'Pilotless' flights

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'Pilotless' flights
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I know we had a debate about automatic cars and I was comfortable with that. Not so much with this. At least the cars had the operator in them in case of any issues. This seems like they won't have a pilot on board except for this trial run. That makes me uneasy.

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They aren't "removing" the human error. Instead the decisions will be in the hands of someone somewhere monitoring perhaps multiple computer screens and planes at the same time.

I appreciate that there is auto-pilot available on board as it helps alleviate pilot fatigue, but I want an actual pilot on board -- preferably one that continues to get regular experience in doing the job to enable him /her to react quickly to an emergency if needed. I do not trust the computers (or the person on the ground) to not have a failure either.

I could support use of a drone being sent to investigate an exploding volcano, hurricane, or something equally dangerous in an effort to learn about impending danger without risking pilots.... but from a passenger standpoint -- no thanks.

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I saw that they have people monitoring but I meant that there wouldn't be anyone on board that can control the craft (they had one in the trial that they spoke about but I believe that's it.) I'm not okay with that.

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Don't think so. I work with computers enough to know that there is always going to be some glitch or lost connection or something that could be disastrous, let alone something like a bird strike or something that could take out an engine or any number of things that go wrong. Trains that are almost completely automated now still have an engineer. Even cargo planes could put other people at risk if it crashes. My brother is a pilot for Omni and he flies those big cargo planes and they do a lot of contract work for the military. He knew someone on this crash that happened recently at Bagram, he said that it was obvious from the way it crashed that either the load shifted or the plane wasn't loaded correctly. There is always a chance for a mistake somewhere along the way, and I am all for computers to be used as an additional tool, but they will never be able to replace having someone actually there that has a brain to think for themselves if something goes wrong.

Dramatic footage: Cargo Boeing 747 crashes at Bagram Airfield - YouTube

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"MissyJ" wrote:

They aren't "removing" the human error. Instead the decisions will be in the hands of someone somewhere monitoring perhaps multiple computer screens and planes at the same time.

Not only that, but someone has to write the software that controls the computers and the planes. What do computers just magically do things on their own? So it just moves the chance for human error to somewhere else down the line. I wouldn't want to find out that someone made a programming error when the plane is in the air with no pilot.

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I'd have to see it done routinely/frequently for large (cargo?) planes for over a decade before I'd trust it.

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No way! It's a neat idea, and if it works, then great. However, flying as it is now causes me to panic and I would never try a pilot-less flight.

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Just watch Mayday one time and you'll wish for a human backup pilot on every single flight you take. I don't think I would ever take an un-manned flight. Nope, I'm pretty positive.

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I'd do it. The computer wasn't up all night doing blow off of a strippers a$s.

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"Potter75" wrote:

I'd do it. The computer wasn't up all night doing blow off of a strippers a$s.

No, but the guy writing the program or monitoring the flight on the ground might have been.

This would have to be proven reliable for a LONG time before I got on one. I wouldnt mind an autopilot sort of thing, as long as there was an experienced pilot in the cockpit monitoring it.

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I would not mind a flight that was on autopilot as long as there was a human pilot on the plane in the case of an emergency.

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"Potter75" wrote:

I'd do it. The computer wasn't up all night doing blow off of a strippers a$s.

Neither was the pilot. I used to work in a hotel that catered to United flight crews and they couldn't have alcohol or caffeine when they arrived after a flight, they couldn't even take Sudafed if they had a stuffy nose, and if they were too late getting in that they didn't have enough turnaround time, i.e. a decent night's sleep, then a different crew would have to take the flight the next morning. The airline and the FAA routinely checked their check-in times, and they had random urine tests all the time. Of course things might be a bit different now, that was 27 years ago, but I trust that most flight crews still take their jobs very seriously.

And ITA with Missy.

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"Spacers" wrote:

Neither was the pilot. I used to work in a hotel that catered to United flight crews and they couldn't have alcohol or caffeine when they arrived after a flight, they couldn't even take Sudafed if they had a stuffy nose, and if they were too late getting in that they didn't have enough turnaround time, i.e. a decent night's sleep, then a different crew would have to take the flight the next morning. The airline and the FAA routinely checked their check-in times, and they had random urine tests all the time. Of course things might be a bit different now, that was 27 years ago, but I trust that most flight crews still take their jobs very seriously.

