'Crash test dummy' smashed VIP demo by offering a helping hand

Sometimes you can have too many people in the room

Who, Me? Welcome once again dear reader to yet another Monday and of course yet another instalment of Who, Me? in which Reg readers confess the times when they perhaps weren't quite so on the ball as they might have been.

This week, for instance, meet "Major Tom" – not his real name – who was inspired to write in after last week's tale of a flight simulator mishap that thankfully didn't result in expensive damage.

Spoiler alert: Major Tom was not so lucky.

Back in the day, Major Tom was part of a team developing a head-mounted display system for combat pilots. As you might guess, this was some very expensive tech.

Major Tom worked on a smallish team, one of several that each worked different shifts on the project.

That changed when a VIP was promised a demo of the project. As that visit neared, many more people came into the lab wherein Major Tom toiled

The setup in that lab saw the lights darkened to maximum extent, so that images beamed by projectors would have lovely sharp contrast. The cockpit simulator was mounted on rails so that the display system could be positioned ideally to get the maximum realism out of the projectors. There's the usual simulator stuff as well, including fake engine noise (which users could hear through their intercom headsets), and an apparatus in the seat to simulate vibrations.

Major Tom’s job was to set up the simulator from a workstation, then clamber into the cockpit and roll it forward on its rails to test his work. He had done this countless times – sometimes with the helmet on, sometimes just wearing his intercom headset – while others worked around him.

Then, on his last run, he left his workstation, got into the cockpit, put on his intercom headset, and hit ignition.

Commencing countdown, engines on …

Next came the roar of the simulated engines, then voices shouting, followed by a smash, then some more noise, and "a vibration that didn't feel right." Major Tom left the capsule to investigate.

It happened that, in between test runs, another technician had tethered the head mounted display (the expensive one) to the back of the cockpit while Major Tom was at his workstation. As the cockpit rolled forward, the helmet had been ripped out of the tech's hands, smashed on a table, dragged over the table and smashed again on the floor of the lab.

Its pitiful remains were then dragged along the rails upon which the simulator rested.

It was utterly destroyed.

Major Tom assumed he would be fired, or at least reprimanded – at worst, he feared he may have to pay for the damage. Remember of course that the incident occurred on his lab time – the other technician wasn't strictly meant to be there.

As it happened, the director of the program assured him that insurance would cover the cost and was more concerned for Major Tom's wellbeing. So there was a happy ending.

We are, after all, only human. If this story reminds you of a time when you were rescued by understanding management – or at least an iron-clad insurance policy – we'd love to hear about it. Tell us of your exploits in an email to Who, Me? – which you can send by clicking here – and we'll make sure your story brightens up someone's future Monday morning. ®

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