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The pilotless airliner is no longer unthinkable. It is just a matter of time before airliners have one pilot, and soon after that they will have none.
The first one-pilot commercial air transport aircraft will be freighters, and that sector will almost certainly blaze the trail to the pilotless passenger aircraft. That will be a cockpitless airliner in which first class passengers will occupy the window seats at the sharp end.
The aircraft might have a pilot standing by for emergencies, but s/he will be back at base.
What are the indicators?
Airliners are already highly automated, and pilots are increasingly being told not to interfere with the automation. Meanwhile it is already accepted – or even status quo – that unmanned autonomous or remotely piloted air vehicles will take over many of the military and general aviation tasks now performed by aircraft with a cockpit.
Well, you trust doctors and those are former med students.
Originally posted by Expat888
interesting .. no way I'd ever trust an automated aircraft though .
The number of pilots helming a jetliner has dropped from three to two in recent years, and onboard flight computers already have the ability to take off, cruise and land without human operation.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, regulators still need to be sold on the idea, as certification for the technology doesn’t yet exist. The planes would also need to meet air travel safety standards.
Airlines, facing a projected need of an estimated 1.5 million pilots and 40,000 aircraft over the next 20 years, are among those supporting the idea of self-flying jets, but Sinnett stressed that a robo-plane would need to be able to land safely in emergency situations. "If it can't," he said, "then we can't go there."