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Falling into the Cockpit

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Soldier: Wait, does this kid even have a driver's license?
Lloyd: No, no he doesn't.
Soldier: Then why the hell is he in a goddamn prototype Gundam?
Lloyd: Because we are very, very desperate.

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.

This trope isn't necessarily as contrived or nonsensical as it might first appear. Some military vehicles (helicopters, aircraft) will never be easy to pick up on the fly, but there's equipment out there that's specifically designed to be easy to operate. The Soviet Union particularly valued easily-learned equipment (and Russia has inherited that priority); the T-54/T-55 series of tanks (and engineering vehicles based on them) have basically the same controls as a large truck, except that they have steering levers instead of steering wheels. (To turn, pull the lever on the side you want to turn to, then release it once you've re-oriented.)

Usually, this would fall under Artistic License – Military. But note that in all militaries, part of learning to handle equipment is learning to handle it safely. Many devices can be quite easy to use in reckless fashions — and if things are desperate enough, using things recklessly is fine.

Widely used in Mecha Shows. A Sub-Trope of Powers in the First Episode and Stumbled Into the Plot. Compare Crash Course Landing.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Keita Aono 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.
  • Broken Blade: Averted. Rygart 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.
  • Zigzagged like crazy in Buddy Complex. After being hurled into the future, the lead character finds himself inside the cockpit of an experimental mecha, during an armed attack. That particular mecha was designed to synchronize the two brain patterns of the designated pilot and the Ace Pilot. The entire series is spent training him how to both pilot the mecha and "couple" with the ace.
  • Code Geass:
    • Suzaku Kururugi is the only soldier available to pilot the new Lancelot Knightmare Frame because he's at base recovering from a point-blank bullet wound while everyone else is out slaughtering civilians. It later turns out that he's the best match for the mecha. The dialog implies that Suzaku's aptitude was tested when he first enlisted, but since only native Britannians are allowed to pilot Knightmares his high marks meant bupkis. He does mention simulator training at one point.
    • 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 Lamperouge 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.
  • Subverted in DARLING in the FRANXX. Hiro was a piloting prodigy, but washed out of the Parasite program due to an inability to properly synchronize with his co-pilot. When he does fall in with a partner he can synchronize with, he still only has basic skills and it takes a few sorties for him to live up to her potential - and he only gets that opportunity due to ending up less dead than said co-pilots previous partners.
  • 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...
  • 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. He also does jack squat for quite some time. His first solo sortie in the Nirvash is in episode 15.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The first experience of piloting Gaiking that Daiya has in Gaiking: Legend of Daiku Maryu is initiated by Robeast Daiku Maryu eating him. The head then detached and flew off, combining with head and leg parts to form Gaiking, the Daiku Maryu's head forming the torso and head, with the cockpit inside, where Daiya had been "eaten" into. It's explained that Daiya's the only one who can pilot the thing in any case, since Gaiking will only respond to his signature Flame Energy.
  • 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... At which point, showing more common sense than most other mecha pilots, they use it to escape, and have to be tricked into fighting.
  • Getter Robo:
    • The series 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 him it was a computer that 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 didn't want to do this. Ryoma did not care.
    • In Getter Robo Go, Go and Sho try to hijack a Robeast in the first arc. However, Sho does not manage to keep it under control, no matter what she does. Finally Go lost his patience and blew the controls up, thinking that would stop it. Unfortunately the only thing he managed was that the monster went completely and unstoppably berserk.
    • New Getter Robo makes a Shout-Out to this in Hayato's introduction episode.
  • Gundam: Pretty much standard throughout the franchise, the number of stories where the protagonist doesn't grab the Super Prototype in the middle of a chaotic situation and become it's regular pilot is exceedingly rare.
    • More or less happens with Amuro Ray in Mobile Suit Gundam... who later is revealed to be a "Newtype" (spaceborn people with Psychic Powers and Super-Senses). Of course, in addition to being a tech geek to the point he could build his own Robot Buddy (Haro), he got a hold of the Gundam's manual just before he even saw the robot. And the thing was largely designed by his father. —Still, in his first battle he could barely move it, and won mostly because its advanced armor stood up to everything the mook suit pounded it with.
