A common device whereby a character, usually an Ordinary High-School Student, is thrust into piloting a machine that they wouldn't be allowed anywhere near under normal circumstances due to a disaster or enemy attack.
Our hero might have an assload of raw talent, secretly be a Replacement Goldfish, part of the next stage in Human evolution or just play videogames a lot, but whatever the reason, he now has to pilot the thing in the middle of a battle (where he is now a prime target) just to get out of the situation alive. And boy, does he!
Of course, the problem afterwards is how to keep them in the machine after the crisis has passed. It could be that all the normal pilots were wearing Red Shirts that day, or the fact that the machine is kind of an Empathic Weapon, and can only key itself to its first pilot (or just likes him better), but for the time being, he's stuck in the cockpit of an engine of destruction, whether he wants to or not.
It may work in Real Life if lucky or desperate enough, since a lot of machines' operation is designed to be intuitive: controls of a tank (or engineering vehicle based on a tank) from the T-54/T-55 series, for example, are very similar to a truck (except for steering levers instead of a wheel, and even they are intuitive (pull the lever for the corresponding direction, leave other untouched)). The long and demanding training of a machine operator is not needed to drive the machine, but to drive it in a safe and economically viable manner. In a desperate last stand, safety is the last thing people would think about.
Widely used in Mecha Shows. A Sub-Trope of Powers in the First Episode.
Mazinger Z: The first Humongous Mecha anime used this trope showed it in a more realistic way than later shows. Kouji Kabuto, the first Humongous Mecha pilot, knew absolutely nothing about piloting a giant robot -or any manner of robot, really- and in the first few episodes it shows. Mazinger went on a rampage the first time he activated it because he kept punching random buttons as he tried to learn controling the damned thing (in the original manga he almost destroyed one whole city; and in the anime he almost gets his little brother killed), and he got beaten in his first battles. Sayaka and her father did their best to teach him quickly, but until then he only survived due to Mazinger's impressive weaponry and sturdy body armor... and Kouji soon revealed he was a quick-thinker that could come up with new strategies on the fly.
It was subverted with Sayaka, who was taught to pilot Aphrodita A.
And averted by Tetsuya and Jun from Great Mazinger, that were trained for years.
On the other hand, Kouji avoided the trope twice: Kouji tried to pilot Grendizer once during an emergency and he was unable. He stated the controls were too complicated to him. And in another ocassion he got to pilot Great Mazinger, and he was worried he would have forgotten how handling it. Fortunately, Great Mazinger controls were pretty similar to Mazinger's and he got several years worth of experience for that time.
It happens again in Mazinkaiser - when Kouji finds and takes up the titular mecha, it goes on a rampage. It isn't until episode four that Kouji's actually shown controlling it without it falling on its ass.
Getter Robo plays it mostly straight. However, in a manga chapter, Ryoma literally shoved a shell-shocked Hayato into the cockpit, placed a helmet-like contraption on his head and told it was a computer would help him to drive the jet. Hayato -who was still shellshocked after seeing a humanoid lizard eating his friends and a giant, flying dinosaur bringing down his school-, tried to protest he did not want to doing this. Ryoma did not care.
New Getter Robo makes a Shout-Out with this in Hayato's introduction episode.
Kotetsu Jeeg subverts it: Since Hiroshi transforms into Jeeg, he did not need prior training.
Raideen subverts the trope. Raideen was a sentient mecha led Akira into his cockpit by telepathy. When Akira woke up from his trance and saw he was inside a Humongous Mecha and surrounded by monsters, the first thing he did was to scream: "LET ME OUT OF HERE!". Raideen calmed him down stating he could read minds, so the only thing Akira needed to do was think about what he wanted Raideen to do.
Combattler V played it straight with the main characters. The first time they deployed Combattler, they handled it reasonably well in spite of Chizuru was the only pilot could be expected having got basic training. It was justified later: there is one computer built into each one of their helmets, and it help them to pilot it.
