Do you ever think...


Well-Known Member
That one day commercial planes will be 100% automated and be flown by computers from takeoff to landing and the drop from 2 to 1 man crew in the cockpit?

This is just a question that I was thinking about today while I working on a computer project for my final exam in high school. Im sure it has been asked before but I'm extremely curious as I hope to be an airline pilot one of these days too. I'm only finishing up my sophmore year in high school so I have awhile to go and I just wanted to see what everyones opinion on this subject is.

Rob Showalter
Doubt that it will ever happen on Commercial Aircraft. Pilotless aircraft is starting to become more popular on the military side. And besides .. why take away Crew Resource Management.
It's something they can do now!!

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I disagree; it its not financially feasible now, nor do we have the technology to do it safely.

Remember we have only been flying powered craft that weigh more than air for 100 years; commercially for less. Also, we have only been really good at making computers for the last 20 years or so.

I think personally that if it makes the flight safer and less expensive at the same time then the airlines will go for it.

One pilot costs less than two... and you still have redundancy; autopilot fails, pilot takes over; pilot fails, autopilot takes over.

Not that I WANT it to happen... just that it probably will IMHO.
It's already around but I don't think it will ever enter into the airline industry. It would save them money but I don't think that any wary passenger would get on board a "computer" and trust it completely. All the normal Joe thinks about is how often his desktop computer crashes on him at work and would think that many aircraft systems could do the same. On a related note, I did see an article that talked about the use of unmanned drones to patrol the borders of our country which I thought was quite interesting. Looks like they'll be needing more land pilots soon.
I actually think it will happen, but not in our life time. Even if it does we don't have anything to worry about. Airlines wouldn't be able to afford to get rid of their entire fleet and buy all brand new pilotless aircraft. What will happen is they will simply phase out the old piloted aircraft, and they will still need pilots for those.

I can tell you that it will take a long, long time to prove to the FAA that pilotless aircraft are safe to transport people on, and maybe even longer for the people that will be flying on those planes. The reason they are used in the millitary is so that the aircraft can be put in harm's way. Kind of the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish in the commercial world.
One other thing,

The technology we have now has to do with remote controlled aircraft. They are still piloted, just not by someone in the actual aircraft. It would be pointless to adapt this technology to the airlines. Once again, they use this technology in the millitary so that the aircraft can be put in harm's way without risking the lives of the pilot and crew. If the aircraft won't be going into harm's way, why not just put the pilot on the aircraft with the people? If the airlines would have to pay the pilots anyway, it wouln't make sense to create a plane that could be flown remotely.
Will never happen .. if it does we sure won't be here to see it.

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That, or we'll all be on this forum talking about the joys of the only leftover form of flying....GA.
As a student for masters in computers let me state something which we discussed

Every software produced in this world has a average efficiency rate of only around 93.9%. This holds true even for the ones used in the FMSs and the space shuttles. None of these softwares can function without errors beyond certain period.

This is why Airbus put in nearly 14 alternatives for their fly by wire technology with the ultimate backup being the two guys up there. So are the pilots of the shuttle.

As for the UAVs and the spy planes..who cares even if they crash? There arent 400 tourists on board president of Rocket engines worth Trizillions onboard.. Things are different even if it has a sole man onboard.

The day when computers become 100% accurate is not even visible at the end of this century. That means no fully automated Airplanes. A possibility is ofcourse the pilots may not have to use yokes or rudder pedals -- voice commands , physical sensors etc may take on but The Pilot who still may have to pass a Check ride in a C150 is NEEDED!

So close your eyes, leave the fear of computers snatching away your job behind and go for it!

The above message is dedicated for all the pilots! Cheers Doug
I agree with that... however if you put two computers dedicated to the same thing together, the efficiency rate jumps from 93.9 to 99.6 percent. Add a third 'average efficiency' computer and you have 99.9% efficiency total. With enough dedicated computers you can actually exceed the 'efficiency rate' of human beings, making the aircraft safer and someday less expensive.

We'll always have the utlimate person in charge, the pilot, on board... but I do believe that someday we'll commonly see single pilot commercial airliners.

...not to discourage people; who knows when it'll actually happen!
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I think aircraft will be operated solely by computers in the future, but not in our lifetime. Give it a hundred years and the technology will probably become reliable and affordable.
The real problem with computers as I see it (and I think any programmer will agree here) is that they can only do what they're told. If something that the programmer did not think of happens, the computer does not know what to do. A person can think on their feet and for that matter, think. A computer can't think, only run code through. By that, computers can't learn where people can and that's just an example of of why we won't ever be replaced. I don't care how many programmers you put to work on something, they can't think up EVERYTHING that could POSSIBLY be done in an airplane and because of that, it leaves a failure point that humans don't have.


John Herreshoff
I agree with you John, good points. I've been in the electronics industry for thirty years now and have seen amazing progress in AI (artificial inteligence) and have seen the imposible come true. The big problem is the system is limited, and software can only "think" so far. It lacks intuition and other human thought abilities. In many ways though, software and hardware can out perform and out manuever humans. It can replicate thought to a degree. It can do other tricks to a degree.

But, it's hard to say how far the machine can go, based on how far it's gone in such a relatively short time. It's scary to think of the machine having that much control but, the future holds many surprises. Besides, man will never fly anyway...
Well the original question was whether or not we'll ever see single pilot crews... considering we've already seen the removal of the FE (in most cases) along with much more automation of aircraft systems and controls, I don't think the removal of the FO position as well is that far fetched; but again, it's not gonna happen any time soon.

...not to mention the fact that already some corporate jets can / will be able to operate with one pilot. The GV-SP comes to mind along with some Citations.
Now comeon...
This thread looks like a discussion board on the university bioinformatics forum..

As u said putting in 3 computers can bring efficiency but pal you forgot we are talking about an airplane and not a computer lab where we put in topologies of networks and boost up the multitasking.

Some things which must be carried on before 100% automation...

#1 Every little airport must have all navigational aids ILS VOR DME etc....

#2 ATC must undergo a major automation drive replacing ATCos with computers and operators

#3 GPS should become foolproof and error free.. u might've heard of people jamming GPSs

#4 What else run around and catch some passengers hypnotise them that these planes are safe and send them to their destination

So these things are going to take not less than 150 years until everything is invented...

And what if 1 pilot planes are flying .. u can still be the sole commander on the flight and FAs are not going to be automated

Good points! What about all those non-percision approaches out there? Those require that you see the runway before you descend down to it. A completly automated airplane would REQUIRE Cat III's at EVERY airport it was going to, and if that failed then the plane would not be able to land itself. Computers can't see things very well. They do calculas wonderfuly, but we can't figure out how to make them see things and recognize them like we do.


John Herreshoff