And ITA with Missy.

I'm sure the vast majority do take their job very seriously. That doesn't mean that the other type doesn't exist SmileBottle to Throttle: A Short History of Drunk Pilots - Businessweek

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I would agree that most pilots take their job very seriously. My brother does not even fly for a commercial airline and they have very strict rules about how much sleep they get before a flight and all that stuff. The reason it makes the news when they catch a pilot that has been drinking is because it is so rare. They pretty much instantly lose their job and will never fly for an airline again. Most pilots aren't going to risk that after all the work they have to put in to get there.

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This sounds like trading in one set of problems, for a different set of problems. Time will prove which 'set of problems' actually occurs at a higher rate than the other. If this new pilot-less method proves to be safer than it doesn't seem logical to not fly on one out of fear.

There is this little gut thing in me that does wish there was someone on board who could fly and land a plane in the case that it is absolutely necessary to take over from this computerized system. But if that's all the pilots responsibilities are reduced too, i don't see how doing that would be possible.

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I had hoped to get back to this yesterday but ran out of hours. When I was first typing my response there weren't any replies. Jessica of course summed up my thoughts in a much shorter version. Blum 3

At least with cars if there were an error, I'd be on the GROUND (and hopefully a good chance of survival.)

In the air, however -- not so much.

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"MissyJ" wrote:

At least with cars if there were an error, I'd be on the GROUND (and hopefully a good chance of survival.)

In the air, however -- not so much.

Same can be said about human error.

Being in the air is more precarious than being on the ground, no matter who or what is flying the plane.

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"KimPossible" wrote:

Same can be said about human error.

Being in the air is more precarious than being on the ground, no matter who or what is flying the plane.

LOL that is true Kim. I guess that my correct answer should stick with wanting an actual experienced pilot on board period.

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Even now they fly with 2 pilots just in case something happens to one. I just don't see them going from 2 to none. I just don't think it will ever happen.

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Even now they fly with 2 pilots just in case something happens to one. I just don't see them going from 2 to none. I just don't think it will ever happen.

Well I questioned that too at first, but after reading the article, it sounds like that is possibly the goal. Also, i just don't see how it would work to have a backup pilot on the plane. You can't pay a guy who sits there and does nothing, possibly for his entire career the same you would pay a pilot today. They'd have to pay them less, or there would't even be any point in switching over to this new system from a money standpoint.

Give how crappy the schedule is, who would want to do that line of work for little pay? I would see this being problematic, i would think there would be a shortage of these people willing to sit on a plane all day to land it in case of an emergency. And how effective are they really if they don't really fly anything day to day? More effective than a computer in an emergency? Hard to tell really.

I mean psychologically, it does make me feel better to think there would be a knowledgeable and good pilot on the plane. I just question how that would really work out IRL.

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I think a lot of flying is already autopilot. That said, they would still need to have someone on the plane. Mechanical error, 9/11. Any number of things could happen that would need a real pilot on the plane.

ETA - I just thought of an example from a different POV. Automated phones. Some companies only have automated answering systems. It might save some companies money, but there are still companies that use live people. I do know there are several people who would chose to go with a company solely based on a live person being there to answer the phone. In a 911 situation, can you imagine if it was a computer? For important life or death situations, it is still better (IMO) to have a live person.

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It is more about a pilot shortage. The thing is it is soo expensive to go to school to be a pilot and the starting pay is so low that they are having problems getting people to go into that field. My son wanted to be a pilot but the school would have been about $200k and they start new pilots at about $24k a year. It takes about 10 years before a pilot starts to earn a higher salary. So it just isn't feasible to start out with that much debt.

Airlines Face Worst Pilot Shortage in Decades | TIME.com

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

It is more about a pilot shortage. The thing is it is soo expensive to go to school to be a pilot and the starting pay is so low that they are having problems getting people to go into that field. My son wanted to be a pilot but the school would have been about $200k and they start new pilots at about $24k a year. It takes about 10 years before a pilot starts to earn a higher salary. So it just isn't feasible to start out with that much debt.

Airlines Face Worst Pilot Shortage in Decades | TIME.com

Right, and the pay will be even worse if the role of pilot is reduced to "guy who sits on the plane in case there is an emergency some day" Because they would still need all the training as a regular pilot i would imagine, but wouldn't be able to justify even what they make today if all they will do is sit on the plane.