And it was deconstructed, too. In one episode, a child sneaked into the cockpit, thinking he could use Hyoma's helmet to drive Combattler. As a matter of fact, he could not, and he almost got himself -and everyone else- killed off.
It was apparently played straight but quickly subverted in Voltes V: When the Voltes team was roughly shoved into their vehicles, Kenichi protested they did not knew how driving them. Then his mother reminded him flatly they HAD got training to pilot aircrafts.
Daimos justified the trope: Kazuya was a space pilot but nobody had taught him to pilot Daimos before shoving him into the cockpit. However, his Motion Capture Mecha was piloted through a mental interface, allowing him piloting it and using his martial arts to fight (and still in the first battle he needed being informed of the weapons of Daimos).
Zambot3 justifies it: Kappei gets roughly shoved into the cockpit of Zambot Ace by his grandparents and big brother. Before he can ask "What the heck am I supposed to do now?" he realizes he just knows how handling it... and his family informs him they taught him to pilot it through Sleep Learning.
And Kamille Bidan in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam since he, off screen, reviewed the data on the Gundam Mk.2 by hacking his dad's computer... though Kamile, Teen Genius that he is, does invent his own Mid-Season Upgrade. It is some what justified because he is also the champion of the Junior Mobile Suit competition, which involves designing, building and piloting a smaller version mobile suit in a race that can attack your opponents, and the standard control of those ARE made by the same companies that manufacture cockpits for the military Mobile Suits.
Subverted by Judau Ashta in Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, who is initially horrible at piloting, to the point that he can barely get the Zeta Gundam to stand up straight. It takes a few episodes of practice before he's reliably able to pilot with any skill at all. Even then, it's suggested that the only reason he was able to learn quickly was 1. he's a Newtype and 2. he's been making a living working in a junkyard, which involves some basic worker-suit piloting.
Lampshaded in episode 5, when Bright Noa points out that this happened to all the Gundam pilots who came before Banagher.
Also subverted for the fact that he actually got a license in piloting Junior Mobile Suits and his father, who is the person behind the syndicate Anaheim Electronics that manufactures literally everything from radios to Space Colony, before handing him the Super Prototype, told him the controls are pretty much the same as a Junior Mobile Suit that he just piloted earlier in show.
Uso Evin in Mobile Suit Victory Gundam gets the excuse that he's played with MS simulators as a kid, so he has a fairly good idea how a Mobile Suit works from the beginning.
Garrod Ran in After War Gundam X has no justifications at all. At the beginning of the series he can fly a Mobile Suit, and it's simply implied to be a skill he picked up growing up in a Post-Apocalyptic wasteland.
Loran Cehack in ∀ Gundam plays with the trope: he came upon the Turn A accidentally, as is usual, but he was already trained in MS piloting by the Moonrace. He is also shown studying the Turn A's manual in great detail over the next few episodes.
Tobia Arronax of Crossbone Gundam manages to subvert this - when Space Pirates attack, he jumps into a grunt MS, gets defeated but explicitly not killed, and joins up with the Crossbone Vanguard despite two completely separate chances to walk away. And he's still not a terribly competent pilot until halfway through the second volume. Of course, it's subverted another way in that when he takes that first MS, he tells a soldier who protests that he's an engineering student with a license to pilot construction MS, and at the very least he'll be another gun out there.
And Kira Yamato in Gundam SEED, the Series basically being a retooled update of the original makes this a necessity.
SEED does try to justify it a little. Kira, like Amuro, is a tech geek. Unlike Amuro, he's a bit older and actually studying robotics in college. That, and he puts his Improbable Hacking Skills to good use, AND had been helping his professor in writing the very machine code for the Mobile Suit he is piloting without his own knowledge.
