Page 1 of 2

Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 11:32 pm
by 747megatop
We have seen 4 high profile crashes over the past decade - AF 447, QZ 8501, JT 610, ET 302 which in some shape or form involved confused pilots and confused automation. I agree that automation can do stuff much better than humans and it has saved a lot of lives in aviation. But, in my view there are times that automation gives up & throws up it's hands (as seen in the 4 crashes above) where the well trained pilots (or should i say true aviators) start earning their money [UA 232, NW 85, ].

So, will we ever be able to complete replace pilots on commercial jet liners and have them fly themselves? I know that given a choice money hungry CEOs would want to have passengers board planes & planes fly the passengers without employing one employee (gate agent, pilots, flight attendants etc.) but i doubt any would step on into their private terminal or fly on a plane without any human involved.

Considering the automation factor and man machine interface rearing it's head i wanted to see what a.netters have to say in the context of these 4 crashes.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 11:54 pm
by Boof02671
Unsafe and stupid.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:00 am
by PixelPilot
One day? Sure. In our lifetime? It would be insane.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:02 am
by JHwk
As much as I used to think it was just over the horizon, it seems apparent that we are an order of magnitude away in terms of control algorithms. Writing the code wouldn’t be that hard, but validating it requires a level of oversight that simply doesn’t exist today. The fact that input validation is as miserable as it was on the MCAS system suggests that things simply are not nearly as robust as the general public is led to believe.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:06 am
by buzzard302
Although we live in a world with very advanced technology, airplanes are not ready to fly unmanned. Remember, an unmanned airplane is only as perfect as it's human designers, and the most recent accidents have proven that we have a lot further to go in terms of programming, automation, and safety. Humans are not perfect and can not write program/code for every possible scenario. I'll skip the flight on an unmanned plane for the foreseeable future.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:09 am
by WPvsMW
AI pilot. The old chestnut resurrected.
Long before there is pilot-less pax carriage, there will be an AI cockpit friend you can talk to when the other pilot isn't into conversation.

After that is perfected, the relief pilot for long haul may be AI, so 2 man crews become 2 plus "Hal". Hal is never alone in the cockpit, and there is a Big Red Switch both in the cockpit and in a secure area outside the cockpit.

"One pilot plus"Hal" ". Never.

"Open the cockpit door, Hal."
"I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that."

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:21 am
by a/c dxer
Never will happen. passenger would never go for it.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:23 am
by moa999
We are getting there with trains, albeit generally only on greenfield dedicated track, there haven't been many conversions from driven to driverless.

Cars are coming along, but a truly integrated system is a long way off.

Planes are far more complex again and the danger of getting it wrong more amplified. You need to design a collision avoidance system for the flying pigs first.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:46 am
by GalaxyFlyer
If there’s a “problem” with modern planes is that they are so reliable that many, perhaps most, pilots won’t deal with an true emergency in their entire careers. Things go according to the script every time.

I lost a lot of friends over 45 years, some flying checks, some in the military, some just driving home. I never set my car or the plane I was assigned without a private thought, “today could be the day I don’t come home”. It’s not “it can’t happen to me”; it’s “i won’t let it happen to me”.

GF

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:53 am
by mapletux
WPvsMW wrote:
After that is perfected, the relief pilot for long haul may be AI, so 2 man crews become 2 plus "Hal". "


I think the first step will be having a remote relief pilot and then gradually reducing the number of pilots in the cockpit to zero. With no one in the cockpit who's to know if the aircraft is being flown by the onboard computer or a remote pilot?

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:59 am
by ABpositive
I would think that there would be a more gradual weening off. The economics of paying less for pilots would be the main business driver (although safety would be spruiked as being the main driver):

1. One pilot in the cockpit, one pilot on the ground.
2. Two pilots on the ground.
3. One pilot on the ground with machine support
4. Machine flying with on the ground pilot support
5. Machine flying with one pilot supporting multiple machined flights

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:24 am
by AleksW
No.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:30 am
by Varsity1
Replace them with what? Nobody can even specify that yet.

