Captain Crash

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    "If it's got wings, I can crash it!"

    "A good landing is one you can walk away from. A great landing is one where they can use the plane again afterwards."

    Common aviation proverb

    Everyone's encountered or at least heard of this fellow. He's the Patrician of Demolition, the Czar of "Fubar", and the Master of Disaster.

    He's supposedly an accomplished captain/pilot/driver, but while he may be great at flying a plane, he's not so good at landing one. Whenever he gets behind the controls of any vehicle, he crashes it. 

    Even if he's in the desert with nothing to crash into, he'll somehow find a way. To his credit, the crashes are survivable, so he does have that going for him. 

    Sometimes the crashes are not his fault; he just seems to attract bad luck. Still, with all the crashes he's been in, it's a wonder anyone trusts him to drive or his license hasn't been revoked. His insurance rates are probably through the roof. Is often depicted as Innocently Insensitive or a Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant, if not an out-and-out Cloudcuckoolander.

    Can be somewhat justifiable for rookies crashing planes, because taking off and flying are much easier than landing. The landing is where the real skill shows itself.

    Sister trope of the Disposable Pilot, who generally doesn't even survive his first crash. See also: Drives Like Crazy.

    Examples of Captain Crash include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Hikaru Ichijo/Rick Hunter of Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech gets his Valkyrie trashed a lot.
      • It's so bad, that even his coma delirium mocks him for it repeatedly (and even has him crashing a bicycle!) in the episode Phantasam.
      • Though not nearly as much as Alto in Macross Frontier, who trashes a new plane every other episode or so. In the epilogue, he managed to set his perfectly-undamaged Valkyrie on fire, after the battle was over, and scuttled it as it was breaking apart.
    • Seta in Love Hina usually enters a chapter by crashing his van, but emerging without major injury. His protégé Keitaro picks up the trait by the final chapters.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
      • They're rarely the ones piloting them, but there's a rule that if someone of the Joestar bloodline gets into a plane, it will crash. No exceptions.
      • Cars, trains, boats and submarines have a similar tendency to crash somehow when a Joestar is near. Oh, and an helicopter, but that was highly intentional.
    • Sagara Sousuke from Full Metal Panic! seems to be this. Of course, part of it might be explained by how most of the instances where he's driving have been dangerous car chase scenes (where it's only natural that he would be crashing through things and driving crazy). But then one starts to wonder when, during an instance where he wasn't even being chased, he ended up running an obvious red light and crashed into another car. And then there's his crazy "driving" when he was riding on a bicycle... honestly, people should get the idea and just not let him drive.
    • Area 88: While very much an Ace Pilot, Shin Kazama manages to get at least three or four planes shot out from under him, depending on the continuity. His luckier comrades also have tendencies in this directions. The rest, well, Anyone Can Die.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Heero Yuy. Utterly lethal in mobile suit combat, but the number of suits he's totalled or seriously damaged defies belief. He has had at least two Leos and the Mercurius shot out from under him, as well as wrecking Wing Zero in Endless Waltz (although that took some doing.) And then there is Wing Gundam. Poor, poor Wing Gundam. To date, Heero has crashed it into the ocean, attempted to self-detonate it, attempted to blow it up with torpedoes, actually self-detonated it, then finally had it shot out from under him before getting his Mid-Season Upgrade. One has to wonder what Trowa was thinking when he lent him Heavyarms...
      • In Gundam Seed and Seed Destiny Kira Yamato and Athrun Zala have each had only one of their mobile suits survive the end of the series (one each across two series), every other suit they used was totaled, though Athrun went though far more suits, to the point if he touched it it was probably doomed and Kira's tended to be rebuilt and destroyed again.
    • In Gunsmith Cats, Rally Vincent wrecks her car on multiple occasions despite proving her worth in multiple street races. At one point it is even mentioned that she can't get insurance anymore.
    • Enryu from GaoGaiGar has a tendency towards this, despite being a transforming fire truck: any time he's launched out of the Mirror Catapult, it can be safely assumed that his return to the ground will be devoid of any grace whatsoever. And apparently his Chinese counterpart, Rairyu, shares the same problem, as do both of the French Dragons, Kuryu and Anryu. 2/3 of the Dragon Braves, it seems, are masters of the divine art of the faceplant.
    • Rosette Christopher of Chrono Crusade has gotten into so many car accidents that even the mangaka isn't sure whether or not she has a license.