      • In the reimagining Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Amuro had hacked his father's computer and already read the manual, avoiding the rather embarrassing scene of him moving the Gundam while reading the manual. The first battle still goes as in the original anime.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory has Kou Uraki take the Gundam Zephyranthes in response to the Grand Theft Prototype of the Gundam Physalis by Anavel Gato. He's a junior pilot and well out of his league, but the Zephyranthes didn't have a designated pilot yet and after the initial scuffle was over the following couple of episodes was based around others in his detachment fighting to take it away from him.
    • 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.
    • Gundam Unicorn:
      • Banagher Links didn’t hijack the Unicorn Gundam so much as get shoved into the pilot seat by someone else, and fought his first battle essentially on autopilot.
      • 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, even though he's only 12.
    • 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 Mobile Suit 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 Mobile Suit 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 who could operate it.
    • Averted in Mobile Suit 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.
    • Shinn Asuka in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, who is a Kamille's Expy of sorts, is actually a trained pilot when the series starts. Not to mention the pilots in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing and Mobile Suit Gundam 00...
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 doesn't have anything like this until well into the second season 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.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE:
      • Subverted 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. Asem also had piloting experience as a member of his school's mecha club, so he wasn't a total novice.
      • 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. Flit had also been training Kio with a Gundam simulator for years.
    • Mobile Fighter G Gundam is one of the few aversions, all main characters were selected as champions to use their Gundams. It's even shown that their Motion-Capture Mecha system involves putting on painfully tight Future Spandex and could kill someone who is not trained to handle it, which almost happens to a kid who tries taking one.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is a broad aversion, the five Gundam pilots are knowledgeable in handling mobile suits well before becoming pilots. At first it seems that they were all the first selection but it's revealed that several, Trowa particularly, more or less stole their Gundams in part due to the machinations of the Gundam creators in opposition to the intended "Operation Meteor."
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans plays with it, Mikazuki is the best pilot in the crew but his first time piloting the Gundam Barbatos was his first time piloting a mobile suit. It's shown that the Alaya Vijnana interface installed in his spine was designed for precision piloting of mobile workers (a wheeled tank that vaguely imitates mobile suit movement) but originated in Gundam tech, making it more of a natural extension of his body. Any pilot without that kind of interface, even a Badass Normal Ace Pilot, is at a severe disadvantage to a well trained Alaya Vijnana pilot (and that's before discovering the Gundam's Limit Break).
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury:
      • Eri replaces Uso as the youngest pilot to fall into the cockpit of a Gundam, doing so at the age of four. Admittedly, her mother did most of the piloting as they evacuated their home colony, but the little girl turns out to have amazing compatibility with the system and destroys three mobile suits with the Gundam's Attack Drones while marveling at all the pretty lights on the screen, considerably freaking out her mom in the process. Admittedly, Eri didn't so much fall into the cockpit as the lead researcher was showing her how it worked, and when an emergency occurred, Eri had somehow bonded with the Gundam.
      • Years later, Miorine steals Suletta's Gundam for a duel... except not only does she have precisely zero understanding of how to bond with a bleeding-edge Ace Custom, but she has no skill whatsoever with a normal Gundam, either. She promptly loses her own gun due to being unprepared for the recoil and then falls over.
      • Downplayed with the Demi Barding. Chuchu is given the Mobile Suit after her usual machine is destroyed in Norea's rampage across the school. She knows she's going to have a hard time as it isn't going to be tuned to her usual specifications, but Nika appears just in the nick of time to make the adjustments.
  • 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.
  • 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 responded to a trained and experienced Master.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: While the heroes are on a plane to Egypt, the Stand Tower of Gray kills the pilot and sabotage the controls. Joseph Joestar steps up to land the plane, but his last experience piloting was with a propeller-plane before World War II and that ended in a plane crash. Thankfully, they are able to land safely near Hong Kong.
  • Kotetsu Jeeg subverts it: Since Hiroshi transforms into Jeeg, he did not need prior training.
  • Macross plays with this in a number of different ways:
    • Super Dimension Fortress 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 Sheryl (with considerably less success), 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 himself tries to get to fly it a second time Ozma punches him in the face for his insolence and has him thrown out. It's only afterwards that Ozma gives him a chance, but he has to go through the proper channels first.
