Not Enough Pilots?

I pulled this off of Peter’s blog (The Bayou Renaissance Man):

What happens when you don’t train enough replacements

I note with interest that Japanese airlines are going to have to cancel thousands of flights this year because many of that country’s older pilots are being forced to retire – and there aren’t enough younger ones to replace them.  The same problem will affect US airlines to an increasing extent in the near future.

Like it or not, I think this will drive the development of automatically piloted aircraft to an ever-increasing extent.  Just as automatically piloted cars are now being tested, so expect this technology to extend to the airlines sooner rather than later.  At present each major commercial flight has two pilots.  I expect that within ten to twenty years, technology will have developed to the point that each flight will have a single pilot who’s basically along for the ride.  He’ll be there as a backup to the automated technology that’s actually flying the plane – or as a backup to a pilot sitting on the ground somewhere, flying the aircraft by remote control, just as is now common with military UAV’s.  Within another decade or two, I expect to see the first fully automated flights, without a pilot at all.

That’s a scary prospect at present, with UAV’s having recorded a far higher accident rate than manned aircraft.  However, like it or not, if there aren’t enough pilots, this is the way the airline industry will have to go.


I have kinda said this for years, beginning back in the mid-90s as UAVs initially began gaining popularity.

“Oh, this will never happen in America; the American people would just never stand for it,” was the usual reply from the guys I flew with.  To which I would come back with, “The ‘American people’ is too stupid anymore to care…”  And I think this remains true, even today.

It all comes back to the dollar – greed.  The “suits” at the airlines will pay as little as they can get away with – to where kids today just don’t see the value in being an airline pilot anymore.  Hell, I don’t know if I would want to fly for those creeps anymore.

Oh well, es no my problem…

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One Response to Not Enough Pilots?

  1. John R says:

    It would be the most foolish or brave (depending on circumstances) for one to passenger in a plane piloted by: A, an atonomous computer inside the plane; B, a computer aided by a ground crew; or C, a computer driven plane supplanted by a very bored pilot, looking at all the screens and sneeking a nap or just being a normally forgetful human.

    C first: Boredom cannot be overcome easily, scientists have proven that boring situations create havoc because the brain has not been “active to the situation” previous to the crisis, the previously situation being the cause of the crisis. Comes to mind, the Air France Airbus 330 crash in the Atlantic. One can read all of the reports — which includes lack of pilot training of high altitude flight, I admit (or they would not have been so bored). The point is, these gentlemen had no clue of what happened, and they did everything wrong because of it. Oh yes, the pitot tubes were iced, but these boys didn’t know to realize it and they didn’t know of the situation that created it. So, a singular lonely pilot monitoring a “bunch of glass” is not going to cut it – for him or for the passengers.

    Now B: Short and sweet. A pilot on the ground has no real perspective of what is going on in the air, 30 miles away or 3,000 miles in the air. Cameras and sensor transmission just does not match between the all of the computer stuff and real eyeballs, a feeling in the pants and the billions of neurons in a brain that has experienced the kick in the but, the buff on the port wing or the weird intermittent noise emaniting out of engine 1. I understand that pilots can feel and sense just about everything that is going on in the craft he/she is operating.

    Now A. Computer code designed to fly autonomous aircraft consists of millions of lines of code that no one person can read. It is patched together with routines, subroutines, modules and submodules designed by very many people who have no knowledge of the same designed by others. Proof? — a multi-million U.S. designed Mars lander crashed because some of the routines were designed in “inches” while others were designed in “metric”. Nobody reading the code could have discovered this until the failure occured. Secondly, no person can visualize what his/her code affects another’s code in multiple circumstances, when there is a million or more lines of code to test. Every possible circumstance must be tested, and that is a virtual impossibility given the economics of the situation. Example, you ask? No tax preparation program has tested completely accurate to this date — and that is just with the knowns of the tax code itself, written in black and white. Nature on the other hand, is not so written.

    I am not a pilot, never could have been. But I put my faith in a couple of trained professional people operating the machine (who want to save their own asses presumably) over a computer that does not give a damn.

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