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Zero-G floats through recession

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The bride walked on air and the groom flipped — literally. Such was the scene at the world’s first-ever weightless wedding. Noah Fulmor and Erin Finnegan, a New York City couple who share a fascination with space travel, chartered a flight with Vienna-based Zero Gravity Corp. (Zero-G) in mid-June. In front of a small group of family and friends, they said their “I dos” and achieved a mile-high milestone.

The event is only the latest coup for Zero-G, the only aircraft operator currently approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to offer weightless flight to the general public. Its weightless flights take place on-board a modified Boeing 727 dubbed G-Force One. Weightlessness is achieved through what’s known as parabolic flight — a series of high-speed, extreme-trajectory climbs and descents. As the plane arcs at the top and begins descending, passengers experience micro — or zero-gravity, an event that lasts 25 to 30 seconds per parabola.

Even in a tough economy, business is booming, says Alex Heiche, executive vice president of Zero-G. He believes the appeal for the company’s service is universal. “Everybody is fascinated by space, everybody is fascinated by weightlessness,” he says. “Who hasn’t dreamed of floating or flying? With this, you can just stand there and, all of a sudden, just barely touch off the ground and you’re Superman. It’s surreal.”

Since 2004, Zero-G has taken more than 5,000 customers on more than 200 flights. The company won’t release revenue or growth numbers, but Heiche says that scheduled flights, which carry a maximum of 36 passengers and cost $4,950 per seat, are filling up much faster now than in the company’s early years.

And it’s not just adrenalin junkies who are zipping up their flight suits. Teachers and students have gone up to conduct zero-gravity experiments. G Force One also was used in the filming of the movies “The Matrix Revolutions” and “The Matrix Reloaded.” In addition, the company plans to offer themed entertainment excursions, such as the opportunity to fly with a celebrity (Martha Stewart has been up, as has Stephen Hawking). Zero-G has a contract with NASA’s Reduced Gravity Office to provide parabolic flights for research, training and other needs, and it also provides services to other research organizations, such as MIT.

Another growth area, not surprisingly, is romance. Since Noah and Erin got hitched, Zero-G officials have heard from about 10 couples interested in holding their own weightless wedding. It seems love is in the air.


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