Video: Mojave’s 747 Weather Vane

YouTube clip shows desert wind’s aerodynamic effects on Boeing widebody.

They say in life nothing’s certain but death and taxes, but you can add to that list the people who watch a cool video on YouTube and just have to proclaim it a fake, whether it is or not.

It happened with an amazing (and obviously very real) video clip posted last week showing the nose of a parked Boeing 747 lifting against strong winds at the airplane boneyard in Mojave, California. The video shows a hulking former Southern Air 747 bearing the brunt of the desert windstorm on May 23 as it awaits metal scrapping. The engines and much of the interior had already been stripped from the airplane, and the tail-heavy widebody can be seen raising its nose, seemingly rotating as if to fly one last time.

The same windstorm last week damaged many rooftops, cut power and sent billowing clouds of sand and dust into the sky. The day after this video was shot, the 747 was found to have rotated about 45 degrees from its original position. Sustained winds of 70 miles per hour were reported.

Many of those who have called the video a fake insist that wind speeds of at least 120 miles per hour would be needed to cause involuntary rotation such as is seen in the clip. What they are forgetting, of course, is that with enough weight on the tail, an airplane’s nose can lift off the ground with no wind at all. In the case of this video, the wind was just strong enough and CG just far enough aft to create an interesting, and eerie, desert weather vane.