibility of doing flights in other countries.
“One thing that stuck out for me was the amount of people from all over the world who would fly into the various places where a plane would go up for either passenger flights or research experiments,” he said, with customers coming to the U.S. from as far away as the Middle East and New Zealand, often just for the experience.
To tap into that demand, he said Zero-G is planning to conduct flights outside in other countries. He declined to identify what countries the company is considering to conduct such flights, but said more information about this “global initiative” will be released in the coming months.
“By this time next year, I would think we would be in another market, doing very high-level research that would not necessarily be accessible by people in those markets,” he said.
Zero-G currently operates one Boeing 727 aircraft certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to perform parabolic flights. On those flights, the plane flies a series of parabolas that creates microgravity or reduced gravity conditions for up to half a minute at a time.
That expansion will likely require the company to acquire additional aircraft. Gohd said the company looked at a wide range of options but decided the best choice would be to buy at least one additional Boeing 727, and possibly more to have access to parts since that airliner has long been out of production.
He did not discuss how the company would finance that expansion. “It will be a big undertaking for us,” he acknowledged.
Another issue may be regulatory. The company spent about a decade working with the FAA to get the plane certified for parabolic flights and identifying airspace where the flights could take place without interfering with other flights. Gohd, though, didn’t expect similar challenges in other countries, in part because he expected them to follow the lead of the FAA.
“We’re optimistic in the two to three [countries] we’re looking at right now that there is sufficient airspace to operate this in,” he said. “We don’t anticipate the ten years of initial development to get this done.”
Options for flights outside the United Stated like those run by Zero-G are limited. French company Novespace runs a service called Air Zero G, which offers similar parabolic flights for research and tourism on an Airbus A310. Those flights are offered fairly infrequently, with the next scheduled flight in June, according to the company’s website. Similar flights are also available in Russia.
While Zero-G is best known for flying tourists, it also supports reduced gravity research, including through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. The company is looking to expand those services, said Michelle Peters, director of research and education at Zero-G, in another conference session March 3, with two agreements recently signed to allow NASA civil servants and payloads on future Zero-G aircraft flights.