Also, Kira had to re-configure the Strikes OS in order to get the mech to operate properly (in the middle of a fight, no less). Being a Coordinator, he put in a system that was too complex for unaltered humans to use, so for a long time he was the only person on board the Archangel could operate it.
Averted in Gundam SEED Astray as Lowe Guele had NO idea how to pilot the Red Frame, thus left a lot of it to his new computer, 8, until he could properly handle it.
Speaking of Gundam 00, this trope played straight with Saji Crossroad when he was asked by Ian to pilot the 0-Raiser and deliver it to Setsuna so they can combine. He becomes its permanent pilot afterward.
In Tomino's own Gundam novels Amuro is a trained, if young, military pilot, and is a lot less whiny than in the series.
Subverted in Gundam Age along the lines of Zeta Gundam, the first protagonist had a hand in designing the mobile suit and knows how it works.
And completely averted during the second generation. Flit deliberately leaves the Gundam where Asem can find it because he had always intended to give it to him.
Inverted in the third generation when Flit literally brings the cockpit to his grandson, Kio, when Kio's home town is under attack. The cockpit then becomes a jet which attaches to the rest of the Gundam.
Heavy Metal L Gaim -another Yoshiyuki Tomino series- averted the tropes, though: Nearly everyone is a trained pilot. Those that aren't are quickly removed from the picture.
Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Initially, he refuses to pilot it owing to his sense of self-survival, but agrees once he sees that Rei is in no condition to even stand on her own. Of course with no training, combat experience or even a clue where the power button is, Shinji basically gets his ass kicked in his first Angel fight until his Eva takes over and beats it up.
Averted with the other pilots. Asuka was selected from age six and trained for years to earn her title. Rei was literally built to pilot the Evangelion. Kaworu's pretty much perfect for the job. If only he wasn't an Angel. And Mari? She's just nuts.
Akito Tenkawa in Martian Successor Nadesico. He was trying to run for it and the mecha was a handy getaway vehicle; everyone else thought he was volunteering to draw the enemy's attention.
Renton in Eureka Seven ends up almost literally falling into the cockpit of the Nirvash typeZERO while delivering a crucial part to it. He then proceeds to unlock its true potential and earn his place as co-pilot.
Although really, the cockpit falls on Renton (the Nirvash crashes into his house) before he takes the leap that puts him in the driver's seat.
A variant of this trope is used in Full Metal Panic!: Sousuke is already a highly skilled Humongous Mecha pilot when he is forced to pilot the experimental Black Box Arbalest mecha, though he does return to using his normal mech type for a bit eventually he is forced into becoming the Arbalest's designated driver when it turns out the machine's AI calibrated itself to him and can't be reset.
Macross offers a deconstruction, as Hikaru Ichijo (a.k.a. Rick Hunter of Robotech), a stunt-flying prodigy, ends up in the cockpit of a Transforming Humongous Mecha/Fighter Jet just when the day needs saving. He proceeds to stumble around and cause a great deal of property damage, because while civilian display team flying is fairly applicable to flying a Jet Fighter, it has nothing to do with robot piloting skills. A crash course from a mentor keeps him from falling into buildings, but he only becomes competent after enlisting in the army and spending a reasonable amount of time in training.
Alto, and later with considerably less success to Sheryl, in Macross Frontier. Apparently the fact that Alto (and later, Sheryl) was going to piloting school might have been supposed to justify this, but this is the same as someone who's only partially completed real life flight school Falling Into The Cockpit of the military's latest top-secret fighter! Sheryl's attempt has more realistic results.
When Alto tries to get to fly it a second time Ozma punches him in the face for his insolence and has him thrown out. Its only afterwards that Ozma gives him a chance, but he has to go through the proper channels first.
An oft-overlooked example are the Japanese rebels; it's overtly stated that, until a certain point in the series, they don't have any Knightmare Frames of their own, only ones that they've stolen from the Britannians. Given how large the things are, what opportunity would they have had to practice with them enough to be good enough to go toe-to-toe with the military? Particularly egregious in Kallen's case, since her group operate in a city; at least the JLF could conceivably have found a quiet patch of countryside. Not only that, but she later manages to master the new KFs sent to the Black Knights by Kyouto and Rakshata with extraordinary speed and ease...
