Seasnake's Aviation Page





The Kobiyashi Maru




Star Trek legend holds a little story about a test that all Star Fleet officer cadets have to take in order to graduate from the academy.  It is a no-win simulation, in which a distress call from a stellar-freighter, named the Kobiyashi Maru, leads our intrepid cadet into a colossal ambush that destroys the rescuer.  


The purpose is to show the cadets that you just don't always win.  The legend is that only Cadet James T Kirk beat the simulation, by rewiring the console the night before the test. 


My experiences have led me to think that almost everyone faces a "Kobiyashi Maru"-style test during their careers.  (Maru means cargo ship in Japanese, and the entire planet is full of generic ships with some variation of that name.)  I think it is a valid test, actually.  Like much of the Star Trek genre of writing, the Kobiyashi Maru contains grains of wisdom to the story.


OK, well, this isn't one of them.


1985 and I'm having a ball.  We flew hundreds of hours at 50 feet and 100 miles an hour in our little rescue helicopter, dodging around among all the warships and freighters in the South China Sea and Bay of Bengal.  The ocean teems with shipping, and we buzzed around them like a bee in a flower garden.


Late at night, we used the RADAR to sneak up on ships in the darkness.  Without lights, we parallel the ship's course and fly right past it, reading its name, place of registry, etc. and anything interesting we can notice.


I slid out of the door, leaning as far out and forward as possible and straining to read the name using the starlight binoculars that allow us to see in the near-dark.   Light is amplified 40,000 times, and reading is possible, but not easy.  Kind of like a Stephen Hawking book....


We approached a big, low freighter, sailing with purpose through the crowded shipping lanes.  I leaned further out, waiting for its name to come into view.


 My eyes popped open! 


I scrambled back into the cabin, laughing and shrieking - with a yell, "Run for your lives!'s the KOBIYASHI MARU!"  The furious pilots inititialy rolled our protesting helo on its side, spanking it harshly to get clear.  Both of them  were completely stymied in attempting to figure out if there really was a problem --  I was rolling around in the back of the helicopter, laughing uncontrollably, all the more hysterical because only one of my friends would ever understand what was so goddamn funny!


So yes, friends.  I have faced the test.  The final exam of Star Fleet Academy.  My advice?


            Shields!  Max Warp, run for your lives!  (But only if the pilots have a sense of humor :)


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Last Modified: Monday March 09, 2009

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