Confined to a wheelchair and almost completely paralized due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Hawking says that he is excited to be able to experience zero gravity as he has studied gravity and black holes for most of his life.
The plane will go to an altitude of 32,000 feet then dive at a sharp angle for 8,000 feet before leveling off. During that time, Hawking, and everything else with him would literally be "falling" with the plane. This simulates a zero-gravity environment. How Hawking will manage this is something to be seen. Will he be in a floating wheelchair?
Another event to look forward to is Hawking's possible trip to the fringes of the Earth's atmosphere. He had asked Virgin Galactic, a maker of sub-orbital space ships for tourism, to allow him to ride on one of its trips which should take place as early as 2009. Richard Branson of Galactic says he will personally finance Hawking's trip, which would amount to $200,000. The photo is from http://rhein-zeitung.de/on/98/02/26/topnews/hawking.html