Her group does manage to get hold of a single Glasgow - the older military-use KMF type - and apparently they all try it out. Kallen, of course, is the best, and gets to pilot it in their operation.
Lelouch is a close one. He's not amazing or anything, but he handles a Sutherland quite well on his first try, only briefly admitting that it's not as easy as it seems. He's had some minor training, using the test type Ganymede, but that didn't have even half of the features of the modern Sutherland, like the weapon/grappling cable, and the gun, which he uses to great effect in his first deployment. Admittedly, he doesn't even remotely fall in, but he never gets actual training, either.
And, to be perfectly blunt, Lelouch is still a pretty crappy pilot. He may be a notch above the common run of Mooks, but against trained pilots he's practically a Mook himself. His most impressive feats only happen because his personal machine was made specifically to play to his strengths; it doesn't fight with guns or swords like regular Knightmares, but instead uses a scattering laser weapon and Beehive Barrier that have to be controlled manually, something only someone with Lelouch's intelligence and quick wits could accomplish.
The main protagonist in Zoids: New Century Zero (the first series broadcast in America) Bit Cloud fits this trope to a T. Not only is he thrust into piloting the Liger Zero in the first episode, with no piloting experience beforehand, but the Liger also refuses to allow anyone else to pilot it.
In Zoids: Chaotic Century, the first series in Japan and the UK, Van comes across an abandoned Shield Liger in the desert, but would not have been able to pilot it were it not for his robot companionZeke's help. Unlike many examples of this trope, he keeps piloting it not because others make him, or because only he can, but because the Zoid belongs to him, having previously been abandoned.
In Zoids: Genesis, a shockwave causes protagonist Ruuji Familon to LITERALLY fall into the Murasame Liger's cockpit when he first pilots it. Ruuji continues to pilot the Liger to save his village and to eventually seek out a generator mechanic.
ALLHot-Blooded characters end up being able to pilot a Gunman eventually, usually after only a little bit of fumbling. Rossiu manages to learn in the brief time he's in Gurren's cockpit and Kamina's away during the Hot Springs Episode.
Gunmen are explicitly stated to have ridiculously intuitive controls. It's said that one just has to "do what feels natural" and the machine practically pilots itself, which does provide some Justification.
In keeping with its love of mecha tropes, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does this as well—Nanoha comes into possession of Raging/Raising Heart completely by chance. The third season later implies that trained professionals with similar weapons don't even come close to what Nanoha managed to do immediately.
They can't match her POWER, but as Chrono made clear, many likely outmatched her SKILL until she underwent her own brand of Training from Hell. The difference between latent-talent/power and hard-work practice/skill is one of the minor themes of the series.
Hibiki Tokai in Vandread is a partial subversion: He was trying to steal the mecha in the first place.
Also he made his mech at the Factory, and knows which part is what so he knows, in theory, how to pilot it.
Hokuto and Ginga come near the eponymous mecha of Gear Fighter Dendoh during an enemy attack, while the assigned pilots are still on their way; predictably, they end up inside.
In fact, the mech itself picks them up and deposits them in the cockpit.
Soukou No Strain also features Sara Werec, another trained field mecha pilot, getting into an experimental machine in the middle of a battle. Her superiors have no idea that she's ever piloted a Strain before.
In Orguss 02, Humongous Mecha mechanic Lean is forced to pilot in order to escape an ambush of the cargo plane he was in. This trope is subverted in the following episode; he's brought into the organization that pilots Decimators, but told flat-out that only the best of the best are even considered as pilots. He does fall back in in the last episodes, where he's the best pilot available to stop an Omnicidal Maniac — even though he's blind at the time...
Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor is a perfect example of this. In the first episode Kazuki has to pilot Fafner despite the fact that up to that point he was not even aware that such a mecha existed.
It's later explained that he was made (literally) to pilot the mecha, along with the rest of his generation.
In Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure, Kazuki Yotsuga only climbed into that mecha cockpit to rescue its injured pilot... then it slammed shut on him, and he had no other choice...
Subverted in Fang of the Sun Dougram - the good guys take the protagonist to their secret base where they keep the eponymous Humongous Mecha and offer to let him pilot it. Suddenly, enemies attack, and just as our hero gets ready to invoke this trope, the Dougram is snatched away by a cargo helicopter.
Gram River sort of has this happen to him in Mars Daybreak: It actually came out to catch him, and given that they were underwater at the time, it was more of a sinking than falling.
Subverted in Candidate for Goddess. In very first episode main hero of series finds 5 most powerful mechas during a battle and literally falls into the cockpit of one of them. Yet, even when MECH ITSELF was asking him to pilot it and join the battle, he refused because he didn't know anything about piloting.
Averted in Break Blade. He was a gifted student in the military academy who couldn't operate a golem because he is an Unsorcerer; he suddenly has to pilot an ancient Golem he can use.
Hirono Keita from Betterman. Not only fits the trope to a T; he almost literally falls into the cockpit of the mecha, and happens to be a Dual Type, able to pilot it.
Seina Yamada of Tenchi Muyo GXP is actually tossed into the cockpit, mostly because the people who did so realized the god (the machine he was tossed into) had chosen him. And mostly because he accidentally dragged a bunch of pirates in with him and they wanted him to get rid of them.
In Idolmaster: Xenoglossia, Haruka Amami falls into an iDOL's open cockpit after being tossed high into the air by the same iDOL. Later we find that Haruka had passed a blind test on her aptitude as a potential iDOL Master, however, even the ones who set up the test were surprised that the iDOL had a seemingly arbitrary attraction to Haruka, when it had not even respond to a trained and experienced Master.
Non-mecha example: in Future GPX Cyber Formula, during a delivery of Asurada GSX to the Fujioka circuit, the machine is attacked, and Hayato Kazami ends up driving it to get out of the mess. Unfortunately, Asurada locks Hayato's driving data, so he has to enter the Fujioka race since Sugo's present driver can't even get the GSX to move and he quit the team because of that.
In The Black Island Thompson and Thomson commandeer an airplane mechanic to fly a plane to chase after Tintin. The untrained pilot performs a lot of accidental aerobatics, and ends up winning a prize in an aviation contest.
The Second Try: A hilarious example. In chapter 2 Asuka wants to drive a car for first time in spite of she has never got driving lessons. Shinji thinks it is not a good idea, but she argues if she is able to drive a Humongous Mecha, she is able to drive a car. Shortly after she finds out that... nope. She is not able. At least she did not crash the car and them...
In the first Marissa Picard fanfic, Enterprized, the kids' shuttle pilot (named Ensign Throwaway) dies, leaving the kids to pilot the shuttle to safety. The kid chosen to take the controls was the one who had the most experience with the shuttle simulator, which is kind of like selecting your pilot based on who's played Microsoft Flight Simulator the most. Later fanfics have the Kids Crew taking over for entire incapacitated starship crews.
And it sort of happens to Luke in Star Wars. Both only had extremely limited experience flying civilian craft before ending up flying starfighters at decisive battles in their respective conflicts.
In Luke's case, there's an Expanded UniverseHand Wave / All There in the Manual statement that an X-Wing's controls aren't that different from the Incom T-16 Skyhopper, a very fast, small three-winged civilian airspeeder that's parked in his garage in A New Hope. In the original trilogy novels, he's been grounded from it for reckless flying. He'd damaged the hull, which was why he took the landspeeder when looking for R2. You see him playing with a small model when he's talking to the two droids for the first time. When he talks of "tagging womp rats", he's referring to aerial target practice.
