yanksn4
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Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:03 am

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.

signed,
Matthew
2013 Airports: EWR, JFK, LGA, LIS, AGP, DEN, GIG, RGN, BKK, LHR, FRA, LAX, SYD, PER, MEL, MCO, MIA, PEK, IAH
 
JFernandez
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:06 am

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.
 
MD88Captain
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:21 am

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.

 
Ratypus
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:40 am

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.
 
KYIPpilot
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:58 am

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
 
VEEREF
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 6:00 am

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.
Airplanes are cool. Aviation sucks.
 
SonOfACaptain
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 7:01 am

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.

-SOAC
Non Illegitimi Carborundum
 
PanAmerican
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 7:19 am

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.
 
stealthpilot
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 9:07 am

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.
eP007
 
FLY2LIM
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 10:00 am

Matthew:
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!
FLY2LIM
Faucett. La primera linea aerea del Peru.
 
zvezda
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 10:23 am

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.
 
Paul
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 11:06 am

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.

Paul
Veni, vidi, vici.
 
pilotpip
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 11:37 am

Matthew,

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
DMI
 
soaringadi
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 12:00 pm

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 !
 
AA717driver
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 2:03 pm

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
 
FlyHoss
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 3:03 pm

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...
 
markk
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 3:15 pm

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.

 
zvezda
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 4:25 pm

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.
 
CaptainTim
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 4:32 pm

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

tim
Gulfstream Planeview Cockpit: "why have hundreds of buttons when a CCD does the same thing and more?"
 
usair330
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:34 pm

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
 
zvezda
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 6:15 pm

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has had observer-drivers since the start of testing in 1965 and initial revenue service in 1972.
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 6:32 pm

Technological advances will manufacture Unmanned Pax Aircraft,But I wonder how many Pax would feel confident about travelling on such jets.
regds
MEL
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
 
bucky707
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 10:43 pm

Has your computer ever crashed? Until a computer that never crashes is produced, you won't see me on a pilotless airplane.
 
zvezda
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 10:58 pm

I'll take the risk of a computer failure over the risk of a pilot committing suicide by CFIT with pax onboard.
 
buckieboy
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 11:00 pm

All,

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.

Cheers

Buckieboy
I'm taking orders from bottles of wine
 
whitehatter
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Sun Feb 13, 2005 11:12 pm

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 ETOPS and the Big Twins being used to sell one man operation. The move from three to two was easy enough, but two to one will be harder to sell to the flying public.

Current technology would permit it today. What are the chances of an equipment breakdown on multiply redundant systems coinciding with a medical emergency? It is just an issue of simplifying and strengthening the structure of the front office and managing pilot workload, plus redefining the rules regarding what the driver can or cannot do in flight.

A lowcost carrier's wet dream  Big grin
Lead me not into temptation, I can find my own way there...
 
September11
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 1:35 am

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 30 years?

YES.
Airliners.net of the Future
 
futureuapilot
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 1:44 am

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 controlled plane... Don't think ya have to worry much.

-Sam
The Pilot is the highest form of life on Earth!
 
zotan
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 4:38 am

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 very, very lucky to grab a job at say Southwest or JetBlue. MOst likely you would just go into a regional carrier making about 18 thousand a year to start out.
 
Gary2880
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 4:39 am

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 the man incase he trys to touch anything'
Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel :- Samuel Johnson
 
ss278
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 9:58 am

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 the pilot will be to monitor the instruments. The job of the dog will be to bite the pilot if it even looks like he is going to touch anything.
 
flymia
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 10:27 am

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 AF is not an option right now. Just have to go civil.
"It was just four of us on the flight deck, trying to do our job" (Captain Al Haynes)
 
AirWillie6475
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 10:29 am

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 all space movies all the space ships are controled by people not computers  Smile
 
Leezyjet
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 10:59 am

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 along the line.

I'm sure the technology will become available in years to come to have a totally pilotless a/c, but selling that to joe public will not be easy.

I could see pilotless cargo a/c, but never pilotless passenger a/c.

Maybe also a system where ATC actually physically control the a/c, they send the course/altitude/speed changes direct to the FMC via a data link so there is no verbal communication and they control the a/c thus taking the pilot out of the loop (hey thats actually a good idea - you heard it hear first folks !!!). The a/c could then fly itself, but as you would still have a crew onboard serving the passengers (some things you just cannot automate  Big grin ) maybe one or two of them could be multifunctional and be able to take over and fly the a/c if any serious problems occured.