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I think a lot of flying is already autopilot. That said, they would still need to have someone on the plane. Mechanical error, 9/11. Any number of things could happen that would need a real pilot on the plane.

ETA - I just thought of an example from a different POV. Automated phones. Some companies only have automated answering systems. It might save some companies money, but there are still companies that use live people. I do know there are several people who would chose to go with a company solely based on a live person being there to answer the phone. In a 911 situation, can you imagine if it was a computer? For important life or death situations, it is still better (IMO) to have a live person.

Ah, so you think maybe there will be a niche market for an airline who 'features' real pilots. Thats an interesting thought. I wonder if that population would be big enough to sustain an entire airline company.

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I do not know what the answer is. I was shocked to see what pilots make because I know it used to be a lot more. I would have a hard time flying on a plane without a pilot. I do not think I would be alone in that.

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"KimPossible" wrote:

Right, and the pay will be even worse if the role of pilot is reduced to "guy who sits on the plane in case there is an emergency some day" Because they would still need all the training as a regular pilot i would imagine, but wouldn't be able to justify even what they make today if all they will do is sit on the plane.

One of the reasons it is so expensive for starting pilots is the number of hours of experience they are required to have by the FAA. With the price of jet fuel the cost of getting that many hours of flight time is very high. So the FAA is going to go from requiring all that time for a pilot to letting a computer do the flying? I think it is unrealistic that will ever happen.

New rules going into effect next summer, based on recommendations from the Federal Aviation Administration, mandate that all newly hired pilots have at least 1,500 hours of flying experience. Captains are already held to this standard, but co-pilots currently only need 250 hours, the New York Times reports — making this the first increase in the co-pilot requirement since 1973.

Read more: Airlines Face Worst Pilot Shortage in Decades | TIME.com

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

One of the reasons it is so expensive for starting pilots is the number of hours of experience they are required to have by the FAA. With the price of jet fuel the cost of getting that many hours of flight time is very high. So the FAA is going to go from requiring all that time for a pilot to letting a computer do the flying? I think it is unrealistic that will ever happen.

Why? If its proven that computers can do it and can do it better than humans. Obviously if the technology never gets that good then yes, they would never go to that.

You don't need to 'train' a computer. Thats kind of the point. The training is only required because of the nature of humans.

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"KimPossible" wrote:

Why? If its proven that computers can do it and can do it better than humans. Obviously if the technology never gets that good then yes, they would never go to that.

You don't need to 'train' a computer. Thats kind of the point. The training is only required because of the nature of humans.

Yes you do need to train a computer. It is only as good as the person writing the software. And there is no way anyone could possibly come up with every scenario that could ever happen in the air. I guess I just don't believe the technology would ever be that good that the FAA would approve planes to fly with no pilot.

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Vague references to other debate issues.

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Yes you do need to train a computer. It is only as good as the person writing the software. And there is no way anyone could possibly come up with every scenario that could ever happen in the air. I guess I just don't believe the technology would ever be that good that the FAA would approve planes to fly with no pilot.

Yeah i write software for a living, so i kind of have an idea of how it works. Saying thats like "training a computer" is more of a symbolic comparison as it works nothing like training. You had said "The FAA requires all this training, why would they all of a sudden just let a computer do it".... I'm just trying to say thats two totally different things. Instead of the FAA requiring training, which is a human way of cutting down on errors and mistakes, you instead require a lot of QA, a lot of testing, a lot of research, refactoring etc. etc. And I'm pretty sure that the FAA would require that this stuff seem pretty safe before ever allowing it to be used.

If you have doubts it could ever be that safe I'm sure you aren't alone. Its hard for us to make that leap and accept that there are so many things that computers do better than humans. For accident causing scenario that is missed, there are thousands of other things that computers can do that humans can't. Ultimately it will become fairly evident which one causes more accidents.

If at that point people are still squeamish about it, then its its simply psychological. To reiterate something i've heard around here before, it would be good if people made decisions based on facts, not emotions. For the record, i'm using that quote to try to get people to see pilot-less plains in a different light, and not to change anyone's opinions of anything else.

The only thing that i can think of is that people feel more emotionally troubled by the idea of people losing lives at the hand of a computer than they do losing their lives at the hand of a human.

Again....talking about pilots and computers...

