Technology Can't Overcome Stupidity

This is, supposedly, a true story:

In the late 80's, Brittish Railways Ltd. was developing a high speed train to rival those in service in Japan and France. Because of the anticipated high speeds of the train (in excess of 300 mph), careful engineering took place to ensure both safety and performance. One notably weak area was the new trains windshield. Brit Rail contacted Boeing Commercial Aircraft Corp and asked how they went about testing windshields for their near-Mach aircraft. After several exchanges of documentation, an agreement was drawn up to loan Brit Rail (at a handsome cost) the Boeing device and process to ensure windshield integrity at high speeds. Claims, by Boeing engineers, were that the device and process were fail-safe and they would be delighted with the end results.

The device and process included a "cannon", charged with a high pressure gas, that would propel objects at 600MPH at a target, ie., a windshield, what have you. Boeing used chickens to test for in-flight bird strikes, a potentially lethal event if windshield integrity were an issue. Brit Rail calibrated the "cannon" to fire the chickens at slightly over 300MPH, approximating the top speed of their future train.

All was in place for their first test. In a test hangar, the "cannon" was charged, loaded and fired. The chicken shattered the windhield, blew the engineers chair off the capstan (fortunately no one was sitting in it at the time) and left a 14" deep dent in the firewall of the cabin. Four more test's were conducted, all with similar, disastrous results. The engineering team used over-spec'd windshields in each test...no luck.

Contact was made, with Boeing, and an agreement was drawn up (at more extra cost) for Boeing to analyze all aspects of the test, eg. materials, device, process, engineering data, and videos. Within 24 hours of receipt of this information, Boeing wired their conclusions to Brit Rail:

......."Dear Client, thaw the chicken, first!"



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Page last updated 11/14/97.