Maybe you’ve heard the story that is making the rounds about the chicken cannon. It seems that the United States Air Force, and the makers of commercial airlines, really do fire dead chickens at their aircraft. It’s a safety issue, for aircraft do encounter birds in the air, and it’s important for the windshields of aircraft to survive the collision. “Chicken cannons” are thus a convenient way to test the windshields.
According to one version of an urban legend that developed around this practice, the British once constructed a new locomotive that would pull a train faster than any before it. Since they, too, were concerned about windshield safety, they borrowed a chicken cannon, set it to approximate the maximum speed of the locomotive, loaded in the dead chicken, and fired.