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cockpit airplane pilotsWould you board a plane with no pilot? Sounds like a crazy idea — but according to an article from the Economist, it’s something that could become the future of air travel.

At some point within the next few weeks, a pilotless flight is slated to be tested during a trip from England to Scotland, meaning that the pilot operating the plane will be doing so from the ground in a control room. (There will also be a pilot in the cockpit, just in case anything goes wrong.)

The article notes that the U.S. Congress has shown interest in the technology, asking aviation regulators to find a way to incorporate unmanned aircraft into America’s air traffic control system as soon as the year 2015. The technology would likely be used on smaller aircraft carrying out functions such as border patrols or police surveillance.

For commercial aircraft carrying large numbers of passengers, it’s unlikely that onboard pilots would be eliminated altogether; instead, opines the Economist, flights might have just one pilot instead of a crew of two or three. (Our two cents: If any airline might try cutting pilots, it would be ultra-discounter Ryanair, whose CEO questions the importance of seatbelts in the air.)

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Most of today’s planes are technologically advanced enough to take off, fly and land at a specified destination automatically — much like drone aircraft currently used by the military.

Overall, there still seem to be a lot of unanswered questions: How safe is an unmanned plane? Could this lead to job losses among pilots? Will pilots be able to concentrate better while controlling aircraft from the ground, or will it make them less accountable for safe flying if their lives aren’t at stake like those of the passengers onboard? And how might it affect consumer airfare prices?

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Would you feel safe flying on a pilotless plane? Be sure to leave your comments below.

— written by Ashley Kosciolek

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One Response to “Planes Without Pilots: Coming to an Airport Near You?”

  1. Colette Ming says:

    First, I intend no offense to our men & ladies who serve as our pilots. I know I am trivializing the good jobs they do.

    Do we not fly w/o pilots to some extent as the coordinates are input into the airplane computers & changed as needed & the plane is on autopilot? I DO prefer a pilot to be in the cockpit.

    Even though this saying was first applicable to ships on the sea, “The captain goes down with the ship,” it would not be applicable as the pilot would be directing my airplane is on the ground. As a 62-yr old woman who is still being pulled into the 21st C technology kicking & screaming, I want the person in charge of my airplane to be going to the same destiny I am going to! (<—Meant to be humorous)

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