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Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?  
User currently offlineYanksn4 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1404 posts, RR: 11
Posted (11 years 3 months 3 weeks ago) and read 6777 times:

Greetings everyone. In the past few days, I have been looking at the United States Air Force and thinking about joining once I finish high school. If I was to enlist, I would try and learn how to become a pilot and such. After years in the air force, I would like to make the switch to the commercial aviation industry. However, I want to make sure there will be spots for me to fill and to have a long career in the industry. Now my question is to you, will pilots be needed for the industry in say 30 years or will computers be running the entire show with no pilots present? If someone could help me on this, this would be appreciated. Thank you.


43 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlineJFernandez From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 304 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (11 years 3 months 3 weeks ago) and read 6769 times:

I'm sure at some point, they won't be needed (one could argue they aren't NEEDED now, perhaps), but I don't see that happening in the next 30 years. Given the huge need for safety, and danger of electrical failure, I see us having driverless cars before we have pilotless planes.

User currently offlineMD88Captain From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 1351 posts, RR: 20
Reply 2, posted (11 years 3 months 3 weeks ago) and read 6742 times:

The planes being designed and built today(A380, 787, Citation X, E170, et al.) will be in production for decades. The last plane off those production lines will be expected to fly no less than 30 years. I'd say you'd be safe.

User currently offlineRatypus From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 187 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (11 years 3 months 3 weeks ago) and read 6720 times:

There are some situations in the air - not necessarily everyday ones - where no computer or mathematical model will be able to replace the skill and judgment of a human pilot. I doubt anyone would ever throw the huge sums of money necessary at a project to design a 'pilot-less' aeroplane.

User currently offlineKYIPpilot From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 1383 posts, RR: 6
Reply 4, posted (11 years 3 months 3 weeks ago) and read 6696 times:

I think it will probably become similar to the guy that sits in and "drives" the subway. He doesn't do a damn thing but sit there, and has no control over the sub, but sits there just in case. That may be more than 30 years into the future, but I think it may become that way.

"It starts when you're always afraid; You step out of line, the man come and take you away" -Buffalo Springfield
User currently offlineVEEREF From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (11 years 3 months 3 weeks ago) and read 6692 times:

I don't think there will be anyone on this board still alive by the time airliners go pilotless. Sure aircraft can basically "fly themselves" today. But we're a long way off, for example, from one that can land itself in a 40kt gusting crosswind or pick it's way through a line of thunderstorms successfully. Right now those two tasks are just as much art forms as science.

User currently offlineSonOfACaptain From United States of America, joined May 2004, 1747 posts, RR: 6
Reply 6, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 6622 times:

I think pilot's will be needed for a long time. How much work are they going to be doing...well that's another story.


Non Illegitimi Carborundum
User currently offlinePanAmerican From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 384 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 6599 times:

On topic: Md88Captain pretty much proved they will definitely be needed. Also, there are planes out there that have been flying for much longer than 30 years (e.g. NW DC-9s Big grin). Any plane being built now might have an even longer life span than 30 years.

Off topic: You cannot enlist in the US Air Force and become a pilot. For that you would have to be an officer, i.e. get a degree first. Of course you can enlist and then slowly work towards a degree but that takes a while. The easier way seems to be to either use ROTC and then join or to study at the Air Force Academy in COS. It does not appear to be easy to become a pilot in the AF though, but if you have the chance then go for it. I guess all the info needed can be found here: http://www.airforce.com
If you do succeed at becoming an Air Force pilot I guess you do not have to worry about getting a civilian job after a few years in the AF.

By the way, that is a funny pic of the B-52s in your profile.

 Wink/being sarcasticPA

Pan Am - The World's Most Experienced Airline.
User currently offlineStealthpilot From India, joined May 2004, 510 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 6533 times:

In my opinion there will always be pilots. For a long time to come at least, passengers will not trust planes flown by a computer. Granted that to an extent it might be the case today (computer flown) but for years to come, humans will always feel more comfortable with another human at the controls. People may throw up stats proving that humans are more prone to error etc but I think it’s a psychological issue, and the public will feel safer if a human is on board. 50 years from now that may change, but for the next 2 decades at least pilots will be needed. Definitely won’t as far as passenger airliners are concerned.