 Smile
"She Rolls, 45 knots, 90, 135, nose comes up to 20 degrees, she's airborne - She flies, Concorde Flies"
 
mdsh00
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 12:04 pm

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. A plane is still a mechanical object. No matter how good Airbus and Boeing will be making their planes in the future, there is never a 0% chance that something won't go wrong. at least one person is necessary for cases where the computer/mechanics fail.
"Look Lois, the two symbols of the Republican Party: an elephant, and a big fat white guy who is threatened by change."
 
zvezda
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 12:39 pm

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 a data link so there is no verbal communication and they control the a/c thus taking the pilot out of the loop...."

Central points of failure are not good. A more likely arrangement would be that the airplane is told at which airport to land and it determines the flight path until it reach the airport vicinity and requests clearance to land or is told the airport is closed, etc.
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Mon Feb 14, 2005 12:49 pm

Luckly no one Suggested "Will Mx personnel be needed in 30 yrs".
Maybe they would if the Topic title comes true  Smile

regds
MEL
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
 
JDD1
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Tue Feb 15, 2005 2:05 am

I see the introduction to no-pilot operation as follows:
Military airplanes will go automatic first (already happening with large a/c -Global Express)
Freighters next followed by pax, but perhaps only on certain routes because of the organisation it would take.
One could imagine the freighter flights starting from a secondary airport in the Europe to a secondary airport in the US with no manual flights allowed on that route. Perhaps Fedex and UPS would sponsor/assist in developing the system.

Jump to Memphis year 2035 - One mechanic kicks the tires and fills up the fluids.
One controller:
Loads all the containers that lock in position automatically
Closes all doors by pushing a button
Initiates automatic airplane systems check by pushing another button
Selects take-off slot from a drop down window
Selects suitable taxiway and runway from another window provided by ground control.
Loads flight plan from his desk top computer
Selects engine start time
Pushes Enter
Has a cup of coffee before starting again.

The air traffic controllers would have to be qualified pilots who perhaps alternate one month in the air with one on the ground.

Does any of the above seem too fanciful? The technology is all here now.

System failure can be taken care of with redundancy where multiple sub-systems doing the same task check each other, as with automatic landing:

Many subway systems today have no drivers or observers on the trains.

 
VEEREF
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Tue Feb 15, 2005 2:26 am

" 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 don't forget when talking about airliners, the object is to keep the aircraft OUT of storms. That's a whole other ballgame.....
Airplanes are cool. Aviation sucks.
 
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HAWK21M
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Tue Feb 15, 2005 6:03 pm

What in case ATF production ends.
 Smile
regds
MEL
I may not win often, but I damn well never lose!!! ;)
 
NUAir
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Tue Feb 15, 2005 10:00 pm

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 wouldn't even need to enter the country they could just be sitting at some computer anywhere in the world and program a virus or some bug into the system of an aircraft and have it crash exactly where they want it to. I actually think for our technologically devoid gov't (a couple years back 2 college students successfully hacked in to NASA's most confidential site) we would run a much greater risk trying to stop computer terrorism than we would with the current system.

Which brings up a related question.

What has been the primary cause for most aviation related fatalities?

Pilot error?
Mechanical failure?
Terrorism?
Weather?
Electrical fire?


If pilot error is number 1 (by a long shot) I would say that pilot-less airplanes might not be such a crazy idea.

"How Many Assholes we got on this ship?" - Lord Helmet
 
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casinterest
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Tue Feb 15, 2005 11:56 pm

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 processing calls. There are a lot of struggles with this since there are so many things that can go wrong due to the complex nature of traffic and routing calls.

In airplanes, not only would software need to be available to pilot the plane, but anti collision, weather evasion, air traffic control, turbulance management, Gate Management, taxiing, and countless fail safes in case of software and or hardware failure, that the computer would have a hard time achieving a perfect record. There will always be a need for a pilot since, unlike on a phone system, when there is a system outage, things need to be done ot preserve lives. I don't think a computer will ever be trusted with that kind of responsibility on a plane without a pilot...unless there are no passengers.
Older than I just was ,and younger than I will soo be.
 
Boeing7E7
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Wed Feb 16, 2005 12:12 am

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 acceptance of technology, the capability (already here), and the margin of acceptable risk.

I'm certain if you would have mentioned to a grandparent or great grandparent 30 years ago that a twin engine plane would fly 8,000 miles made of composite he/she would have laughed you out of the house. Same thing here.

[Edited 2005-02-15 16:13:50]
 
UA772IAD
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RE: Will Pilots Be Needed In 30 Years?

Wed Feb 16, 2005 10:26 am

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++ interface. However, rail operators are still needed to make the station announcements and operate the door controls. There are certain times (a few times a month), where the operators will manually drive the trains.

I think the pilot will always be there to taxi, take-off, and land the plane. Although, I did see a NBC special about this company who is developing software for automated ground taxing... if it is ever sucessful, it will probably cost millions, probably more than any carrier is willing to fork over, for a job that can be done by people, just as well,