    • In Macross Delta's first battle, Hayate jumps into an abandoned VF-171 and proceeds to show off some fancy dance-like footwork while dodging enemy fire at close range, which is justified by the fact that he was already a fairly good civilian mecha pilot, with him explicitly noting that the 171's controls are set up similarly to the Destroid Work's. However, his complete lack of aircraft experience results in him being quickly shot down after transforming his ride into fighter jet mode.
  • In keeping with its love of mecha tropes, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does this as well—Nanoha comes into possession of 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Also, being a machinery operator back on Mars meant that he still had an active implant for controlling vehicles, and luckily for him the mecha in the setting use the same interface that everything else appears to be standardized on. Otherwise the mecha would not have even started up for him.
  • The Mazinger series:
    • 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, Duke -and Hikaru- from UFO Robo Grendizer play it straight. Maria, on the other hand, was trained to pilot the Drill Spacer.
    • 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. In another occasion he got to pilot Great Mazinger, and he was worried he wouldn't know how to pilot it. Fortunately, Great Mazinger's controls were pretty similar to the original's, and by that point he had several years of experience.
    • 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.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Shinji Ikari. 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. (However, given the nature of what Evangelions are, it wasn't a matter of luck that Shinji was designated a pilot.)
    • 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 weren't an Angel. And Mari? She's just nuts.
  • In Pacific Rim: The Black, when Travis siblings discover an abandoned Jaeger, Atlas Destroyer, its onboard AI starts opening up hangar doors, which sounds the alarm that attracts a nearby wandering Copperhead. Its immediate subsequent attack on their settlement is what forces the siblings to hastily initiate the Drift for the very first time to fend off the attacking Kaiju.
  • In Panzer World Galient, when White Valley is being attacked, Jordy gets in Galient and fights, despite having no training. Justified, since he was being mind-controlled by someone who knew how piloting the mecha.
  • Subverted in Patlabor. While Noa literally falls into the cockpit of the Ingram in the first episode, and was technically uncertified to pilot at the time, the reason she was on the base the Ingram was stolen from, and thus end up in the chain of events that caused her to fall into the cockpit, was because she was there to take her Labor operator's licensing examination. As such the only things she didn't know how to use right from the start were model-specific features.
  • Subverted in Pilot Candidate. In the very first episode, the main hero of series finds the five most powerful mechas during a battle and literally falls into the cockpit of one of them. Yet, even when THE MECH ITSELF was asking him to pilot it and join the battle, he refused because he didn't know anything about piloting.
  • Ayato from RahXephon has this happen. Sort-of. He thinks he's an Ordinary High-School Student, but the mech was actually made for him and he was guided to it mid-battle on purpose.
  • Raideen subverts the trope. Raideen was a sentient mecha that 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.
  • The Robot Romance Trilogy:
    • Combattler V played it straight with the main characters. The first time they deployed Combattler, they handled it reasonably well in spite of Chizuru being the only pilot who had been trained. It was justified later: there is a computer built into each one of their helmets, and it helps 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.
    • It was apparently played straight but quickly subverted in Voltes V: When the Voltes team was roughly shoved into their vehicles, Kenichi protested they didn't know how to drive them. Then his mother reminded him flatly that they had been trained to pilot aircraft.
    • 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 to pilot it and use his martial arts to fight (and still in the first battle he needed to be informed of the weapons of Daimos).
  • Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry 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.
  • Super Dimension Century Orguss : 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...
  • 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.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • Simon ends up having to pilot the Lagann almost immediately after he finds it, despite his protests. Fortunately for him, it's an Empathic Weapon of sorts. And HOT BLOOD accomplishes everything in TTGL.
    • ALL Hot-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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh. Jin, Asuka, and Kouji (and later Maria, but only through remote control) become mech pilots only because they happened to be there when the Mech's previous owner was dying. Then it's played literally as Once an Episode, during the school's massive Transformation Sequence, the said pilots are literally thrown into the cockpit before launch.
  • Zoids:
    • The main protagonist in Zoids: New Century (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 companion Zeke'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.

    Comic Books 
  • Kurt Busiek's book Shockrockets begins with a teenager coming upon a crashed jet fighter built using alien technology after the pilot dies, and then immediately flying it into battle. He's allowed to stay because the alien computer cores bond with their pilots until the pilot dies, and his uncanny talent is later explained when it turns out they save their pilots' memories as well.
