The vanishing of a 747 Jumbo Jet while it rests on the tarmac has
become one of the most significant vanishes of all time. On many
occasions this illusion has been performed before a live television
audience, while a crowd of onlookers keep an eye on the real thing.
It is not an illusion most magicians can afford to perform, still I
will explain the most common way of performing this trick.
The audience will see the jet as it taxis onto an area at the landing
strip. The crew will park the plane and disembark. The audience, both
viewing at home and on the scene, can see the airplane from all
directions. Spotlights will be pointed at the plane, making it fully
illuminated against the dark night.
At the performer’s command, the lights to flash off, then back on.
When the lights are relit, the plane is gone. The spotlights are once
again pointed in the same direction as before, but there is no jet
plane, only the tarmac and the night. The plane is then brought back in
the same manner. The lights will flash off then on, and the plane is
back. The crew boards the plane and taxis it back to the hangar.
The secret: I’m sure that you guessed it: The plane never really
leaves the tarmac. But how is it made invisible? Many spotlights are
surrounding the plane, which is in a cordoned-off area all set for the
effect. Between the massive search lights and the audience, there is a
netting draped from light to light. Encircling the plane.
When the plane is first driven or taxied into the area, the one
opening between the searchlights is clear of the netting. Once the
engines are shut off and the crew disembarks, the technicians will
hook up this last piece of netting. This is done under the cover of
preparing the these massive searchlights for illumination.
The netting is the same which is used on stage productions. On the
stage, the netting acts as backdrops for various scenes. With the
proper lighting, the backdrops and scenes will change. When backlit,
you will see the image on the netting, when front lit you will see
right through it.
In the case of the jet plane, the huge searchlights are set in such a
manner that at one point you see through the netting and you can
easily see the plane. In the next setting, you only see the black of
night, since this is the scene secretly painted on the special
netting. Black is also the same colour of the tarmac, so it appears
that the jet is gone and you see the ground where the plane once sat.
When the jet is made to reappear, the netting is dropped to the floor
while the lights are out. Turn the lights back on and the jet has
Positioning of the netting depends on the circumstances. If the
audience is only in front of the plane, then only mask that part of
the plane from the audience with the netting. For more angles, use
more netting, surrounding the plane if necessary. Neither the human
eye nor the camera will be able to see through the netting when the
correct lighting is in effect.
This netting not only is used in stage plays, but many of the modern
magicians will use this effect on their shows and specials, it is a
great way to make things appear or vanish.
Vanishing of a statue such as the Statue of Liberty can be controlled
in the same manner under the right conditions. When “Liberty” was
under construction a few years back, it was completely surrounded with
workmen scaffolding and platforms. The scaffolding would be an easy
way to attach the netting and cause the illusion to take place.
Only a performer with a keen sense of timing could come up with events such as these. So look around, see what other opportunities for these types of effects are available, then go out and perform them.