"Sir, Luke's the best bush pilot in the outer-rim territories." Film canon. Perhaps Biggs is exaggerating a bit to help Luke get in the cockpit, but this statement strongly implies that he's flown more than landspeeders.
Incom is also the same corporation that designed the X-Wing, so it makes sense that there would be some similarities.
A different manual, in addition (this being the NPR Radio Drama version of ANH, the same one where Wedge chews him out for that Dissimile) actually has a scene where the Alliance dumps Luke in an X-Wing simulator for a bit of crash course training. He does spectacularly well; Biggs says they threw a fleet at him and he only died twice. Which, I suppose, counts as falling into the simulator cockpit...
Actually averted: in both Anakin's and Luke's cases, their sensitivity to the Force gave them an edge over other pilots not so attuned.
Also, in the expanded universe, Maarek Stele (the player character of TIE Fighter) was originally a mechanic who was in a fighter (testing it), and happened to be in a position to save a high-ranking officer from attack.
And Anakin Solo gets to use the Empathic Weapon variant, the hyperspace repulsors of Centerpoint Station. Are we sensing a pattern here?
Spencer from Star Kid literally got shoved into the cockpit of the intelligent, armor plated, alien super suit Cy.
Technically, the UFO only needs the starmap stored in the boy's brain, as its own navigational database was wiped by an electrical shock.
In Airplane!, Ted Striker is a former Air Force fighter pilot with a severe neurosis about flying. When he musters his courage to get on a jet airliner to chase after his girlfriend, he turns out to be the only one aboard with any flying experience after the pilots all succumb to food poisoning. It doesn't help that the airline officer assigned to talk him down happens to have been his commander during The War.
And the videogame/recruiting device counts as a training simulator to a certain extent: he's already familiar with the controls and with the enemy ships he's engaging, and he was selected precisely because he was the best player on Earth at a game designed deliberately to prepare him for the experience.
Civilian pilots are recruited and given a few hours of lectures before taking to the sky in modern fighter jets without any actual flight simulations and manage to help win a battle against the aliens.
Will Smith's character pilots the crashed UFO to dock with the mothership. Despite not knowing about aliens until two days prior, he defends himself as the best choice because he's "seen these things in action" and therefore knows of their maneuvering capabilities.
Somewhat averted in The Matrix because when Trinity needs to fly a helicopter but doesn't know how to, she gets the knowledge uploaded to her brain in an instant.
In Battlefield Earth, the tribal humans manage to pilot modern fighter jets after practising in simulators for a few days, whereupon they fight and defeat the supposedly "advanced" Psychlos.
To be fair, Psychlos only conquered Earth because of their teleportation technology, which they used to instantly cover the planet with nerve gas. That's really the only way human resistance could only have lasted a few minutes. The Psychlo aircraft are not dedicated fighters, nor are the Psychlos on the planet dedicated soldiers. Most of them are miners.
In Turbulence, a serial killer gets loose aboard a nearly-empty 747 in midair, incapacitating the entire flight crew except for one stewardess— er, flight attendant. She gets talked down through a landing at LAX by an airline pilot on the ground. Fortunately for her, this is a modern 747 with all the automated bells and whistles, and landing procedures basically consist of pressing the "fly me to LAX" button followed by the "land me" button.
The Temeraire series has Captain Lawrence in a similar situation with a dragon, minus the initial battle. He's simply bonded to one of the rarest dragons in the world. A lot of the conflict is derived from various authority figures trying to get Temeraire to let someone else be his partner.
'May Day' has a light aircraft pilot attempting to fly a damaged supersonic airliner after an accidental missile strike. With most of the passengers in a near-zombie state due to oxygen deprivation.
Happens literally to Ford in Mostly Harmless, after he jumps off a skyscraper to see what happens.