  • In Supergirl story The Supergirl from Krypton (2004) after emerging from her pod and swimming to the surface, Kara finds the Batboat, a vehicle she has never seen before, built by an alien, primitive culture. She crawls into the driver seat and manages to start it, although she crashes the boat into the docks.
  • Tintin: 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has Harry pilot a Quinjet, evading missiles, and does pretty damn well. Aside from it not being real, just being a simulation to see how he handles himself, it is explained as a mixture of Harry's raw talent in flying, and the fact that per Word of God, aircraft are actually surprisingly easy to fly... once they're actually in the air. Take off and landing are a very different story.
  • Children of an Elder God: When Matarael and its spawn came along and invaded the city Shinji was dragged along to the Evangelion Unit 01 and ordered to pilot it. Later he describes the episode to Asuka and she is flabbergasted -since he piloted an Eva without prior training - and horrified - since nobody informed him of the risks (most people die or go mad when they try to pilot one).
  • A Crown of Stars:
    • Asuka learns to pilot Red Whirlwind in one morning thanks to Avaloni learning gear (it zapped the full basic piloting and technical course into her head).
      Shinji: Um, Asuka, how do you know how to pilot one of these things? You didn't this morning!
      Asuka: And I've had a whole morning to learn. Relax, Third, I know this beautiful beast inside and out. They've got some awesome learning gear around here. I've already had the full basic piloting and technical course zapped into my head.
    • She also lampshades the trope when Shinji and she talk about Shinji's first time piloting:
      Shinji: Wait, I don't know anything about how to drive one of these things!
      Asuka: And you didn't know anything about how to pilot an Evangelion when you tore apart the third Angel. Since when has not knowing anything slowed you down?
  • Doing It Right This Time makes a point of averting this trope: Since Unit-00 didn't go berserk during the activation test and Rei was able to deal with the Third Angel, Shinji doesn't have to be thrown into battle with no training out of desperation and his first day in Tokyo-3 is taken up by getting some proper training. Not that he really needs it, but Misato doesn't know that. At first.
  • 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.
  • Suzaku in My Mirror, Sword and Shield becomes the Lancelot's pilot while trying to escape the Battle of Shinjuku due to the death of the original test pilot. While he was given a choice to leave, he decides to fight for Lelouch by returning to the Britannian army. Along with his natural talent, Suzaku had two things on his side: years of playing Knightmare simulators and being the future adoptive son of the Lancelot's creator.
  • Parodied in NGE: Father Knows Best. During an Angel attack, Gendo tells that Shinji is capable to pilot Unit-01. Assuming that Shinji must be trained, everyone asks him to pilot. When they realize that Shinji has no idea what he's doing and they sent out a rookie, everyone wants to punch Gendo.
    "He doesn't know what he's doing!" She spins on Ikari, pushing past Akagi. "You said he was trained!"
    "I said he had potential, not training.” Gendo smirks. "This will take care of itself."
  • Once More with Feeling: Subverted. When Shinji gets into his giant robot, Gendo and everyone else believe he is piloting EVA for first time, with no previous knowledge or training. He is not, due to time-travel, but it is in his best interest making everyone believing that he has never met an Evangelion, and he successfully deceives them.
  • Discussed and ultimately averted Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover. The younger Maya (It Makes Sense in Context) wants to do this, but neither Admiral Nimitz nor Samantha Shepard are about to stick an inexperienced youngster into an advanced starfighter without at least some semblance of training lest her first time out become a Suicide Mission. By the time she's allowed to pilot a Space Fighter, she's already trained properly.
  • 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...
  • The Bleach fanfic The Shining Dark does this with Ichigo fittingly. Justified, as Ichigo is already trained and has a strong knack for it.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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. Being as Airplane is a parody of Zero Hour! (1957), this description applies almost word-for-word to that film as well.
  • In the 1980 Flash Gordon film, Flash has to take over over the controls of a plane when the pilots are sucked through the windshield (or maybe disintegrated) by Emperor Ming, which gets a one line Hand Wave: Apparently he's part of the way to getting a private pilot's license. Not to mention that he also pilots a Jetbike and the huge "Ajax" cruiser later in the film without much trouble.
  • In Flight of the Navigator, a little boy that had been Touched by Vorlons is recruited to pilot a UFO. Technically, the UFO only needs the starmap stored in the boy's brain, as its own navigational database was wiped by an electrical shock.
