I'm more worried about what I saw on Discovery Wings today-- the infamous Aircar, replete with fly-in communities. That would spell the end of airline pilots, not to mention an entirely new way for cell-phone yacking soccermoms to endanger everyone around them. You thought they were bad in SUVs; imagine one shooting an ILS!!
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Do any of you think there is going to be a day where the human pilot is not needed and if so, how far out do you see that coming?
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Not on any jet I'll be flying on, no thanks!
Considering about 1 out of every 5 autoland tests I've conducted aren't passable, like hell I'm going to feel comfy having no one in the cockpit to comandere control of the aircraft from the autopilot!
Would you trust a computer to drive your car to work and back?
Then why on earth would you let one fly an airplane un monitored!
The whole "flying without pilots" thing has been around, practically, from day one. It may happen someday but wer're talking many, many, many years down the road (like when we have colonies on other planets).
The MD-88 is more or less a big DC-9 with lots of lipstick and makeup -- lots of cables, pulleys and perpetual motion devices and even that thing still requires an occasional control-alt-delete "reboot".
Sometimes the mechanics will almost by default say, "Ok, shut everything down, external power off, battery switch off, wait about 60 seconds and repower the aircraft and see if that works" -- on the ground of course.
I couldn't imagine some of the weird maintenance issues with an Airbus! Ack!
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LA had about 1.5 miles of highway cutoff to the public so they can test these cars.
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A 1.5 mile, closed course, controlled environment, is a long, long way from the chaos that is the LA freeway system ... and an even longer way from avoiding thunderstorms, with tops at 60,000, won a MEL flight and landing to mins (although with unmaned, the point would be no mins) and doing that over and over on a consistent basis.
Then you have the "fear factor." The general public just isn't going to accpet it. Now, a few generations down the road when there are none of us left who remember the world without computers and it may be a different story.
I don't think anyone's going to want a fully automated system without someone to watch over it in case something goes wrong. It's one thing if a computer hangs up now and you lose a proposal or spreadsheet or something like that.
Imagine the computer crashing and 150 people dying. As long as there's a risk of that happening, you will not see pilotless civilian planes.
The military is a different question, though. They are saying that the JSF will be the last manned military fighter because the airplanes are getting to a point where humans can't fly them to their limits.