News from the Travel Industry: Pilotless Flights

Would you get on a commercial airplane knowing that the flight would have no pilot? If you’re like the vast majority of people, you probably just gave this question a resounding “no”. Yet, despite overwhelming public resistance, the travel industry is bracing for the arrival of fully automated flights.

Many passengers aren’t aware that the autopilot is already engaged for approximately 90% of most commercial flights.
Take-offs and landings usually require the pilot to manually control the aircraft, but the autopilot takes over for most other phases of the journey and is only disengaged shortly before landing. Given this fact, it’s really just a short step to removing the pilot altogether.

News from the travel industry is suggesting that pilotless flights may begin as soon as seven or eight years from now.
The technology certainly exists, and the savings to be gained by removing the crew from the flight deck are conservatively estimated to be between $35 and $40 billion dollars a year.
This includes not only the cost of salaries, but the steep expenses incurred when flights need to be cancelled or delayed because the pilot couldn’t make it to the gate on time.

The public is being lured to accept the concept of fully automated flights by the promise of cheaper travel. Prices in Europe would be expected to drop by about 5%, and probably by twice as much in the United States.
This doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, however, as most passengers are still vehement that they wouldn’t get on a plane without a pilot no matter what the ticket cost.

There is simply something reassuring about knowing there’s someone in charge “up there”.
Even though security measures ensure that passengers rarely see their pilot anymore, his or her soothing voice announcing the progress of the flight is a familiar and welcome part of air travel.
Even if we don’t know exactly what the pilot is doing in the cockpit, we all like to assume it’s something important.

Just as human scepticism is the chief impediment to driverless cars, passenger concerns may prove this news from the travel industry to be just a little premature. It could take several more years of gentle persuasion to convince most travellers to sit back, relax, and enjoy the pilotless flight.