Killer Kangaroos?

Careless Code Recycling Causes Killer Kangas:
Mutant Marsupials Take Up Arms Against Australian Air Force

The reuse of some object-oriented code has caused tactical headaches for Australia’s armed forces. As virtual reality simulators assume larger roles in helicopter combat training, programmers have gone to great lengths to increase the realism of their scenarios, including detailed landscapes and – in the case of the Northern Territory’s Operation Phoenix- herds of kangaroos (since disturbed animals might well give away a helicopter’s position).

The head of the Defense Science & Technology Organization’s Land Operations/Simulation division reportedly instructed developers to model the local marsupials’ movements and reactions to helicopters. Being efficient programmers, they just re-appropriated some code originally used to model infantry detachment reactions under the same stimuli, changed the mapped icon from a soldier to a kangaroo, and increased the figures’ speed of movement.

Eager to demonstrate their flying skills for some visiting American pilots, the hotshot Aussies “buzzed” the virtual kangaroos in low flight during a simulation. The kangaroos scattered, as predicted, and the visiting Americans nodded appreciatively… then did a double-take as the kangaroos reappeared from behind a hill and launched a barrage of Stinger missiles at the hapless helicopter. (Apparently the programmers had forgotten to remove that part of the infantry coding.)

The lesson?

Objects are defined with certain attributes, and any new object defined in terms of an old one inherits all the attributes. The embarrassed programmers had learned to be careful when reusing object-oriented code, and the Yanks left with a newfound respect for Australian wildlife.

Simulator supervisors report that pilots from that point onward have strictly avoided kangaroos, just as they were meant to.

— From June 15, 1999 Defense Science and Technology Organization

Air Farce

Here are some (supposedly) actual maintenance complaints submitted by US Air Force pilots and the replies from the maintenance crews:

  • Problem: “Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.”
    Solution: “Almost replaced left inside main tire.”
  • Problem: “Test flight OK, except autoland very rough.”
    Solution: “Autoland not installed on this aircraft.”
  • Problem: “No. 2 Propeller seeping prop fluid.”
    Solution: “No. 2 Propeller seepage normal.”
    Solution: “No. 1, No. 3, and No. 4 Propellers lack normal seepage.”
  • Problem: “Something loose in cockpit.”
    Solution: “Something tightened in cockpit.”
  • Problem: “Evidence of hydraulic leak on right main landing gear.”
    Solution: “Evidence removed.”
  • Problem: “Dead bugs on windshield.”
    Solution: “Live bugs on order.”
  • Problem: “Autopilot in altitude hold mode produces a 200 fpm descent.”
    Solution: “Cannot reproduce problem on ground.”
  • Problem: “IFF inoperative.”
    Solution: “IFF inoperative in OFF mode.”
  • Problem: “Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.”
    Solution: “That’s what they’re there for.”
  • Problem: “Number three engine missing.”
    Solution: “Engine found on right wing after brief search.”

How to be Annoying During the Air Force Stationary Bike Test

  • Wear a bike helmet to the test. Optional: Include knee and elbow pads.
  • Demand the tester wear a reflective road guard vest “for safety.”
  • Bring a bike horn and attach it. Each time the tester adjusts the tension, honk the horn loudly and yell, “Get the hell out of the way, you idiot!”
  • Bring a bike bell and attach it. Ring it once every 15 seconds – “Just to maintain your rhythm.”
  • Attach streamers to the hand grips.
  • Bring a playing card to the test. Demand that it be inserted in the spokes.
  • Pop a wheelie. Optional: Do an axle grind on the nearest table.
    Optional: Bunny hop the bike.
  • At the beginning of the test, peddle while standing. Tell the tester, “I’m going uphill now, you fool.”
  • Halfway through the test, stop peddling and lower your head between the handle bars and stick your butt in the air. Explain to the tester, “I’m coasting downhill and about to take the lead in the Tour De France!!!”
  • Signal all turns.
  • Make motorcycle sounds. Be sure to shift gears when the tester changes the tension.
  • Bring a sack of newspapers. Deliver them.
  • Periodically extend your legs and arms, yelling, “Look ma, no hands!”
  • Bring a friend to ride on the handle bars. Optional: Attach a kiddy seat to the back. Bring your kid.
  • Bring a bike lock. Be sure to secure the bike when you leave.