User currently offlineFLY2LIM From United States of America, joined May 2004, 1204 posts, RR: 8
Reply 9, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 6504 times:

Let me talk to you as a high school counselor and teacher and not as an aviation enthusiast. First, don't trust anyone with your future. The decision needs to be made with you and your parents/guardians. Second, no one knows the answer to your question. Pilotless technology exists today. It is being worked on as we speak. There are airplanes that do fly by themselves. Essentially, they are very large, remote controlled aircraft. I also have a cousin who currently works on aircraft that fly into storms and help with weather prediction, completely flown by computer.
PanAmerican had the best point of all. You do need to be an officer in the U.S. Air Force to be able to fly. How are your grades? You also need to be "sponsored" by a politician from your area and to jump through a number of hoops, in the hopes that you will be accepted to Colorado Springs.
It's easy just to say you want to be a pilot. Another thing is accomplishing it. Like I tell all my students, ANYTHING is possible if you want it bad enough. Good luck!

Faucett. La primera linea aerea del Peru.
User currently offlineZvezda From Lithuania, joined Aug 2004, 10512 posts, RR: 63
Reply 10, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 6481 times:

The military is currently developing pilotless bombers. Sufficiently powerful computers can learn to fly (using evolutionary algorithms) as they do it rather than being programmed in advance how to fly as with today's autopilot systems. That means that in the event of a major failure (such as Sioux City) the computer would have learned how to fly the plane and landed without incident.

The train analogy is not quite apt. The cost of carrying a useless driver on a train is much lower than the cost of carrying around useless pilots (not suggesting that pilots are useless today) on an airplane. I don't know whether or not such airliners will be flying yet in 30 years. They might start flying within 20 years or it might take 50 years. I'm sure military aircraft will be pilotless for a long time before an airline considers buying one.

User currently offlinePaul From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2005, 374 posts, RR: 3
Reply 11, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 6453 times:

There is no way i would get on board a plane if it did not have a pilot, sometimes the human touch is paramount in its effectiveness over computer technology.


Veni, vidi, vici.
User currently offlinePilotpip From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3176 posts, RR: 9
Reply 12, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 6426 times:


I'll second what FLY2LIM just said. Getting into the academy is nearly impossible based on the number who apply. I have a couple friends who were straight A students, all conference athletes and members of the National Honor Society. They had letters from a number of local congressmen and a senator and still didn't get in.

Another route to go would be ROTC. Many aviation schools have an AirForce ROTC program. Basically, you sign up but go to school for your 4 year degree first. While there you will take some special courses taught by the AirForce and also have some other requirements. When you graduate, you have a commitment to the Airforce of a certain number of years. You also recieve a stipend and some tuition payment from the military, but I'm not sure how much. Doing this accomplishes two things. 1) You're an officer. You need to be one for flight training. Officers also get paid better. 2) You get a four year degree which will help you after your military career.

I thought hard about going into the Air National Guard. Thought it was the greatest idea while talking to the recruiter. I mean no offense to them, but they are basically salespeople. Their job is to sell you on the airforce. Turns out my neighbor was a high ranking officer in the wing I wanted to join so he gave me the "real" tour and introduced me to some guys my age. I started asking them lots of questions and got much more insightful answers.

After much soul searching(I'm talking MONTHS of it), I decided that it wasn't for me. It takes a certain type of person. This is a huge commitment much like any college would be and should be made with the most information that you can possibly get. Whatever you do, don't just go in because playing with the planes looks cool. You'll quickly realize that you made a mistake that you are now bound to for a few years. Find some people that are or were in, talk to them and find out what they think. Find some peers that are considering the same thing and pool resources. Talk to your councelor. Talk to some universities that have ROTC programs. Knowledge is power. The more you have, the happier you will be with your decision whatever it may be.