  • The Hunt for Red October: Jack Ryan, a former Marine-turned-CIA analystnote , is briefly placed at the helm of the Red October, an Akula/Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, during some Hot Sub-on-Sub Action because there's less than a dozen people still aboard after Captain Ramius tricked his crew into abandoning ship.
  • Happens twice in Independence Day:
    • 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. Although Russell Case at least is noted as being a Vietnam veteran and thus has some relevant experience, although the scene switches before the Air Force officer who's appraising the volunteers can ask for further details.
    • Steven 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. But that's more experience than anybody else has, because he's the only member of his squadron to not only survive the first engagement but successfully force one down, so he gets the gig.
  • Subverted in Jane and the Lost City. After their pilot ditches them, Jane and the others have to figure out how to land the plane, but they comically fail, and the plane crashes into the sea. Of course, they nonetheless survive and swim to shore.
  • In The Last Starfighter, Alex is coerced into piloting the last fighting starship in the peace-loving part of the universe. 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.
  • In Lazer Team, a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits ends up accidentally shooting down a UFO, which is on the way to deliver a suit of Powered Armor to the Champion of Earth, who has been trained from birth to use it. The four guys end up with different pieces of the suit, which bond to them and refuse to be taken off. Each piece has its own abilities, but they're meant to be used together in order to unlock the suit's true potential.
  • The Matrix:
    • The Matrix: Played with when Trinity needs to fly a helicopter but doesn't know how to, she gets the knowledge uploaded to her brain in an instant.
    • The Matrix Revolutions: Captain Mifune is mortally wounded and tells Kid to take control of his APU and keep fighting. When Kid says he didn't complete the training program, Mifune smiles and says "neither did I".
  • 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 two sequels also have untrained passengers successfully landing planes: one is an aerospace engineer, so he has some knowledge of how planes work, the other is a rock star, who's being guided by a hacker on the ground.
  • In Snakes on a Plane, Troy is the one with the most experience to land the plane - through video games. Thankfully, he gets some help from air traffic control.
  • Spencer from Star Kid literally got shoved into the cockpit of the intelligent, armor plated, alien super suit Cy.
  • Star Wars:
    • Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace.
      Anakin: Qui-Gon told me to stay in this cockpit, so that's what I'm gonna do!
    • Downplayed with Luke in A New Hope, who had only piloted civilian craft before (with no indication he'd flown in space, only in atmosphere) ending up flying a starfighter at a decisive battle—though he was studying to enter the Space Academy, he had not yet attended it. The Expanded Universe elaborates that they did at least test him in a simulator first, and also that an X-Wing's controls aren't that different from the Incom T-16 Skyhopper, the "crop duster"-type aircraft Luke has been flying that is seen parked in his garage in the film. (In the original trilogy novels, he's been grounded from it by his uncle for reckless flying, which was why he took the landspeeder when looking for R2. He is also seen playing with a model of it the first time he's talking to the two droids.) When he talks of "tagging womp rats", he's referring to aerial target practice. He is also endorsed by a friend who is a regular Rebel pilot.
      Biggs: Sir, Luke's the best bush pilot in the outer-rim territories.
    • In The Force Awakens, Rey is able to pilot the Millennium Falcon to escape from two TIE fighters in a high-speed chase across the desert Scavenger World of Jakku. Admittedly, she does have some initial difficulty with handling the ship, and tends to scrape the ground a lot during maneuvers. She also has a couple of advantages, as her life as a scavenger and regular visitor of Niima Outpost has left her with a deep understanding of machines in general and the Falcon in particular, and the EU states that the crashed Imperial craft she made into her home had a working flght simulator. Also, the Force. She quickly gets the hang of it.
    • 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.
    • Anakin Solo gets to use the Empathic Weapon variant, the hyperspace repulsors of Centerpoint Station. Are we sensing a pattern here?

  • Domina: One of the many Jefferies clones crawls into a damaged echo and uses it with a reasonable amount of skill. It's pointed out that since echoes are Mo Cap Mechas, in theory piloting one is no different than fighting normally. It's just not enough when fighting the Erlking.
