Home SCIENCE How European Space Agency Zero-G Planes Work

How European Space Agency Zero-G Planes Work

The European Space Agency offered me a seat on their zero-g plane: it’s an Airbus A310 that flies parabolic maneuvers, pulling up into the sky and then arcing back down, giving its passengers about 20 seconds of weightlessness (or “microgravity”) at a time.

image/text credit: Tom Scott 

Here’s how it works.Some people would have filmed their script on the ground, and just messed about while floating. I decided to go for something a bit more challenging.Weightlessness is achieved by flying G-FORCE ONE through a parabolic flight maneuver.

Specially trained pilots fly these maneuvers between approximately 24,000 and 34,000 feet altitude. Each parabola takes 10 miles of airspace to perform and lasts approximately one minute from start to finish.


Zero gravity is a condition of weightlessness referring to the absence of a gravitational force (g-force or Gs) – a measurement of the acceleration due to gravity that causes weight. A body in a “zero gravity” or “microgravity” – a state of near weightlessnessenvironment is acted upon only by gravity, with no reactionary forces exerted by its surrounding matter, the person therefore enters a state of freefall where all objects in that given space are falling at the same rate.