Drones in the Air Force haven't replaced pilots, they just sit on the ground and fly the airplane through a data link. Even that has created an unacceptably high non-combat attrition rate.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:36 am
by 32andBelow
You realize there are 10s of millions of flights per year right?

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 2:55 am
by ADent
Automated cockpit of the future: A dog and a pilot.

The dog is there to keep the pilot from touching anything.
The pilot is there to feed the dog.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 2:59 am
by 1989worstyear
I don't know if the A320 TC would support this.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:55 am
by rbretas
a/c dxer wrote:
Never will happen. passenger would never go for it.


For the same ticket price, I agree. But give a 5% discount and nobody will care about it anymore.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:58 am
by WPvsMW
ADent wrote:
Automated cockpit of the future: A dog and a pilot.

The dog is there to keep the pilot from touching anything.
The pilot is there to feed the dog.


Do you a DTP for that? (dog type rating)

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 4:01 am
by SierraPacific
If we replace pilots nobody is going to be buying tickets since 99 percent of people will be out of a job before we get to the technology level required for autonomous flight

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 4:55 am
by TUSDawg23
O gosh here we go again with this. The short answer is that I can see a one pilot cockpit with more of a systems manager role in my lifetime but not a fully autonomous one with passengers. Pilots are paid for when shit hits the fan and so to have someone in there who can quickly diagnose a system malfunction and make the correct decision is really vital.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 5:22 am
by Varsity1
SierraPacific wrote:
If we replace pilots nobody is going to be buying tickets since 99 percent of people will be out of a job before we get to the technology level required for autonomous flight


This is actually a really practical answer.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:10 am
by anshabhi
Modern day AI can at best play Chess.

ET 302 will happen if you want it to fly aircraft

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:13 am
by M564038
Yes. We will se atonomous airliners.
We will accept the idea very quickly once we see traffic getting safer and faster with autonomous cars in the next decade.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:16 am
by LAXLHR
747megatop wrote:
We have seen 4 high profile crashes over the past decade - AF 447, QZ 8501, JT 610, ET 302 which in some shape or form involved confused pilots and confused automation. I agree that automation can do stuff much better than humans and it has saved a lot of lives in aviation. But, in my view there are times that automation gives up & throws up it's hands (as seen in the 4 crashes above) where the well trained pilots (or should i say true aviators) start earning their money [UA 232, NW 85, ].

So, will we ever be able to complete replace pilots on commercial jet liners and have them fly themselves? I know that given a choice money hungry CEOs would want to have passengers board planes & planes fly the passengers without employing one employee (gate agent, pilots, flight attendants etc.) but i doubt any would step on into their private terminal or fly on a plane without any human involved.

Considering the automation factor and man machine interface rearing it's head i wanted to see what a.netters have to say in the context of these 4 crashes.


The CURRENT version of humans will never ever say yes to this. NO WAY!!

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:50 am
by AngMoh
M564038 wrote:
Yes. We will se atonomous airliners.
We will accept the idea very quickly once we see traffic getting safer and faster with autonomous cars in the next decade.


Ships are getting close. The idea is that there is still a crew but significantly reduced and they are not on standby but off-duty for most of the trip except bad weather (the kind of weather which affects sensing) and harbour operations. Even for bad weather, it will tell in advance that the crew is required to take over at a specific time in the future rather than operating and then hand back to the crew in emergency once it finds out that it can handle the situation anymore. These ships are currently in design and the classification rules (naval equivalent of certification requirements) are being developed right now.

I can see a single pilot who is on standby during takeoff and landing and sleeping during cruise. But it will take longer than other domains because the risk is "catastrophic" if it goes wrong and therefore much harder to prove safe than other areas like cars and shipping.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:09 am
by Lufthansa
Doubt it. Look at the driverless cars such as the ones google put out there and other companies. A few of them have hit and even killed people. And that's just a car.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:39 am
by Zodiac787
a/c dxer wrote:
Never will happen. passenger would never go for it.

