NASA’ s Chicken Gun

Scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch
standard 4 pound dead chickens at the windshields of
airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling
at maximum velocity. The idea is to simulate the frequent
incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength
of the windshields.

British engineers heard about the gun and were eager
to test it on the windshields of their new high speed trains.
Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British

When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as
the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof
shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control
console, snapped the engineer’s back-rest in two, and
embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow
shot from a bow.

The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results
of the experiment, along with the designs of the
windshield and begged the U.S. . scientists for suggestions.

NASA responded with a one-line memo —

“Defrost the chicken.” (True Story)


33 thoughts on “NASA’ s Chicken Gun

  1. This is 100% true although I heard it was a different company (Boing) and not the Brits. Anyway, it was and still is a approved method to test the windscreen to ensure that a bird will not enter the flight deck on a direct hit. The windscreen has to be able to deflect a direct hit from a five pound bird.

    They also shoot one through an engine during the testing phase to see of the engine will shut itself down before it throws fan blades through the side of the airplane. We can ask Sully how well a jet flies after it ingests a couple of birds in each engine. Additionally, they will squirt water from a fire truck directly into the engine to make sure it will not flame out when flying through heavy rain.

    I do know for a fact that if a jet impacts a flock of snow geese at 12,000 feet and 340 knots, they will puncture through the skin of the nose and hit the pilot on the knee. It didn’t happen to me but I know the guy that it did happen too. He thought his leg was broken. Until the other pilot saw feathers, he thought the pilot who took the bird was dead because he was covered in blood. After they landed, it took a day or so to get the jet cleaned up and the pilot continued with his trip after he got a new uniform.

    Great story, how did you come across this little nugget of aviation history?


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good afternoon Linda,

    Well now this is a most curious post, delightfully funny (trust the Brits lol), and had me giggling away this afternoon 🙂

    I can confirm the authenticity of the Chicken Gun. Indeed, not only have I seen it, but I recall distinctly the experience of viewing the apparatus and area where the destruction took place. Two words spring from the memory held in that 8 year olds mind…fascinating and disturbing.

    My father is now a retired aeronautical design engineer whose occupation extended as an interest in my life and provided many opportunities to visit airfields on public open days and to attend commercial and military air shows across the UK as well. Once or twice this included granted access with approval to areas where he worked. And it was on one such occasion when curiosity got the better of a young kitten and I slipped the leash long enough to find myself peeking around hangar doors into an outside area where the gun, associated framework, and mounting walls were contained. It was a messy site, though hosed often I’d imagine, and it was ‘clean’ then, yet still steeped in the smell of decay with the walls bearing the unpleasantness of dark patternation and soiled crimson staining. Looking back it reminded me of the smell of a butchers waste bin at the day’s end.

    My father was quick to arrive and very careful to explain from a rational perspective all that I had seen. You are absolutely correct to succinctly state the use of this infernal contraption, it does indeed propel dead chickens at cockpit windows, sheet steel, material fabrics, and into jet engines as well, which sounds particularly gruesome, to mimic impacts at maximum velocities. Although gruesome, one must reflect on what would happen to aircraft and engines under bird strike, which is a common threat, if design engineers did not otherwise find realistic mechanisms with which to ensure structural integrity. Our lives depend on such mechanisms and the elimination of risk. The damage a frozen chicken has on a windshield and cabin interior would be nothing to the destruction of just one jet engine rotor fan torn from its mount by a single impacting bird and taken into a jet engine. The explosion alone would potentially be catastrophic.

    Hope you don’t mind me sharing a few words 🙂

    Enjoy your day


    DN – 18/07/2015


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