A chicken gun is a large-diameter, compressed-air cannon used to fire dead chickens at aircraft components in order to simulate high-speed bird strikes during the aircraft's flight. Jet engines and aircraft windshields are particularly vulnerable to damage from such strikes, and are the most common target in such tests. Whole, dead, standard-size chickens, as would be used for cooking, are thought to accurately simulate a large, live bird striking a plane in flight.
The aircraft component to be tested (engine, windshield, etc.) is fixed in place on a test stand, and the cannon fires the chicken at it.
The chicken gun was first used in the mid-1950s at de Havilland Aircraft, Hatfield, Hertfordshire. The chickens were killed at a local farm shortly before use. Another early use of a chicken gun was by the Royal Aeronautical (Aircraft) Establishment (RAE) in Farnborough, Hampshire in 1961.
In the 1970s, Goodyear Aerospace in Litchfield Park, Arizona, used a gun with a ceramic diaphragm to seal the compressed air at the back of the gun's barrel. To fire the gun, a needle struck and ruptured the diaphragm, allowing the compressed air to drive the chicken (in its container—a cylindrical cardboard ice cream carton) down the barrel. At the muzzle, a metal ring stopped the carton, but allowed the chicken to pass through. Cameras recorded the collision.
The United States Air Force commissioned the AEDC Ballistic Range S-3 to test airplane canopies, which began operating in 1972. The gun was later used to test other aircraft parts such as the leading edges of wings.
During the development of the Boeing 757 in the 1970s, the cockpit windows were subjected to a "chicken test", where "an anesthetized 4-pound [1.8 kg] chicken was loaded in a pneumatic gun and fired at 360 knots [410 mph; 670 km/h] head-on". It is described as "a very messy test."
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