    Comic Books

    • Hal Jordan is a test pilot for the Air Force, and constantly crashes planes by taking them well beyond test parameters.
    • Killboy from Deff Skwadron. A deliberate example, since his entire flying style is founded on Ramming Always Works.
    • Whenever we meet Spaceman Spiff in the Calvin and Hobbes comics, he's crash landing on some planet.
      • There's a Shout-Out to this in the card game Cosmic Encounter, with the "Spiff" race, who have the power to "crash-land" when they lose a battle.
      • Also, Calvin rarely pilots his sled or wagon without flying off a ravine or crashing into a tree.
    • Almost everyone in Sin City crashes his or her car, often due to Car Fu.
    • In the Lucky Luke episode Going Up the Mississippi the machinist, "Bangs", is stated to have exploded fourteen river boats. Subverted in the end: This time the other boat explodes, much to his surprise.

    Fan Works


    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke crashes his Tauntaun, his snowspeeder, and his X-wing. This is all within an hour of the opening crawl. 
        • Luke's tauntaun got eaten by the wampa. It was Han who deliberately took his tauntaun out in temperatures it couldn't survive and killed it.
      • The X Wing Series gives us Ascended Extra Derek 'Hobbie' Klivian and his much-lampshaded tendency toward spectacular crashes and long periods in a bacta tank. Despite this, he's unquestionably an Ace Pilot and even seems to make it work for him: no matter what violent fate befalls his vehicle, Hobbie will always eject, survive and be back kicking ass within the week.
      • The first-published comic arc in that series, The Rebel Opposition, makes it necessary to mention Hobbie's squadronmate Tycho. He put on Imperial guise and reported in saying that his TIE had crashed. They gave him a new one. He flew on a mission, was shot down by his own X-Wing (long story), ejected and survived, then returned to the Imperial base. They gave him a new one. Then he betrayed them. In fairness, TIE fighters are light, cheap, unshielded Fragile Speedsters mainly used for Zerg Rushing.
    • A running gag in Indiana Jones. Quoth the third film:

    Henry Jones Sr.: You know how to fly this thing?
    Indiana Jones: Fly, yes. Land, no.

    • Orville the albatross in The Rescuers, as well as his brother Wilbur in The Rescuers Down Under. Truth in Television, as real albatrosses are masters of the air, yet largely usesless on land.
    • Nigel from Finding Nemo keeps running into a closed window. Turns out some birds actually do this. Maybe their friends dare them to try it?
      • Sometimes it's because they're drunk. On fermented nectar. Yes.
    • Q makes a point in some of the later James Bond movies of asking 007 to bring his gadgets back in one piece. They never do, especially the cars.

    Natalya Simonova: Do you destroy every vehicle you get into?
    James Bond: Standard operating procedure.

    • The absent-minded Admiral Benson in Hot Shots! gives us this line:

    You know, I've personally flown over 194 missions and I was shot down on every one. Come to think of it, I've never landed a plane in my life.

    • Trinity in The Matrix. She's a great fighter and one of the best characters, but make sure you aren't in a car, helicopter, or motorcycle with Trinity at the wheel! (Granted, most of her crashes are either deliberate, or happen because she didn't need the vehicle anymore and had no time to do anything but jump off and discard it while it was still running.)


    • A romance novel where the hero, an airplane pilot, was called "Crash" ... because he crashed a car.
    • Harry Potter crashes something in almost every one of his books.
    • Catch-22's Orr practices crashing his plane. Not that anyone could tell.
    • Richard Hannay (The Thirty-Nine Steps) ends up crashing almost every vehicle he gets into, although sometimes they pre-emptively break down instead.
    • Sinbad the Sailor had a bad habit of getting shipwrecked in his stories.
    • Callista Carmel of Tour of the Merrimack earned the nickname "Crash Carmel" for totaling a number of shuttles.
    • In Monster Hunter International Orcs have one thing they're supernaturally good at in exchange for being utterly incompetent at an opposite. In the case of Ace Pilot Skippy, who can make a helicopter fly sideways, this manifests as him crashing any land vehicle he attempts to drive before he can get out of the parking lot.

