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Will pilots be redundant in 50 years?

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Will pilots be redundant in 50 years?

Old 27th Nov 2002, 04:37
  #41 (permalink)  
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Point of info on landing the Shuttle: some things can only be done manually, in particular lowering the landing gear.

Standard procedure is to take over from computer-controlled re-entry about two minutes before touchdown.

The Russian Buran shuttle, on the other hand, made one unmanned orbital flight, before they (basically) ran out of money.

Disclaimer: I am not an astronaut. In fact I'm not even a PPL.

[edited to get PLovett's name right!]

Last edited by 25F; 27th Nov 2002 at 04:53.
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Old 27th Nov 2002, 09:04
  #42 (permalink)  
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Engineers Dream

: No more pilots,how much easier life would be without you lot to break our lovely machines.
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Old 29th Nov 2002, 11:08
  #43 (permalink)  
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Computers are improving all the time. I am not sure the same can be said for humans which would mean its only a matter of time before the computer will be the better choice.
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Old 29th Nov 2002, 13:30
  #44 (permalink)  
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Jet II

This report seems to show that the causes of accidents are mainly (2/3rds) the result of pilot error and only 10% aircraft system failure.
Trouble is, this doesn't tell us how many system failures occur, that have been retrieved by the pilots, and thus become non-events rather than accidents.

E.G. if 1 flight in a thousand had a malfunction (that would cause an autonomous airliner to crash), and the crew only prevented it on 99.9% of the time, you'd have 1 accident per million flights, and they'd all be due to Pilot Error.

Take the crew off the aircraft, and now you have 1 crash per thousand flights, with no convenient scapegoat.

I've been flying for 20 years, airliners for the last 7, and I have experienced literally dozens of malfunctions that presented no real challenge (no real risk either), but have left the aircraft in a 'no automation available' condition.

I am aware that you can make statitics show anything however I also note that in the worst of weather you can only do a CAT 3 approach if the computer is flying the plane - not the pilot!
Well, from my viewpoint, I wouldn't classify AWOPS situations as the 'worst of weather'.

You should take note of the fact that autoland wind limitations are much more stringent than manual landings.

In my experience the weather is far more likely to be out of limits for autolandings (due wind) than for manual landings (due visibility).

Well, whilst I am prepared to entertain the possibility that continued development *may* make it techically possible to get rid of pilots at some point in the future, IMHO the current state of the art is nowhere it at the moment.

The bottom line is that computers can't land aircraft in strong gusty wind conditions.

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Old 29th Nov 2002, 16:19
  #45 (permalink)  
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Computers may improve all the time in processing power, but this is a crude measurement. It is quite conceivable that some groups of tasks will remain beyond the ability of computers forever - for instance ones requiring creativity or originality - and that more will not be possible for the foreseeable future at least. More importantly, the question is not just whether or not a computer could be made to do it, but whether it would be practical and economic to do it. You might be able to build an aircraft that could fly without human guidance, but be exorbitantly too expensive to produce or operate. Further, such things could well go through a long period as laboratory curiosities, too hedged in by limitations for anything but extremely specialised applications. Finally, there exists a certain class of mathematical problems which computers cannot, for reasons of the scientific philosophy underpinning computing, resolve.

I once saw a documentary concerning a Mercedes Benz project to build an automatic road vehicle. They did, indeed, get it to work within extremely restrictive parameters, and one saw it driving around a test track as the operator left the steering wheel and walked into the back (it was a van) to show off the equipment that made it work...which filled the load space completely. Merc later abandoned the project as a waste of effort.
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Old 30th Nov 2002, 05:10
  #46 (permalink)  
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Interesting posts so far...

If engineers can develop a very powerful computer and feed it with a databank that e.g. includes 30 years of the UK mandatory occurrence report, we have combined two components: a "brain" and "experience".

Nobody has mentioned the "cargo rats". Maybe freight-pilots will become obsolete before the "bus drivers" (as a few pax have called me before )

I believe the future of this will be more foreseeable when the military has made a decision on the upkeeping of its real fighter and bomber pilots. If the military wants to keep 'em, then it is a good sign for us civil pilots...

Just my thoughts ...

7 7 7 7
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Old 1st Dec 2002, 15:11
  #47 (permalink)  
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Yawn, this topic again. Airline pilots will never be replaced. Why anyway? Best to have both worlds, sopisticated computers and humans working alongside. Airlines are driven by consumers i.e the public, and aircraft manufacters are driven by what the airlines require. Its been mentioned before, which brave sole is going to board an aircraft with no pilots on board? Airlines know this. What airline would take the risk to introduce pilotless aircraft into its fleet? I guess the cargo fleet could be operated like this, however, again who would want pilotless aircraft to fly over their house? Also unless someone develops AI, a number of ground instillations would have to be set up and a number of controllers employed on the ground to control these aircraft. Whats the point exactly, when you can operate the aircraft by using pilots?

I think the question should really be: how many years will it take for the job as an airline pilot to become really de-skilled????

With the military, its a completely different story. Cost of pilot training far exceeds that of the airline pilot, as does the training timescale. Further, why restrict the aircraft to 9G, which is the human limit roughly, unless the guys sat on his back, when our materials, even now can withstand a good 25G.
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Old 14th Aug 2003, 06:06
  #48 (permalink)  
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Slim SLag must be a comp programmer

Slim, your data that you even linked to seemed to be incorrect. Here is the data as read.

Cause Factor Number of Events Percentage

Personnel (human factors) 800 49.44
Aircraft 547 33.81
Maintenance 214 13.23
Environment 33 2.04
Air traffic management 24 1.48

Totals 1,618 100.00

Hardly the 2/3 you speak of.
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Old 15th Aug 2003, 03:40
  #49 (permalink)  
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rather an old topic brought back to the fore!

makes for interesting reading though

just a thought though, slimslag you talk about a single pilot flightdeck - 1 experienced captain. If there are no F/Os then where exactly do you propose the experienced captain gets his/her experience from???

or perhaps we can use technology to clone them. problem solved
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Old 16th Aug 2003, 05:31
  #50 (permalink)  
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A quick search came up with this site:


A quote from the site is as follows:

"Seven people are needed to operate the UAV: One person to work the payload, another to control the UAV, a mission commander, an external pilot to launch the UAV and three ground handling personnel to prepare the UAV for flight."

Discounting ground handling and payload specialists, who are also required by airliners, that leaves 3 people operating the thing. It flies in open, uncontrolled airspace without the need to interface with other traffic. Can you imagine the complexity of having little groups of drone operators scattered all over the World, as their machines are entering the stack at LHR on a foggy January morning? Far easier, and cheaper, to stick a couple of people on board the aircraft, with a radio to talk to a local contolling authority.
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