  • A dark variant occurs at the end of HG Wells' The First Men in the Moon. The interplanetary sphere takes off soon after the narrator left it on a beach, and he immediately suspects a kid they passed by on the way and who is later reported missing. Given that the sphere is very tricky to control and that the narrator suspects the kid did not bother closing it before accidentally taking off, there is little chance they'll see the kid alive or the sphere ever again.
  • Heralds of Valdemar implies that this is part of the Companions' magic. The creatures are so intelligent and their gait so smooth that anyone can ride one- Talia theorizes that even a baby could stay on if it knew enough to keep hold of the reins. (Of course, this only applies to Companions that want to be ridden. The rest are quite good at fighting off unwanted attention.) This is fortunate, because Companions are often in situations where they need to rescue someone who's injured/has no riding experience/immobilized by trauma/all of the above. At least one Companion has exploited this trope, in order to kidnap the poor bastard who thought he was stealing her. He was not expecting her to charge off once he was in the saddle, but when you're astride 300 kilograms of galloping horseflesh, you don't have many options other than "hold on".
  • 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.
  • The Temeraire series has Captain Lawrence in a similar situation with a dragon, minus the initial battle. He captured a French warship that was carrying a dragon egg, it hatched before he could reached port, and he ended up bonding to one of the rarest and most valuable dragons in the world. He fits the "staying in the cockpit" part of the trope, though; not only is he forced to leave the Navy for the Aerial Corps, a lot of the conflict is derived from various authority figures trying to get Temeraire to let someone else be his partner.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Deconstructed in a Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode where a teenager steals a Space Fighter but quickly ends up in over his head and unable to return to base. Buck talks him through the procedure and compliments him on getting that far... then turns the kid over to his parents for punishment.
  • The climactic scene of the Chuck episode "Chuck vs. the Helicopter".
  • Played for Laughs in a Gilligan's Island episode where Gilligan attempts an escape from the island using a World War II Japanese mini-sub. Although he has small-craft handling experience, Gilligan spends a good deal of time circling around the lagoon because the controls of the submarine were unfamiliar to him and labeled in Japanese. Specifically, he blames the compass, but a compass will still point toward magnetic north no matter what language the card is printed in.
  • The Pilot Movie of JAG plays with this trope. Harm was a Tomcat driver before he was a Navy lawyer, but was forced to change careers due to an undiagnosed eye problem that resulted in a plane crash. He goes for a ride-along during a combat recon mission. The pilot is wounded, and Harm has to take the stick. Unusually for the trope, Harm doesn't have to deal with any bad guys, but he has his hands full with an in-flight emergency and landing a complicated aircraft he hasn't been in for five years.
  • Power Rangers:
    • In the premiere episode of the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Trini and Billy comment on how piloting their Zords comes naturally to them.
    • This is more or less how Ziggy becomes Ranger Green in Power Rangers RPM. He was in charge of finding a suitable candidate for the role; unfortunately, the only decent one turned out to be the villainess out to give the morpher to Venjix. Ziggy activates the morpher to prevent it from falling into enemy hands...and immediately wishes he hadn't. It takes him quite some time to even barely improve, with much of his battles — morphed and unmorphed — being very one-sided in the enemy's favor.
  • In Red Dwarf, Lister and Rimmer, essentially the ship's janitors and unskilled odd-job men at the very bottom of the Space Corps ladder, find themselves - by default - in charge of a city-sized mining ship and all the technology it has at its disposal. As Everybody's Dead, Dave, men who previously only unclogged blocked nozzles in the chicken soup dispensers are now in the captain's chair.
  • 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, Troy Horse shows up and attacks Red Baron, knocking it down. Despite this, Kenichiro continues his instructions so that Ken can do a proper counterattack.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Trill are a species that has ability to bond with a long lived wormlike creature that grant them all the memories and experiences of its previous hosts. Joined Trill normally have to undergo years of training before their even considered to be bonded, but Ezri ended up as the new host of the Dax symbiote with nothing more than a 15 minute crash corse from her ship's non-Trill chief medical officer because its health took a turn for the worst when it was being transported and there weren't any other Trill for lightyears. This causes quite a few issues for her early on, and she often has difficulty differentiating between her own thoughts and those of the previous 8 hosts.
