Airport considers offering zero gravity flight; tickets around $5K each

Author: , WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published: Mar 15 2012 03:00:27 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 15 2012 05:26:10 PM EDT
HANOVER TWP., Pa. -

Would you pay $5,000 to experience weightlessness inside a jet diving over the Lehigh Valley?

The idea of giving local residents a chance to feel like astronauts without going into outer space was bounced around during Thursday morning's meeting of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority's economic development committee

But bringing Zero Gravity Corporation's modified Boeing 727, G-Force One, to Lehigh Valley International Airport for a day is far from a done deal.

While recognizing zero gravity flights would bring publicity to LVIA, committee members are skeptical because of the cost. They want to make sure the airport at least breaks even.

"This is pretty iffy," said committee chairman Frank Kovacs.

While watching a short video of people flying around inside the plane's well-padded interior, one committee member commented: "I'd need a Zero-G barf bag…But I could finally do push-ups."

Participants are weightless for about seven minutes during each Zero G flight, which lasts no more than two hours. They are weightless for only 20 to 30 seconds at a time, but that is repeated up to 15 times as the plane continues to make "parabolic arcs," rapidly descending about 10,000 feet.

The entire experience takes five hours, including orientation and signing waivers, said Susan Kittle, LVIA's external affairs director.

"You think there are 35 people in the Lehigh Valley who would pay $5,000?" asked committee member Robert Buesing. "We can’t risk LVIA money on something like this."

Committee member Cindy Feinberg said it might be possible to sell tickets before making any commitment and give people their money back if there is not enough interest.

"The only way you can do it is if you have total committed dollars," said Feinberg.

"There might be a market for this," said Buesing, noting businesspeople pay $2,500 just to fly first class. "We just need to find that out before we do it."

Bringing the plane to LVIA for just one day would cost up to $195,000, according to Kittle. That includes $165,000 to have it at the airport, plus $20,000 to $30,000 to get it to the airport. That second cost might be less if the plane is in another nearby city.

The plane carries up to 35 passengers, each paying about $5,000. Crunching the numbers, committee member Marc Troutman said: "There’s no way you can make your money back."

He thought the plane would remain at the airport for at least a couple weeks, not just one day.

The idea of bringing the plane to LVIA was proposed by authority board member Christopher Werley, who saw it in Fort Lauderdale but did not take a flight. Werley said it would be a great marketing opportunity for the airport.

Werley and Kittle will continue looking into the feasibility of bringing G-Force One to LVIA.

"It shows we're thinking outside of the box," said Kovacs. "That’s a good thing."