That's indeed the main and probably only obstacle...
Otis had the technology to make elevators fully automated 40 years before they introduced it... why? Because humans wouldn't go for it.
Train one cabin crew for emergency flight situations (or let one "pilot" be required in every crew) and let the machine fly which it does anyway.
Is it feasible? Most likely. Am I ready to go for it... not so sure...

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:41 am
by Zodiac787
M564038 wrote:
Yes. We will se atonomous airliners.
We will accept the idea very quickly once we see traffic getting safer and faster with autonomous cars in the next decade.

Is that the order? We have never seen a kid run after a ball in front of an airplane flying or a man crossing an airway while looking at his cellphone. Flying is a lot easier... but humans are not :)

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:55 am
by afgeneral
If anything JT 610, ET 302 are proof that automation is just not ready.

In both cases the pilots at least tried to save an aircraft which wanted to plunge into the ground. Without them the aircraft would have simply crashed. The previous JT flight which made it to its destination was saved by its pilots.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:08 am
by Arion640
afgeneral wrote:
If anything JT 610, ET 302 are proof that automation is just not ready.

In both cases the pilots at least tried to save an aircraft which wanted to plunge into the ground. Without them the aircraft would have simply crashed. The previous JT flight which made it to its destination was saved by its pilots.


Agreed. And there was almost 2 similar incidents recorded where the pilot managed to (the max) from attempting to do the same.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:15 am
by SierraPacific
I’m sorry, I just have to comment again since the sheer ignorance of how airline cockpits work on a aviation enthusiast forum is astounding. The problem with discussing automation in the cockpit is that we have absolutely no data on when it messes up since the pilot simply alters the mode on the autopilot or reverts to manual control and is never noted. I have heard plenty of stories just in my short time as a student pilot of automation either messing up or at worst almost causing a major incident to occur but is never written up
.If we had this data, it would make automation just a distant dream. The comparison to driverless cars is also another bad argument when it comes to arguing for automation saying that planes are simpler to automate. Aircraft operate within a 3D realm where the automated craft can’t just pull over and stop when there is a problem (I live in the number one place for autonomous car testing so I see this quite a bit).In a prefect world with no traffic, weather, or passenger issues, it would be possible with today’s technology to fly A to B without disconnecting an autopilot but this is just not realistic and is foolish to think that we are even within 50 years of this happening.

The only way that a plane could operate autonomously would be with a full fledged AI that can receive data and coordinate on the same level as a human person. The worst part about this is that every person would be hitting the unemployment line at the same time as pilots.

I hate to say it but it seems like some of the posts here are why industry professsionals have been leaving the site at an alarming rate.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:17 am
by CARST
It will happen. And it will happen within the next 50 years. Most of you totally underestimate the speed of our technological progress. Look back 50 years, when computers just were introduced for business applications.

In the end pilotless planes will be safer. Of course they need like three or four redundant computers, also working in case of a complete power-loss. With own, dedicated back-up-batteries. And they will have automation build in, just in case that their connection to the also computer-run ATC is lost, that they will go into some form of safe autoland-mode, checking weather and suitable airports on their own.

It's not a question of if, just a question of when...

And the only things keeping us from doing it now are unions and the fear of the common people...

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:18 am
by peterinlisbon
There are a lot of ways in which aircraft can go wrong and in that case, there needs to be a human that can manage the situation and make decisions. For example, what happens if there's a fire on board or some system starts malfunctioning. A computer wouldn't know what to do when anything outside of the scope of its programming happens and will ignore the problem, jam up or switch off.