Live Action TV
The climactic scene of the Chuck episode "Chuck vs. the Helicopter".
Really, most of the Power Rangers in general fall into this category. It IS a show that depends on Humongous Mecha to win the day, after all...
Played with in Super Robot Red Baron: Kenichiro Kurenai does teach his brother Ken about Red Baron's functions and how to use them, during a test run. But then, TroyHorse shows up and attacks Red Baron, knocking it down. Despite this, Kenichiro continues his instructions so that Ken can do a proper counterattack.
Averted in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant", which feels like a Deconstruction of the Star Wars-style plot; an advanced warship falls into the hands of a bunch of inexperienced but brave cadets, whose charismatic leader decides to try and destroy the Dominion's new super-battleship with an experimental weapon. They fail, their ship is blown up, and then the Dominion plays Sink the Lifeboats with the escape pods.
In the Warhammer 40,000 comic Titan, Princepts cadet Hekate is thrust into commanding the massive Warlord Titan Imperious Dictatio when the previous Princeps he was assigned to observe unexpectedly dies in the middle of a battle.
R. Talsorian Games' Mekton Zeta is a roleplaying game geared to the Humongous Mecha genre, and this trope may (and probably will) be invoked at least once in any given campaign, no matter the setting.
Generally soundly averted in BattleTech in that it takes literally years to train somebody to be a good MechWarrior — even just to cadet level. The novelHearts of Chaos sees super-scout and BattleMech hunter Cassie Suthorn invoke this trope twice (once via hijack, once borrowing a friend's Atlas), and despite everything she knows about 'Mechs from the outside and having taken some lessons in between the two incidents she barely manages to get the machines to do anything useful at all.
In the Super route of Super Robot Wars Alpha, your character gets into the Grungust Type 2 when the plane carrying it crashes into his or her school during a fight between Mazinger Z and the Monster of the Week. On the Real route, your character is a young pilot in the military...who also falls into the cockpit of an experimental mech that happened to be at the base you're assigned to during an enemy attack; this time being the Huckebein Mk II and the Titans. As it turns out, the whole thing was a set-up by Ingram.
Nearly every protagonist in the Zone of the Enders series, with the exception of Radium in IDOLO. It helps that the Orbital Frames typically have some sort of AI to help.
James Links in Dolores, i is a bit of a subversion: The mecha in question was actually being sent to him in the first place.
James Links IS an experienced veteran, while the AI (Dolores) has personality of an innocent child
Dingo Egret is actually an experienced pilot by the time he finds Jehuty
Dingo however was asked if he would like a refresher VR training program since it was several years since he piloted a military grade frame (He was using LE Vs until he found Jehuty)
Played straight in the rare, yet extremely enjoyable 'Mech sections of FEAR 2. A possible Lampshade in that the manual specifies that only a highly trained 'Mech pilot should even think about touching the controls. Michael Beckett is the furthest thing from a pilot. Michael Beckett in a 'Mech is all but unstoppable.
The concept is used in the video game Steel Battalion, where your character is told he will have many months of simulator training before being allowed near the cockpit of a VT. True to form, the enemy attack, the character gets in the cockpit with the manual (the game is trying to tell you to do the same) and begins mission number 0. Actually much harder than Amuro makes it look...
In US version, the hero of Blaster Master just finds a machine lying around there.
A variation occurs in Ace Combat 5. Archer is a trained pilot...more or less. He's been through flight school, anyway, he just...hasn't completed his qualifications training yet when his base comes under attack and he climbs into a spare fighter. He ends up being a member of Wardog ( later Razgriz) squadron, the most accomplished aces in the game.