    • The episode "Valiant" is essentially a Deconstruction of the Star Wars-style plot. An advanced warship on a training mission is caught behind enemy lines when its officers are killed. The surviving crew is a bunch of inexperienced but brave cadets, whose charismatic leader decides to try and destroy the Dominion's new super-battleship with an experimental technique. They fail, their ship is blown up, and then the Dominion plays Sink the Lifeboats with the escape pods.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mechanically supported in the CAMELOT Trigger setting for Fate Core, where a knight's "armour" can be equipped with skills its pilot may not actually have and thus characters less laser-focused on being primarily career combatants can still contribute just fine in action at least as long as those systems don't get knocked out. On the other hand it's also entirely possible to have Ace Custom designs that invest the same space into stunts meant to build on and enhance the pilot's existing skills instead and thus include few if any such integrated skill packages; those will consequently turn out that much less newbie-friendly in unqualified hands.
  • 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 novel Hearts of Chaos sees super-scout and battlenech 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. Having experience piloting a civilian industrialmech is shown to given someone an advantage when it comes to learning how to pilot a battlemech, but it's absolutely not sufficient to let someone get into a fight and have anything resembling a chance against pilot who's actually trained.
    • It's played more straight with Grayson Death Carlyle, who as a teen was slacking off on the military training that his father, a respected mercenary commander, wanted his son to take so that he could inherit the unit someday. After said unit is destroyed in a sneak attack, Gray has to fight and steals a Locust even though he ducked out on a lot of the training in piloting a 'Mech. He does surprisingly well, enough to where he ends up eventually becoming an elite MechWarrior.
  • Perfectly plausible in Remnants. The Ishin will still repair themselves if their pilot is killed, to a basic state with no apparent abilities; they were designed to be self-sufficient to a ridiculous degree, but have no security until they have accepted a new pilot. These are constantly being found abandoned, and whoever gets in will be accepted as a new pilot, without question or instructions, and it will begin to configure itself to match the new pilot.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • A variation occurs in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War. 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.
  • In the US version of Blaster Master, the hero Jason is some kid who just finds a vehicle in a cave. Becomes somewhat justified in Zero, where Jason is noted to be a robotics expert.
  • Far Cry 3: A character who has only recently qualified as a fixed wing plane pilot has to fly a helicopter with no preparation, while being shot at. It is said that any landing you can walk away from is a good landing, and that if you can use the plane again it's a bonus. He gets the bonus.
  • 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.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • Technically, most of your NPC crew. 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. Samantha Traynor, the Communications Officer, was actually working in R&D, but, like Cortez, she ended up being put into the job and was good at it.
    • Subverted with the actual ship cockpit itself, as the two NPCs that do occupy that area are a fully trained and qualified pilot who has been flying the Normandy-SR2 since it first launched (Joker) or the ship's computer in an android body (EDI).
  • In Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, the professor must do this at the end.
  • This happens to the Federation players in Star Trek Online. On your first Voyage, you get attacked by a Klingon fleet. The captain has you run minor tasks, so he can get himself captured and executed, but not before promoting you to the captain. You then proceed to annihilate the attacking fleet with just a bit of help.
  • 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...
  • Super Robot Wars:
    • 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.
    • Ingram pulls the same trick on Ryusei with the Gespenst Type-TT in Super Robot Wars: Original Generation. Despite Ryusei's lack of training (aside from his skills playing Burning PT) Ingram calls the idea that Ryusei wouldn't be able to win in that situation "nonsense".
    • In Super Robot Wars Judgment, playing as Touya will have the unit you picked crash into a school building near him, complete with an Unwanted Harem while Mazinger Z and its female sidekick defend the school from enemies. It's also lampshaded by Gai early on, who says that anyone that gets a mech that way is destined for greatness.
    • The Z series Originals see it vary quite a bit. Setsuko, while a nervous rookie, is still a trained pilot, Rand has been piloting Gunleon for years, and Crowe is a retired veteran ( who used to be a member of an Elite Black Ops unit at that). Hibiki, on the other hand, fits the trope to a T, becoming the Genion's pilot by accident during an attack on his school. Amusingly enough, the intended pilot was actually his homeroom teacher.
    • Zigzagged in Super Robot Wars 30. Edge and (or, rather) Az, wandering travellers, get their hands on the Huckebein 30 by finding it in a ruined military complex and effectively get conscripted into piloting it since the official pilot died earlier... but once they get into the cockpit, they immediately start piloting it to utter perfection, way past the level of a promising newbie and more on par with trained professionals. So while the setup is there, as the game goes on it become clear there's a lot more to them than mere everymen thrown into a wild situation.