There's also communications, which I can't imagine a computer doing properly yet. Normally if you want to use a voice-activated Satnav you have to tell it the address 5 times before it understands.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:27 am
by VSMUT
SierraPacific wrote:
If we replace pilots nobody is going to be buying tickets since 99 percent of people will be out of a job before we get to the technology level required for autonomous flight


This ^

Flying (and especially problem solving when something doesnt work) is one of the hardest tasks we can make a computer do. If we get to that stage, computers will long since have taken over everything from secretaries to factory workers, doctors and dentists etc.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:42 am
by BA777FO
Let me know when technology can figure out how to call for and how to run an unannunciated checklist. Then we'll talk ;)

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:46 am
by SurlyBonds
SierraPacific wrote:
is foolish to think that we are even within 50 years of this happening....The only way that a plane could operate autonomously would be with a full fledged AI that can receive data and coordinate on the same level as a human person. The worst part about this is that every person would be hitting the unemployment line at the same time as pilots.


Ever heard of Moore's law?

Ray Kurzweil says that computers may surpass human level intelligence by 2029. Masayoshi Son puts the date at 2045. So some of the best minds in AI disagree with you.

I hate to say it but it seems like some of the posts here are why industry professsionals have been leaving the site at an alarming rate.


Aviation industry professionals are less likely to be knowledgeable about AI than computer scientists.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:57 am
by Virtual737
Done by a "for profit" entity? I hope not.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 9:31 am
by Crazy4Planes
Even if planes become capable of flying without pilots (won’t happen at least in the foreseeable future), who’s gonna do the RT?

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 9:48 am
by barney captain
Most of you are missing the number one reason this can't/shouldn't happen - judgement. You can't teach a computer "spidey sense" - and it's a player far more than most think.

Just tonight we were approaching the Rockies and felt/noticed just a tickle of what felt like mountain wave. With nothing forecast we queried the controller - nope, smooth rides ahead. As a precaution we decided to ask for a lower altitude and sure enough, a few minutes later at our previous altitude all hell was breaking loose. Our new altitude remained smooth.

Btw, in that same situation in the AI cockpit, at what point in the moderate turbulence would the accelerometers determine (after the fact) that the cabin crew should be seated?

One of an unlimited number of examples of why this is a very bad idea.

Flying is still an art.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:14 am
by Boof02671
I’ll wait for the Star Trek Teleporter before I step foot on a pilotless plane.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:09 pm
by SomebodyInTLS
747megatop wrote:
I agree that automation can do stuff much better than humans and it has saved a lot of lives in aviation. But, in my view there are times that automation gives up & throws up it's hands (as seen in the 4 crashes above) where the well trained pilots (or should i say true aviators) start earning their money [UA 232, NW 85, ].


But you have to bear in mind that the "throwing up its hands" behaviour is actually required by regulation since certification assumes that "true aviators" can save the day.

This despite the fact that the majority of incidents are actually down to human error.

If aircraft were designed to be fully automated from the outset then you can bet that 1) they will actually be more capable (no need to keep systems similar to existing systems for pilots to understand or take over - all control design can be rewritten and optimised for better response based on better sensory input), 2) the response to unexpected situations can be made much more robust (e.g. very rapid "learning" of how the aircraft behaves under changed conditions - think fighter aircraft continuing to fly after losing sections of wing), 3) a clean-sheet approach to systems design may actually reduce outward complexity and therefore points of failure (if you basically have multiple-redundant sets of sensors, control logic and actuation systems replacing the myriad of "separate yet co-dependant" systems which have evolved in current aircraft as a result of new developments and user interface elements).

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:11 pm
by DL747400
Good grief.

This is one of THE MOST ridiculous threads ever started on this site.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:12 pm
by Boof02671
Computers can’t t handle what if’s like a human.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:17 pm
by SomebodyInTLS
JHwk wrote:
As much as I used to think it was just over the horizon, it seems apparent that we are an order of magnitude away in terms of control algorithms. Writing the code wouldn’t be that hard, but validating it requires a level of oversight that simply doesn’t exist today. The fact that input validation is as miserable as it was on the MCAS system suggests that things simply are not nearly as robust as the general public is led to believe.


