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Home > Airplanes > Would pilotless planes become a reality in the future?
Would pilotless planes become a reality in the future?
Aviation - Airplanes
Sunday, 30 October 2005 17:22

Hi Captain Lim,

Keep up the great work. I think all of us agree that this is a terrific website. We are very happy that it is available to all of us to access some very interesting information. I have a further question about entry as a pilot in Australia.

Most of the airlines in Australia require at least a minimum of 1500 hours. How is it best to achieve these hours and on average, how long would it take to acquire this time? I am currently 28 and believe I am quickly running out of time in order to enter the commercial airlines.

Secondly, with all the automation and computer enhancements, is it possible that pilots would not be required in the near future?

I look forward in hearing from you.

Best regards,


Hi Mark,

Most pilots in Australia build up their hours by joining the General Aviation (crop dusting, charters, banners towing, etc) or become an Assistant Flight Instructor in a Flying Club. It is hard work and how long it takes to build up the 1500 hours would depend on how much you are prepared to fly. If you can log 500 hours a year, it may take you three years, faster if you can fly more.

As regards to the threat of automation, pilots would still be required to manage the system for sometime to come. They need not have to physically fly the plane though. How long would pilotless plane become a reality? Well, I believe it will be possible in the distant future. Below are two similar queries by two aspiring pilots who fear that the robot may take away their future job :-)

Question 1: Yesterday I was chatting with another pilot and he firmly believes sometime this century the unthinkable will happen. Pilot less planes carrying fare paying passengers! Do you think this will happen or will few people EVER be willing and brave enough to make that a reality? I hope it doesn*t happen simply because there will be fewer jobs for people like you, me and other aspiring pilots.

Answer: I am sure technology will keep on surging ahead in our lifetime. What is advanced today would be obsolete tomorrow! There were great fanfares when Orville Wright first flew 120 feet in 12 seconds in 1903, and then we thought the Boeing 777 was great, when it could land in zero visibility about 100 years later! Well, we have not seen greater things in the future yet!

Yes, I discussed the topic of pilot-less plane in a recent FAQ when one visitor asked me about whether they would do a way with human flying an aircraft in the future. The possibility of pilot-less plane is real! If not by end of this century, it would probably be by early next 2100!

I wonder if you have read about what Simon Newcomb said in 1902, "Flight by machines heavier than air ... is utterly impossible!"

Don*t worry; they would still require pilots in your lifetime!

Question 2: Captain, a part of the Mass Rapid Train system in Singapore is fully automated and runs without any drivers. The city-state*s local transport system has triggered me to draw a parallel with the aviation industry. In your view, in 50 to 100 years time, do you think the aviation industry will reach a fully automated status where planes can optimally function without the guidance of pilots? This includes the functions of taxing, taking off, climbing, cruising, descending, and landing.

Answer: I wonder whether you have heard of this joke. They said that in the future, you only need a pilot and a dog to fly an airplane. Why do you need a dog? Well, when the pilot presses a wrong button, the dog will bark at him! :-)

Seriously, in time to come, you don*t really need a pilot. You need a system operator to manage a super computer. When that day arrives, fully automated air travel is possible. In fact, the Americans are already operating pilotless drones in the Middle Eastern war zones today!

Hope this answer your query.


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Pilotless Aircraft
I really don't like the idea of having computers do a pilots job. not only because many jobs would be lost, but also there are many people out there who live to fly! even though todays aircaft can fly thousands of kilometers on for example LNAV and VNAV, the pilot still manages taxi, take off, approach and landing, and is still capable of taking manual control of the aircraft.smilies/wink.gif Personally i belive that manufacturers such as Boeing and Airvus should never design an aircraft running completely on computers, there must still be a crew managing the entire aircraft smilies/smiley.gif Thanks for the eally awesome website, i always find may nteresting things here to read!!!smilies/smiley.gif
Rico Botha , 05 May, 2009
Even with the US drones in the middle-east, there are still pilots on the ground controlling them right?

I believe even with all sorts of technology, its just better to leave the hands of passengers to the human pilots rather than a sophisticated system that can malfunction in air.
Hm... , 10 May, 2009
We do not want technology to replace humans, we want technology to WORK WITH us
Airbus and boeing's philosophy for the future:We do not want technology to replace humans, we want technology to WORK WITH us
Howard , 11 Jan, 2012

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