Portuguese carrier Hi Fly is to providing an Airbus A340-300 for zero-gravity flights under a co-operation agreement with commercial space firm Swiss Space Systems.
The aircraft (9H-TQM) is a 21-year old airframe, powered by CFM International CFM56 engines, originally delivered to Singapore Airlines.
Swiss Space Systems says it has completed the acquisition of the aircraft, as it prepares to start conducting commercial zero-g flights in 2016-17.
The aircraft will be able to accommodate 70 passengers and flights will typically involve 15 parabolic cycles, each giving 20-25s periods of weightlessness, over a 90min duration.
Hi Fly will provide operational and regulatory support to Swiss Space Systems.
“Commercial operation of zero-g flights under the status of an airline company will be a world premiere,” says the Zurich-based company.
Hi Fly chief executive Paulo Mirpuri says the carrier brings “innovation, quality and safety” to the venture.
The jet involved is Maltese-registered, having been transferred to a Hi Fly subsidiary. Under its previous Portuguese registration, it suffered a heavy landing at Darwin, following a microburst encounter in February 2012.
In its new role it will be repainted in a black livery.
Swiss Space Systems is aiming to offer the flights at “the most affordable price”. It also claims the A340’s flight-control systems will generate “unprecedented accuracy” in the parabolic flight profiles.
French company Novespace operates a similar programme of zero-g flights with an Airbus A310, having switched from its previous A300.
Swiss Space Systems says it recruited Sparfell & Partners to negotiate the terms of acquisition and financing of the A340. It adds that it plans to offer the aircraft as a laboratory for microgravity experiments and other research.