But surely this actually proves the opposite - that humans trying constantly to patch on fixes to existing old physical systems is the cause for the issues. As I said above - an aircraft designed from the outset to be aware of all sensory input and use that to optimally control all ouput variables simultaneously should (with robust redundancy built in) never crash an aircraft when one sensor (or it's interpreted data) is in question.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:19 pm
by TWFlyGuy
For the forseeable future I see a need for someone in the cockpit. However there are also instances where outside control could have helped. I think of the Miracle on the Hudson as an instance where having someone on-board in control was immensely beneficial. Conversely, the AF flight off of the S. American coast or the Egypt Air flight out of JFK which ended up being a suicide would have benefited with some intervention from someone on the ground. I could also see an effort to reduce int'l crews by having a ground controller manage the flight during long cruise segments with only 1 person in cockpit.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:21 pm
by SomebodyInTLS
M564038 wrote:
Yes. We will se atonomous airliners.
We will accept the idea very quickly once we see traffic getting safer and faster with autonomous cars in the next decade.


An autonomous cars are actually dealing with a far more dangerous and unpredictable world than an aircraft does.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:21 pm
by BlatantEcho
It’s so funny to hear people say things like ‘no way, too complicated!! Only humans!’
It’s like people in 1900 saying ‘horseless carriage??? No way, I like being in control of things’

Of course pilotless planes will happen, and I’ll be the first person to happily sign up.
No fatigue, no lack of training, more room in fuselage for more paying passengers, so lower prices and lower environmental footprint.


No one will think twice about pilotless planes/cars/trains in 30 years.
It makes me chuckle to see people today argue with this sort of progress.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:23 pm
by SomebodyInTLS
Lufthansa wrote:
Doubt it. Look at the driverless cars such as the ones google put out there and other companies. A few of them have hit and even killed people. And that's just a car.


Yes "a few of them" versus how many kilometers travelled? Versus how many thousands of people killed by human drivers? AFAIK their safety record is already better than humans.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:26 pm
by SEPilot
mapletux wrote:
WPvsMW wrote:
After that is perfected, the relief pilot for long haul may be AI, so 2 man crews become 2 plus "Hal". "


I think the first step will be having a remote relief pilot and then gradually reducing the number of pilots in the cockpit to zero. With no one in the cockpit who's to know if the aircraft is being flown by the onboard computer or a remote pilot?

The idea of a pilot on the ground is a non-starter. If a human is ultimately responsible for the safety of the flight, his butt needs to be on the line as well as the passengers’. Add to that the fact that there will always be a risk of lost communications, plus the risk of communications being hacked. Someday (not soon) we may get to pilotless aircraft, but remote pilots, never.

Re: Man vs machine; are we ready to replace pilots completely?

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:59 pm
by frmrCapCadet
barney captain wrote:
Most of you are missing the number one reason this can't/shouldn't happen - judgement. You can't teach a computer "spidey sense" - and it's a player far more than most think.

Just tonight we were approaching the Rockies and felt/noticed just a tickle of what felt like mountain wave. With nothing forecast we queried the controller - nope, smooth rides ahead. As a precaution we decided to ask for a lower altitude and sure enough, a few minutes later at our previous altitude all hell was breaking loose. Our new altitude remained smooth.

Btw, in that same situation in the AI cockpit, at what point in the moderate turbulence would the accelerometers determine (after the fact) that the cabin crew should be seated?

One of an unlimited number of examples of why this is a very bad idea.

Flying is still an art.


Incidentally, Cliff Mass a weather scientist at U of WA has discussed this on his web site. Weather forecasting (or more accurately now-casting) can provide this sort of information, but at this time it is not provided to pilots. He also discusses how it might be done. And it should be.