Whatever your course may be, good luck!! Keep the blue side up, and the brown side down  Smile

User currently offlineSoaringadi From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 472 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 6403 times:

Just out of curiosity..... If we actually had pilotless planes, what about the air traffic control.... who would communicate. I know that planes could avoid collisions with Tcas etc., but with that they would just be all over the place.... and then what about "cleared to land" and all those complex instructions like hold on ... radial, or land n hold short, and so on.......

If it ain't Boeing, I'm not going !
User currently offlineAA717driver From United States of America, joined Feb 2002, 1566 posts, RR: 13
Reply 14, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 6345 times:

All I can see is a room full of Homer Simpsons sitting in front of consoles that control the RPV's that are the airliners of the future.

Every so often you hear "DOH!" and Homer leans back and asks if there are any doughnuts left... Big grin TC

FL450, M.85
User currently offlineFlyHoss From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 598 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 6312 times:

Has anyone EVER had a computer that didn't "lock up" at least once in a while?

A little bit louder now, a lil bit louder now...
User currently offlineMarkk From United States of America, joined Apr 2001, 196 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 6299 times:

While I doubt there would ever be pilotless planes I could see a situation where there are airliners with one pilot. With a pilot on the ground able to remote fly the plane in the even the single pilot on board becomes incapacitated. The one pilot on the ground could be responsible for say 5 planes at a time. That would save quite a bit of $$ for the airlines.

User currently offlineZvezda From Lithuania, joined Aug 2004, 10512 posts, RR: 63
Reply 17, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 6273 times:

Markk, one pilot may be a transitional step but, if so, two pilots on the ground would suffice for a large airline.

The big win comes with complete elmination of the cockpit -- obviously that will be the last step, not the first one. People will be much more comfortable with the idea once bombers and then cargo aircraft have been unmanned for a decade or so.

ATC would actually be much, much simpler and safer than the current system. It would work exactly the way birds avoid collisions. Using something like TCAS, each plane would know the location and heading of every other plane in a large radius (perhaps 50 miles or so). Planes would not be "all over the map" because they would make very small corrections well in advance.

It's even easy to automate turning on the seatbelt sign. Aircraft would transmit turbulence information just as pilots do now, but with much more precision. Also, the airframe can detect present turbulence at least as well as a pilot and can react faster.

While I'm sure there will be other developments that are not presently obvious to me, the advent of pilotless airliners is the only major improvement in air safety that I see coming.

Once bombers have developed the technology, airliners will be built with cockpits and with avionics that don't require a pilot. Cargo versions of these aircraft will go immediately to single-pilot operation as an observer. Airliners will have two pilot-observers. Eventually, when people realize they are paying to fly two observers around who don't really do anything, airliners will get just one pilot-observer. Then the cargo planes will go unmanned. Next the airliners will go unmanned. Once that happens, new airliners will be built without cockpits.

User currently offlineCaptainTim From Hong Kong, joined Dec 2004, 431 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 6259 times:

careers.com linked with CNN had an article last year about the top 15 jobs that will be neccessary for the well being of humans and it included airline pilots with surgeons, researchers etc.

soo yeh i think Pilots would be needed regarldess of the economy.. also.. i hope so cuz i'm spendin' a hell lot of money into my life to become a pilot  Smile hehe


Gulfstream Planeview Cockpit: "why have hundreds of buttons when a CCD does the same thing and more?"
User currently offlineUSAir330 From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 850 posts, RR: 1
Reply 19, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 6229 times:

KYIPpilot..... I don't know what type of subway's you guys have overthere in Detroit but here in Philly the conductors control the trains as well as in New York, D.C., Chicago and wherever else they have an EL or Subway.

But I think you're talking about the monorails or streetcars so I know what you really mean....  Laugh out loud

User currently offlineZvezda From Lithuania, joined Aug 2004, 10512 posts, RR: 63
Reply 20, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 6212 times:

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has had observer-drivers since the start of testing in 1965 and initial revenue service in 1972.