    Live-Action TV

    • Lt. Frank Drebin of Police Squad! would park by smashing his car into something (trash cans, bicycles, other cars) at least Once Per Episode.
    • Although being a competent pilot, Boomer in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica is known for her terrible landing skills, causing a dent on her ship every time she lands.
      • Racetrack and her co-pilot Skulls fall into the bad-luck variety. There is nothing to show that Racetrack is a bad pilot. That doesn't change the fact she seems to attract errors, breakdowns, sabotages and attacks. Did the striking workers spike the fuel, casing a Raptor to spin out of control and crash into Colonial One? It'll be Racetrack's. Did chief mess up the repairs and caused a Raptor to crash on the landing deck? It's Racetrack's. Did a saboteur plant a bomb in a Raptor to kill Baltar's attorney? It's Racetrack's Raptor. Did the experimental jump drive cause a mis-jump? It was Racetrack and how she discovered New Caprica.
        • Skulls lampshades it in the Grand Finale.
        • And both of them are killed shortly after
        • And yet she manages to perform a post-mortem Deus Ex Nukina, taking out the Cylon Home Colony with her.
      • Lee "Apollo" Adama should also bear mentioning. He doesn't necessarily wreck a lot of stuff, but he has a penchant for wrecking important stuff. From the mini-series he manages to first disable his father's old fighter and then utterly trash it before the the end. He goes on to wreck the only stealth fighter another character spend an entire episode fabricating. And then he wrecks The Pegasus, the more advanced of the pair of battlestars. It's a wonder why Daddy keeps giving him the keys. 
    • Hibiki from Kamen Rider Hibiki; especially ironic since Kamen Riders tend to be Badass Bikers (where do you think the "Rider" came from?).
    • For Jake Cutter, of Tales of the Gold Monkey, crash landings were routine and accepted as such on Bora Gora.
    • Richard Hammond of Top Gear has a... not-undeserved reputation for being accident-prone.
    • This is pretty much Chakotay's nickname in Star Trek: Voyager. He ends the second part of the pilot episode crashing his original ship into a Kazon cruiser, and nearly every shuttle he touches from then on is doomed.
    • This was a running joke when referencing Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses.

    Newspaper Comics

    • In Peanuts, Snoopy is this in his Imagine Spots as the World War I Flying Ace; he is always shot down by his nemesis the Red Baron.
    • Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes; most strips (Sunday ones especially) that start with him and Hobbes on their wagon (or in the winter, his sled) end with them crashing, often spectacularly. One strip that starts after a crash on the sled has Hobbes commenting that he never saw a sled catch fire before.


    • Captain Jet Morgan of the old BBC radio serial Journey Into Space could fit this trope. He captains the spaceship Discovery, and when it's required that the ship lands, Jet is always the one who pilots her down. Unfortunately he tends to crash, or at least make hideously bumpy landings, more than he manages to bring her down smoothly. Of course, one of those times he had actually been knocked out before the ship was quite fully landed, but most other times it's just Jet. Nobody ever really comments on this.
      • It may also count that he does extensive damage to a Martian asteroid ship when he tries to slow it to a stop. Granted, it doesn't actually crash—they are in space, after all—but it does the next best thing.
    • A naval example in The Navy Lark, Mister Phillips's standard method of docking is this trope. He caused more damage to Naval property than both world wars.
      • Ironically, the one time he was asked to deliberately crash HMS Troutbridge into another ship (as part of a ploy to allow Captain Povey to escape his overbearing mother-in-law and join the rest of the crew at a pub) a fault in the steering mechanism ensured he couldn't hit anything... 42 times in a row!

    Video Games

    • Halo has numerous scripted crashes. One of them, Cortana assumed the Master Chief did on purpose.
      • Excluding Foehammer, it seems that the typical Pelican pilot doesn't know how to land without crashing.
    • In Knights of the Old Republic 2, Atton manages a total of four crash-landings - twice on Telos, once on Dxun, and once on Malachor V. The first three involved getting shot out of the sky, while in the last case there probably wasn't any way to make a smooth landing on the planet in question. 
      • To his credit, Carth from the first game only crashes the Ebon Hawk once, despite how many times it was shot at. 
    • Ibis Douglas of Super Robot Wars, nicknamed the "shooting star", because just like a shooting star, she inevitably falls to earth...
      • Reality Ensues in one continuity, as her tendency to crash killed an NPC!
        • Namely her best friend's fianc?nd rival's older brother. Oh, and whatever confidence she had before goes straight down the tubes because of this.
    • Maya Amano from Persona 2 crashes every vehicle she commandeers. Including a dirigible. It's something of a running gag.
    • Kreyg (AKA Hot Blooded Gaming) from Justin TV does this a lot when he plays GTAIV, he even made a company for it!
    • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Woozie, a very bizarre ally, can drive maginificently. Walking into walls, however, is a frequent occurence. Even More amazing is the fact that he can drive while being blind.
      • Even more amusing is that his gang acts like he isn't blind at all. It is rather confusing especially since you meet him during a high speed race. Through the countryside. The Crowning Moment of Funny is when he confesses to CJ that he is blind. No shit, homie.
    • Ratchet and Clank showcases the former of the two protagonists destroying every single starship he pilots in the series, at one point or another.
      • This even happened to poor Aphelion in A Crack in Time—though, to Ratchet's credit, he tried everything to keep from crashing, and she gets repaired.
    • More of a player Captain Crash than anything else, but in Saints Row 2, if the Boss is driving in a car with Johnny Gat and s/he crashes into something, Johnny is liable to muse, "Just like old times."
    • World of Warcraft:
      • At the end of the Alliance Questline to Twilight Highlands, Fargo Flintlocke says he ditched the landing gear among other things to make the plane lighter - he doesn't "land" usually anyway. Fargo's remark at the end of the trip is a Crowning Moment of Funny.
    • Player awakens on a ship and looks up to see the plane burning on top of the mast*