  • Downplayed in Titanfall 2. While the player character was not an officially trained Titan pilot, by the time they end up with their own Titan they've received unofficial training from their mentor, Captain Lastimosa. Unfortunately, that training ended 30 seconds before you got to use an actual simulated titan, so it was mostly just jumping.
  • 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 GEARs. 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.
  • In Xenogears, Amnesiac Hero Fei stumbles into the cockpit of a downed mech when his Doomed Hometown gets caught in the crossfire. Fortunately, he was a skilled pilot before losing his memory. Unfortunately, his forgotten self isn't a very nice guy. And by purest coincidence, the mech he happens to crawl into is a special kind that only he can unlock the true potential of. He ends up accidentally wiping out what's left of the town, and the surviving villagers blame him for trying to use the thing when he didn't know how, causing Fei to stop using the mech out of disgust until a few scenes later.
  • Zone of the Enders:
    • Nearly every protagonist in the series, with the exception of Radium in IDOLO. It helps that the Orbital Frames typically have some sort of AI to help.
    • Played absolutely literally with Leo Stenbuck in the first game, who backs up against Jehuty's cockpit shield without realising it, only for it to open under him, sending him tumbling backwards into the pilot seat.
    • 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 civilian LEVs until he found Jehuty).

    Web Original 
  • Downplayed and deconstructed in gen:LOCK: Because only one in a million people is gen:LOCK compatible and said program is more or less the Polity's last hope to stop the Union's advance, the new recruits are sent into combat with only minimal training. And while Kazu and Valentina manage to hold their own pretty well, the seventeen-year old Cammienote  is still struggling to perform even basic maneuvers, cannot bring herself to shoot enemy infantry and almost mistakes one of her comrades for the enemy. And then Nemesis shows up...
  • 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.
  • 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!

    Western Animation 
  • Cubix: Robots for Everyone: 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.
  • Megas XLR:
    • Played with. 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.
  • Subverted in The Simpsons episode "Fear of Flying", when Homer after going to a pilots-only bar is forced into the cockpit of an airliner only to wreck it by raising the plane's landing gear even before starting take-off procedures.
  • 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.
  • In season one of Voltron: Legendary Defender, none of the Voltron Paladins are trained in handling Altean spacecraft when they find the lions. On top of that, only one of them is fully trained in piloting Earth spacecraft, and two of them have had no pilot training whatsoever (Being in training to become engineering and communications specialists). It takes half the season before they have any real understanding of what they're doing, and as of the season finale have yet to truly master Voltron.

    Real Life 
  • 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 
    • As the Allied forces liberated occupied territory and began advancing into Germany itself, this trope began to be inverted as well, with airmen being used to reinforced ground units facing combat attrition. With the Luftwaffe having been mostly defeated, it was easy enough to justify taking aerial gunners, already trained in the operation of machine guns, and putting them into infantry units to help deal with the still-fighting Wehrmacht.
  • A downplayed example from Formula One: at the 1979 Canadian Grand Prix, Niki Lauda announced halfway through practice that he was tired of "driving around in circles" and quit the sport on the spot. With barely any time to find a replacement, Brabham owner Bernie Ecclestone resorted to searching the grandstands in case there was a driver in attendance. As luck would have it, Argentinian driver Ricardo Zunino - who had driven F1 cars before, but not in F1 itself, and they hadn't been nearly as powerful as the turbocharged Brabham - was in attendance, stepped in to fill the breach, and did well enough at such short notice that Brabham kept him on for 1980note .
  • A non-vehicular example goes to Doris Miller. To clarify, Miller was given very little if any training on ANY firearm prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and his battle station was nowhere 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 at least 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).
  • It's rare, but there have been a few cases over the years where a passenger has had to take control of a small plane after a sole pilot became incapacitated in some way. (The only known instance of this with a heavy aircraft involved a military pilot who was assisted by the plane's original copilot.) It's not out of the realm of possibility to land a plane - but it's extremely hard without proper training. That's why pilots exist.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Fell Into The Cockpit


"No one's flying the plane!"

Indy finds himself in a cockpit trying to land the faltering plane in the Himalayas after the pilots escaped via parachutes.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / FallingIntoTheCockpit

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