Are airline pilots obsolete?

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Answer by Thomas Zerbarini:

The bigger question is will you buy a ticket with an airline that does not use humans in the cockpit to fly the aircraft?

(Boeing 787 Dreamliner)

The technology is there to develop a system reliable enough to replace pilots in airliners. It comes with a cost and can that cost be recoverable with passenger tickets or cargo waybills. Unfortunately, the answer is maybe. I for one, as a professional pilot, do not want to see pilots replaced in the cockpit whatsoever.

There is always a drive for any business (airlines) to find cheaper ways to provide the same product and boost profit. If an airline can replace humans in the cockpit and pay a ground operator to manage the flight, you better believe they are looking into it.

During my tenure as Executive Vice President of ALPA International, I made the statement to the Executive Council that in our lifetime we will see airlines attempt to replace pilots in the cockpit. The first "test" will take place in Cargo aircraft and it will be promoted as an "add-on" safety tool to supplement the pilots. Then they may move to replace the FAA and ICAO required "Relief Pilot". But, will this be socially acceptable?

Why pilotless planes aren’t the answer to preventing air disasters

Now I merely said attempt. I think it is an idea that is in deep thought as I write this today.

Of course my opinion on the subject is biased being an airline pilot, I acknowledge that. You can't ignore the value of having "two" pilots  in the cockpit for safety. The value of cross checking each other and good Crew Resource Management keeps normal human errors in check.

FAA TV: The History of CRM

Further, the adaptability of a good crew to handle any nuance or emergency with efficiency is directly proportional to experience and training. A well trained professional crew is a far better resource in the cockpit than any computer or ground base pilot without any skin in the flight (life on the line.)

I do see the interest and research taking place; I just don't see the viability nor think it would be an acceptable alternative that the public would embrace.

Thomas Zerbarini

Are airline pilots obsolete?


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