    Flintlocke: [his head popping into view, and looking down at the player] What? Like you could have done any better!

    • Hilariously done during the Fireland Invasion scenario with Ricket, a young goblin hired as an explosives expert. (The term is used loosely.) In the first quest involving her, she barely misses the player by crashing a shoddily built vehicle right in front of you, then shaking off the shock by saying the prototype needs work.
    • There's also a running gag about the Draenei, that any time they're piloting a vehicle they'll crash it. This is likely because their capital, the Exodar, is a magic interstellar space-ship that they crashed into Azeroth. The Oshu'gun, the ship that got them from Argus to Draenor, crashed as well. Neither was actually their fault (the Oshu'gun crashed as a result of the Naaru pilot becoming corrupte and the Exodar had been sabotaged by blood elves) but the meme stuck.
    • The hero of Grandia III has designed, built and crashed over a dozen planes before the game even starts. After his personal hero builds him a new plane, he stops crashing. Maybe it was just that he couldn't design a plane that would stay in the air.
    • James Vega from Mass Effect 3 gets this reputation after he intentionally crashes his shuttle into another shuttle to prevent Dr. Eva from escaping with the plans for the Prothean device. Nobody will let him forget it. He can end up crashing again if he's the one to take over the skycar controls when Shepard abandons the control panel to shoot at Kai Leng during the Citadel coup—although that one is Shepard's fault.
      • Vega learned from the best. Shepard crashes the skycar no matter who is in the backseat with them. And when chasing Tela Vasir in the last game's DLC missions, Shepard used another skycar to sideswipe her into crashing. And let's not get into all those shenanigans with the Mako in the first game. One thing's for sure; if Shepard's driving, something is going to end up in a fiery wreck.