User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31875 posts, RR: 54
Reply 21, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 6207 times:

Technological advances will manufacture Unmanned Pax Aircraft,But I wonder how many Pax would feel confident about travelling on such jets.

Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineBucky707 From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 1035 posts, RR: 3
Reply 22, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 6149 times:

Has your computer ever crashed? Until a computer that never crashes is produced, you won't see me on a pilotless airplane.

User currently offlineZvezda From Lithuania, joined Aug 2004, 10512 posts, RR: 63
Reply 23, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 6133 times:

I'll take the risk of a computer failure over the risk of a pilot committing suicide by CFIT with pax onboard.

User currently offlineBuckieboy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (11 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 6139 times:


For civil aviation, my answer would be yes.

When the Glasgow underground re-opened around 1977, it didn't "need" drivers. This is a simple, circular underground railway with 15 stations.

Drivers exist today because of the psychological problems passengers would face if they knew that the train was driverless. Given this, I know that there are driverless trains in use; if memory serves me correctly, at DFW for instance.

Just my 5 Rappen.



25 Post contains images WhiteHatter : The more likely move will be for single pilot operation. It will be interesting to watch the same kind of logic and experience that brought about ETOP
26 September11 : Will Pilots Be Needed in 30 years? YES. Will Flight Attendants Be Needed in 30 years? YES. Will Airport Customer Service Representatives Be Needed in
27 Post contains links FutureUApilot : Will pilots ever be non existant... http://www.flightlevel350.com/mediatemp/2-1091916738-7.wvx Link above is a vid of the worlds first computer contro
28 ZOTAN : What you should be more worried about is how the industry will be in when you go looking for a job. Coming out of the air force right now you would be
29 Gary2880 : i remember i saw on a tv programme once 'in the future cockpits will be totaly computerised, appart from one man and a dog. the dog is there to bite t
30 Ss278 : Rumor has it that the next generation (post 787) of Boeing planes are being designed for a flight crew consisting of one pilot and one dog. The job of
31 FlyMIA : Yanksn4: Do have 20/20 vision? If you dont I am pretty sure you can not go into the AF. I also want to be a commercial pilot but have 20/15 vision so
32 Post contains images AirWillie6475 : Whats this talk about self flying planes, why you wouldn't need pilots? Cars and Planes are completely different. Have you seen independence day and a
33 Post contains images Leezyjet : All those pilotless planes are still flown by people, just that the people are on the ground, so they still need a person to control them somewhere al
34 Mdsh00 : Has your computer ever crashed? Until a computer that never crashes is produced, you won't see me on a pilotless airplane. Forget about the computer.
35 Zvezda : LeezyJet wrote: "Maybe also a system where ATC actually physically control the a/c, they send the course/altitude/speed changes direct to the FMC via
36 Post contains images HAWK21M : Luckly no one Suggested "Will Mx personnel be needed in 30 yrs". Maybe they would if the Topic title comes true regds MEL
37 JDD1 : I see the introduction to no-pilot operation as follows: Military airplanes will go automatic first (already happening with large a/c -Global Express)
38 VEEREF : " I also have a cousin who currently works on aircraft that fly into storms and help with weather prediction, completely flown by computer." True, but
39 Post contains images HAWK21M : What in case ATF production ends. regds MEL
40 NUair : Hmm It would make a very interesting scenario for the Dept. of Homeland Security or any other national dept. of security. Just think a terrorist would
41 CasInterest : As a software engineer with a telecom background, let me just state this. Telecom always works towards the 5 9's being the 99.999% accuracy in process
42 Boeing7E7 : Yes, but due to a generational shift and acceptance of potential technology there may only be one of them on less than 200 seaters. It's all about the
43 UA772IAD : Pilots will always be needed. Here's a real life example. In Washington, the Metro (our subway), is computer controlled, its called ATS, and runs on C
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