Pilot sparks debate after pulling ‘zero gravity’ prank on his friends

Pilot sparks debate after pulling ‘zero gravity’ prank on his friends

A pilot has sparked a debate after pulling a “zero gravity” prank on his friends while on a plane.

On his Instagram account, John Robert Nelson frequently posts videos about his experiences as a pilot. In a now-viral video shared earlier this month, he appeared to pull a prank on two of his friends, who were sitting behind him and another pal in the aircraft.

Nelson started his video by filming his two female friends, as they appeared to be asleep in their seats while wearing headsets. The pilot’s friend next to him then put his thumb up for the camera, before two women, who didn’t appear to be wearing seatbelts, woke up when they began to float up from their seats.

As a result of the microgravity, which is when there is no force of gravity acting on the body, the two women hit the ceiling of the aircraft, while they moved upwards. They proceeded to laugh along and smile as they floated back down to their seats.

In the caption, Nelson went on to express some of the safeties and joys of flying an aircraft with his friends.

“Follow me if you want to see more people getting floated,” he quipped, before adding: “Zero gravity is safe and a fun type of thing to do with friends when done correctly.”

The video has gone viral on social media, with more than 45m views, as of 20 February. In the comments, people have gone on to mock the prank, with claims that it appears to be staged.

“Pretend like you’re sleeping so I can do a vid,” one quipped, while another added: “The fact that they immediately started smiling … clickbait lol.”

“This would have been hilarious if it wasn’t staged,” a third wrote.

Meanwhile, others went on to question why the two female passengers weren’t wearing seatbelts, as well as claimed there were risks to doing this prank on the aircraft.

“1, head injuries, 2 excessive negative wing loading, 3, if one of them ended up in the front interfering with flight controls or excessive forward balance,” one wrote. “Stuff pilots do for attention that can make the rest of us look stupid if something bad happens.”

However, many viewers were amused by how the passengers experienced the sensation of weightlessness, with claims that the prank appeared to be fun and safe.

“Not dangerous and staged. They knew it was coming. Just having a little fun. Get a life,” one wrote, while another added: “My Dad used to stall like that and float an object from the front dash to kids in the back. Loved that stomach tickle!”

Earlier this week, Nelson shared a follow-up video to Instagram to address viewers’ concerns about the zero gravity prank. He described aircraft regulations that people can mention to him, specifically around the “careless or reckless operation” of an aircraft. He then defended himself from criticism, noting that his friends were safe when briefly floating up in the aircraft.

“I don’t think you can watch this video and think that I’m endangering somebody’s life. They’re simply floating up, floating down, I’m not overstressing the aircraft,” he said.

The pilot then addressed the criticism about his friends not wearing seatbelts, noting that belts “are only required for taxiing, take-off, and landing”. He specified that his friends took the seatbelts up just to “float up and down”, before criticising the idea that he was breaking aircraft regulations just to “create content”.

“The reason they’re able to have fun in the back is because they know I’m being safe about it. I’m making sure we have plenty of altitude and that there’s no traffic around us,” he said. “I like to be safe and have fun, and I hope you guys can see that in the video.”

As noted by the Zero Gravity Corporation, a space entertainment and tourism company, zero gravity conditions are created when a plane is lifted upwards at a 45-degree angle, during the first stage of parabolic flights. The stage lasts about 20 seconds, and it gives “passengers an experience of hypergravity, in which gravity is 1.8 times stronger than the gravity on Earth”.

The Independent has contacted Nelson for comment.