..not anything else.

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Reference to 9/11

In my mind every time I think of this, 9/11 is the first thing that pops into my head. I know it is not rational and really I don't know that a pilot would make a huge difference, but I still keep thinking about it. In a flight now, if someone gets out of hand the pilot makes an emergency landing. Without a pilot on hand, how much easier would it be for someone to break in and take charge of the plane? If there is a real person in charge of the plane on the ground, then just as much training would be required. If there is not a real person on the ground, how are they going to deal with problems that would require an emergency landing - Medical emergency such as someone dying or giving birth, someone trying to hijack the plane, bad weather or storm?

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

In my mind every time I think of this, 9/11 is the first thing that pops into my head. I know it is not rational and really I don't know that a pilot would make a huge difference, but I still keep thinking about it. In a flight now, if someone gets out of hand the pilot makes an emergency landing. Without a pilot on hand, how much easier would it be for someone to break in and take charge of the plane? If there is a real person in charge of the plane on the ground, then just as much training would be required. If there is not a real person on the ground, how are they going to deal with problems that would require an emergency landing - Medical emergency such as someone dying or giving birth, someone trying to hijack the plane, bad weather or storm?

You could heighten security without having trained pilots.

Plus, lets not forget, there were pilots on those 9/11 flights.

I'd kind of like to think if itw ere possible to control the plane from somehwere else other than the plane itself, that actually might have helped 9/11, not hurt it.

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"KimPossible" wrote:

Yeah i write software for a living, so i kind of have an idea of how it works. Saying thats like "training a computer" is more of a symbolic comparison as it works nothing like training. You had said "The FAA requires all this training, why would they all of a sudden just let a computer do it".... I'm just trying to say thats two totally different things. Instead of the FAA requiring training, which is a human way of cutting down on errors and mistakes, you instead require a lot of QA, a lot of testing, a lot of research, refactoring etc. etc. And I'm pretty sure that the FAA would require that this stuff seem pretty safe before ever allowing it to be used.

I write software too, and that is why I don't think its possible. Even with the best software things go wrong, and I don't think it would ever be that good that it wouldn't require a human backup. It's not like they could just reboot the system while they are in the air. Like I said even as automated as the train system is they still require an engineer to be at the controls.

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The 9/11 scenario is a case FOR computers, not against them. No one can even get into my PHONE because of my password. Putting a gun to my phones head would have no result. Not so with a pilot.

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"Potter75" wrote:

The 9/11 scenario is a case FOR computers, not against them. No one can even get into my PHONE because of my password. Putting a gun to my phones head would have no result. Not so with a pilot.

Not exactly. All it takes is a good hacker. There are plenty of those out there.

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You mean storm the cockpit and sit there and hack it? Or hack it from the ground? If thats the case planes are already 90% automated, they would be doing it already.

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"Potter75" wrote:

You mean storm the cockpit and sit there and hack it? Or hack it from the ground? If thats the case planes are already 90% automated, they would be doing it already.

Hack the connection between the ground and the cockpit. Even if they are 90% automated they are now self contained not controlled by a source on the ground, and there is always a pilot at the controls even when it is on autopilot. A remote system would open up window for someone else to take over control, and it could never be completely self contained because it would have to be open for route changes or delays on the ground. It would be kind of like controlling a plane over the internet.

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Yeah-I just don't worry about it. Our military controls missiles and drones and all sorts of crazy stuff- my dh is in that industry and the stuff he can tell me about is mind boggling fr a security perspective. It just doesn't scare me, personally.

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

I write software too, and that is why I don't think its possible.

I am really surprised that as a programmer that you do not think this is possible. Obviously 100% safety is not possible. I think as a programmer, you are in the minority in thinking that its not possible for this to be safer.

Even with the best software things go wrong, and I don't think it would ever be that good that it wouldn't require a human backup. It's not like they could just reboot the system while they are in the air. Like I said even as automated as the train system is they still require an engineer to be at the controls.

I think requiring human back up is different than saying its not as safe as a human flying it.

ETA: and no one is suggesting that things don't go wrong with great software. The suggestion is that human error causes problems more often.

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I read this article today and it reminded me of this debate. I guess it is possible to hijack planes remotely after all.

EXCLUSIVE: GPS flaw could let terrorists hijack ships, planes | Fox News