    Western Animation

    • Via his own admission, Launchpad McQuack claims, "If it's got wings, I can crash it". Throughout DuckTales (1987), it's a marvel anyone gets in a plane he's piloting. He really is a very accomplished pilot, capable of taking off on any surface, flying through any storm, and weaving through any enemy air space, but he can't land without crashing. the reason Scrooge McDuck gives for why he hasn't fired him is that he works for cheap, charging only 1 cent per mile.
      • It's not just planes - in one episode (after he's crashed a submarine), he pulls out a bingo card from his insurance company with pictures of various land, sea and air vehicles and marks it off. Several other types of craft are already crossed out. He claims he'll get a free toaster from his insurance company after crossing off a whole column.
      • Lampshaded in DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, when Launchpad confesses that his flying leasons were a crash course.
      • Hilariously subverted in "The Golden Goose" when Launchpad attempts to crash on purpose, only to land perfectly - Launchpad may crash all the time, but he's so good at wrecking his planes that he's an expert at crashing safely.
      • Deconstructed in one episode where a Scrooge orders Launchpad to pilot a sabotaged blimp that's about to crash on its own. With Launchpad at the control, they still crash, but everybody survives with minor injuries.
      • By the time of Darkwing Duck, he seemed to have improved (or forced himself to get better because they only had one plane, as opposed to DuckTales (1987)' never ending supply). He'd crash occasionally, but that was usually due to getting shot down. There were still a lot of jokes and Shout Outs to his poor landing skills, but on that show it had become more of an Informed Inability. Although, in one episode where Lauchpad doesn't appear, Darkwing crashes his craft himself and then comments, "Launchpad would have been proud."
      • Received Shout Outs at least twice on Gargoyles, with the drivers of crashed helicopters musing, "Any landing you can walk away from..."
      • In the DuckTales (2017) version of DuckTales, Launchpad doesn't even grasp the idea of flying a plane or driving a train without crashing it. In this version he's also Scrooge's chauffer, and is just as bad at that.
        • In stark contrast to Launchpad, Della can land a plane safely, but zigzags and barrel rolls a lot when it is airborne; Scrooge get airsick when she is the pilot, a problem he never had with Launchpad.
    • Ace in the G.I. Joe cartoon and comic. Lampshaded in one instance when he says over the radio, "I'm going in!", to which Duke replies, "Every time you say that it gets expensive!"
      • Cobra troops often joke about their own Air Devil pilots. "What's the last thing to go through an Air Devil's head when he hits the ground? His engine."
      • Also the notoriously clumsy and oafish Wildcard, who seems to break everything he comes in contact with by random chance except for his vehicle of choice. His filecard says that they put him in that thing because siccing him on the enemy personally is probably against the Geneva Convention.
    • Fillmore! can be pretty much guaranteed to wreck any ride he gets into, much to Vallejo's frustration.
    • Batman in The DCAU. IIRC, the Batwing was destroyed in every appearance it made in JL/JLU. I'm not even sure the thing has landing gear.
      • It does. It lands once in the very first JU episode, although Superman has to catch it and land it for Batman because a wing was shot off.
    • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash exhibits the non-vehicle version of this trope. Dash is a superb flyer; her landings, however, are sometimes far from graceful, as Twilight's library can attest. Taken Up to Eleven when she's afflicted by Poison Joke, which inverts her wings, leaving her crashing into things every few seconds, thrust-vectoring into the floor, and other such mishaps.
      • A lot of crashing is indicated to come from constantly attempting impossibly difficult stunts in an effort to impress the Wonderbolts. She also has a tendency to lose concentration or get distracted at critical moments (if she starts talking to someone while flying, it's a safe bet she's going to hit something in the next few seconds).
    • In Star Wars the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker proves the apple didn't fall far from the tree in some ways. He's the finest starfighter pilot in the galaxy... and the worst starfighter lander in the galaxy.
    • Due to Continuity Reboot, it may not technically count, but nearly every incarnation of Transformers begins with the Autobots and Decepticons (or Maximals and Predacons) crashing on Earth or recently having done so. Very rare is the Cybertronian ship that has actually landed. Apparently, robots who turn into vehicles are terrible drivers.
      • For that matter, wouldn't one expect their vehicles to just turn into even gianter robots? Maybe then CAN but they all just keep crashing themselves and dying before we can see any of them transform...
    • In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, Shane Gooseman crashed least three interceptors and a Ranger cruiser...and the show only ran one season. His driving is just as bad.
    • Whistler the heron in The Animals of Farthing Wood is bad at landing in later episodes and falls on someone before able to take cover.
    • The old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons featured the world's most incompetent sailor, Captain Peter "Wrongway" Peachfuzz.

    Web Original


    A research team hypothesized that rollerblades are, technically, vehicles. We tested their hypothesis by having Gerald skate into the IRG's headquarters in Tehran. They were right.


    Real Life

    • Edward Smith: First he was captain when a ship called the RMS Olympic collided with a British warship. Then Olympic lost a propeller blade and she returned to her builder for emergency repairs. Then he was captain when a ship called the RMS Titanic sailed from Southampton to New York City. Perhaps you have heard about what happened during that voyage.
    • Christopher Columbus crashed his flagships on three of his four voyages to America. On his first voyage, the Santa Maria ran aground and sank off Hispaniola. Second, the Niña ran aground on a small island near Cuba and suffered badly, but remained afloat. On the fourth, two of Columbus's ships were intentionally grounded off Jamaica because of severe storm damage.
    • Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III is a rare good pilot remembered for this. On January 15, 2009, after bird hits took out the engines of his Airbus A320, he calmly landed in the Hudson river - saving the lives of all 155 people on the aircraft. As air traffic controllers panicked and continued to offer him alternate landing places, Captain Sullenberger calmly told them "We'll be in the Hudson". Listen to him here. While this was his only crash, he fits the trope well in this instance and is honorably remembered for it.
    • Cpt. Hans Ulrich Lutz, Swiss aviator with the Crossair airline, worked as a pilot-in-command and a training pilot, even though his competences were somewhat slim: flying a Saab 340, he failed an upgrade exam to MD-80 eight consecutive times; he crashed an aircraft while sitting on the tarmac (he tried to retract the gear to show the student that it is impossible on the ground due to pressure sensors in the landing gear, but on this particular aircraft, these sensors were temporarily disabled and he simply retracted the gear, resulting in a Saab 340 write-off); once, he almost landed in Italy instead of Switzerland due to navigational errors; and once, he almost flew his aircraft into a lake, confusing it with a runway. Sadly, on 24 November 2001, Crossair Flight 3597 crashed into a hill on final approach due to his major error (he descended well below the minimum safety altitude in heavy snowfall and borderline visibility), claiming 24 of 33 people on board.