Beginning in an enclosed staging area outside the wind tunnel, the 757 tail was lifted into its vertical position and raised high up into the rafters by a 40-ton bridge crane. A pair of clamshell-like doors that make up the roof of the 40×80 wind tunnel was opened and the tail was moved sideways into place above the open cavity. Key challenges included the fact that it would arrive in a crate lying on its side and would have to be rotated to the vertical.The “dance” took place inside the NASA facility that is home to the world’s largest wind tunnels – the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC) located at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.
Read: NASA Aces Delicate Operation with Aircraft Tail
A 40-ton crane carefully lowers the aircraft tail from the rafters down through the open doors of the tunnel’s roof. Image Credit: NASA / Eric James
Almost there! Workers guide the full-size aircraft tail closer to its position on the tunnel floor. Image Credit: NASA / Eric James
An engineer attaches small pieces of material, “tufts,” to one side of the tail for use during air flow tests. Image Credit: NASA / Eric James
Researchers inside the control room capture data about how use of the active flow controls change aerodynamic forces over the tail. Image Credit: NASA / Dominic Hart