Technically, most of your NPC crew in Mass Effect 3. The game starts with Shepard bugging out as the Reapers invade Earth, with everyone aboard the Alliance-impounded Normandy forced to come along for the ride. They're all professionals in one field or another (Anderson was planning to use the ship as his mobile command center), so they make the best of it. Shuttle pilot Steve Cortez is officially your logistics guy, and shares armory duty with Vega - you're just lucky he's also a damn good pilot. Considering Vega's piloting skills include crashing into other shuttles - deliberately as a case of Ramming Always Works and after Shepard furiously demands that someone take the enemy shuttle down, admittedly - you're lucky to have Cortez.
This happens to the Federation players in Star Trek Online. While you're away helping another ship, Borg beam over to your vessel, kill all the officers, and when you get back, you, a lowly Ensign, are the senior officer on board.
In the iOS game "The War Of Eustrath" powerful GEARs have their own persona and are able to choose to their rider. When country girl finds herself drawn into an enemy base by the GEAR Tianerx she hides in Tianerx to avoid detection by the Kradionese soldiers she synchronizes with Tianerx and ends up becoming its pilot. In time she develops into one of the game's best characters.
In the same game Robin ends up piloting Zeeyown similarly. Even though Zeeyown doesn't have its own persona, Robin has an ability that allows him to communicate directly with the elemental forces that drive GEA Rs. Even though his decision to pilot Zeeyown onto the battlefield was intentional he ends up in the cockpit in the first place because the elements respond to his desire to help Tiana.
Grif in Red vs. Blue has never had any special vehicle training, as far as we know, yet somehow he always manages to end up as the designated driver. While he's great with a jeep, unlike a lot of examples he's not necessarily a good driver of some of the more exotic vehicles he drives... like the Pelican he crashes.
Sarge: You do know how to land this, right?
Grif: Sure. That just means "stop flying", right?
Sarge:Brace for impact!
As part of the work's parody of Super Robot anime, Moeko of Hyper Fighting Machine Marmalade literally falls into the cockpit of the eponymous mecha, thereby forcing her to pilot it even though she is not suited for the job at all.
Played with in Megas XLR: Coop finds the Megas in a junkyard after it's flung into the past and becomes the hero and pilot... but only because the cockpit was beyond repair to the point where Coop rebuilt it out of a Cool Car and several jury-rigged video game systems, which means that Coop is literally the only one who can pilot it.
Played straight by Kiva, who lands in and learns to drive a car in all of about five seconds, rationalizing that such a simple machine should be easy if Coop could pilot Megas.
Cubix: In the first season finale, four of the Doctor K's five personal mechs are revealed to have cockpits and manual overrides (up til then, they just followed his orders). The kid heroes end up piloting them when they sneak into his base to retrieve the damaged Cubix. This comes in very handy when K transforms the entire base into the skyscraper-sized Kulminator.
This is how Taz ends up piloting a space shuttle to save earth from a meteor swarm in the Taz-Mania episode "Astro-Taz". Of course, he thinks it's just a video game.
During the battle of Stalingrad, which had a tank production facility present, several of the T-34s were being rolled out directly into combat. Their crews consisted of literally anyone that could work the things, including the very factory workers who built them.
On the Western Front, M4 Sherman casualties mounted so much at times that tank commanders would replace lost crew members with anyone they could find from the infantry units they worked with. The results varied, but in a pinch, anyone really can operate a tanknote This was due to the fact that at the time tanks drove just like tractors and there were a lot of farm boys that had grown up driving tractors. Manning the guns took some work, but it was better than having empty tanks.
A non vehicular example goes to Doris Miller. To clarify, Miller was given very little, if any training on ANY fire arm prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and his battle station was no where near a gun or turret. However, he still found his way to a .50cal Heavy Machine Gun, and manned that gun until it ran out of ammo. Tora! Tora! Tora! and Pearl Harbor both show that he shot down atleast a one or two aircraft, but considering how many other sailors were shooting at them at the time, it's unsure if he managed to hit anything. However, he still goes down in history as someone doing the right thing, even when the times would not allow him to do so (for instance, a black man manning a gun station that was officially supposed to be manned by a white guy).