Karen Sharwood - May 02, 2002: I can fly! - Everybody up
Cant believe I finally made a 0g flight. Looking back, I also cant believe how relieved I am that I actually didn’t make it up on my first two attempts… For a start it was absolutely hilarious, and it would have been very unlikely that I would have been able to keep a straight face and do some rigorous science, and secondly, I was totally disorientated, and trying to synchronize my co-ordination with Mark may have been somewhat tricky. My co-ords are bad enough as it is on earth, you can imagine what they were like in 0g (they don’t call me the “spaz locust” for nothing!)
Mark had arranged that all of his family and guests would have the opportunity to experience weightlessness on a parabolic flight. Originally, I had decided that I would only go (provided that I would be allowed to go this time, given the seriousness of my fatal illness… i.e. mild asthma) with the rest of the FAIS team after the flight once things had quietened down, but Friday morning we got a call to say there were empty spaces and we to get our asses down to the airbase asap. The fact that we didn’t have this huge build up and didn’t really have time to psyche ourselves up was probably the best thing of all, even though I was still absolutely convinced that I was going to be seriously ill and possibly never the same again (this maybe wouldn’t have been such a bad thing?).
We got onto the now all too familiar plane and went through the routine parachute training – still not quite sure exactly why we had to do this part seeing as straight after take off they were whipped off and disappeared somewhere a bit too far away for my liking. The take off was absolutely insane. We all sat in a line, on the floor, with our backs up to the wall. Most of the Russian instructors had fallen asleep by this stage and looked all very comfortable cuddled up with each other on the opposite side of the plane. As you may have guessed, no complimentary drinks or snacks on this flight, but there was a whole lot more leg room on this flight compared to the one to Baukinor.
We flew for about 20 minutes before all of the action started, which was a lot closer than I had expected. The feeling of being pushed flat into the ground and being twice as heavy as I usually am was unbelievable, but felt like a really intense cobra-type rollercoaster. What happened shortly thereafter, however, was utterly outrageous and just awesome. The first parabola was unbelievable and totally unreal. I honestly had no idea as to what to expect and being such a control freak, I have to admit I clung onto the side bar for dear life with a rather pained expression on my face, despite cracking up watching my feet and legs floating away. After the next 2 or 3 I started to relax and enjoy myself a bit more, and by the 5th I felt like a real pro. I did the old fly-along-the-length-of the plane trick, and then of course there was the famous Superman pose and a team photo shot. Lara, Wayne and I also did a team Sports Science shot which will no doubt be used in many a presentation back home. Only on the last parabola did I brave the spinning option with strict instructions to Boris, our instructor, for a “chut chut” spin (i.e. little one). He of course agreed at the time but then proceeded to spin me to his heart’s content. It felt great and I absolutely loved it, but of course I would never admit that to Boris! Anyway, even after having armed myself with plastic bags and prepared myself for the embarrassment of spewing, I felt absolutely fine throughout the whole flight, right up until we landed. As soon as we had touched down I thought it was all over for me and I had to charge out to get some fresh air before I actually had to use my bags (made it just in time).
The flight was yet another excellent and unforgettable experience over here and gave us such a great insight into what Mark was experiencing at exactly the same time. Would seriously recommend weightlessness to everyone and am very jealous of Mark floating around up there all day.