Automation, Remote Control, & the F.O.

MissedApproach

Well-Known Member
I know that this has been beaten into the ground but I'm going to bring it up again in a slightly different capacity.

The other day I saw an interesting show on the discovery channel about the 777. A 777 capt mentioned that he thought in a decade or two there would be no need for an F.O. Basically automation would get to the point where it could supercede the duties of the F.O.

I got to thinking about this and it really seems quite plausible in the future. I assume the greatest obstacle an airline would face with only having one pilot would be maintaining the publics confidence. To get around this each airline could have a center that, in an emergency, could remotely fly a plane and have 100% control of all functions. There would always be pilots in exact replica "simulators" so if something happened they could connect to that aircraft and take control of it. Basically if something happened the airliner could become something of a UAV. If an FO (or several) was ever needed they could simply be virtually provided.

I don't know if this would be enough to maintain the publics confidence but it is certainly a scary thought. If automation and remote technology are integrated in such a fashion this idea might just hold water.
 

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
[ QUOTE ]
I know that this has been beaten into the ground but I'm going to bring it up again in a slightly different capacity.

The other day I saw an interesting show on the discovery channel about the 777. A 777 capt mentioned that he thought in a decade or two there would be no need for an F.O. Basically automation would get to the point where it could supercede the duties of the F.O.

I got to thinking about this and it really seems quite plausible in the future. I assume the greatest obstacle an airline would face with only having one pilot would be maintaining the publics confidence. To get around this each airline could have a center that, in an emergency, could remotely fly a plane and have 100% control of all functions. There would always be pilots in exact replica "simulators" so if something happened they could connect to that aircraft and take control of it. Basically if something happened the airliner could become something of a UAV. If an FO (or several) was ever needed they could simply be virtually provided.

I don't know if this would be enough to maintain the publics confidence but it is certainly a scary thought. If automation and remote technology are integrated in such a fashion this idea might just hold water.


[/ QUOTE ]

Consider this:

At one time, there were 5 cockpit crew onboard airliners. The Boeing 377s had Pilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Engineer, Flight Navigator, and Radio Operator.

As automation came along with smaller portable radio equipment.....the Radio Operator went by the wayside..........

Along comes the DC-8 with 4 cockpit crew. Pilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Engineer, and Flight Navigator.

As automation came along with smaller, more portable and user-friendly navigation equipment, everything from LORAN to today's GPS, and the need to take celestial sunshots diminished......the Flight Navigator went by the wayside.

Along comes the DC-10 and L-1011 with 3 cockpit crew. Pilot, Co-Pilot, and Flight Engineer.

As big airplanes (other than the DC-9/737 series) began to receive cockpit control and display automation that was coming online......the Flight Engineer went by the wayside.

Along comes the 777, and most large airliners of today with 2 cockpit crew. Pilot, Co-Pilot.

As automation further comes along.....who's the next in line to go?
 

Kingairer

'Tiger Team' Member
Mike brings up valid points, but the FO will be alot harder to get rid of than the rest. For one, 1 pilot would not have anyone to learn from, there would always be someone who is green in an airplane. Yes, there are sims, but there will be a need for some fimilarization. Also, the public is alot more aware of the FO then the FE and doesnt really know the difference without an FE.

It may come in the future (look were weve come in 100 years) but i wouldnt be worrying about it anytime soon.
 

MissedApproach

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]

Consider this:

At one time, there were 5 cockpit crew onboard airliners. The Boeing 377s had Pilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Engineer, Flight Navigator, and Radio Operator.

As automation came along with smaller portable radio equipment.....the Radio Operator went by the wayside..........

Along comes the DC-8 with 4 cockpit crew. Pilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Engineer, and Flight Navigator.

As automation came along with smaller, more portable and user-friendly navigation equipment, everything from LORAN to today's GPS, and the need to take celestial sunshots diminished......the Flight Navigator went by the wayside.

Along comes the DC-10 and L-1011 with 3 cockpit crew. Pilot, Co-Pilot, and Flight Engineer.

As big airplanes (other than the DC-9/737 series) began to receive cockpit control and display automation that was coming online......the Flight Engineer went by the wayside.

Along comes the 777, and most large airliners of today with 2 cockpit crew. Pilot, Co-Pilot.

As automation further comes along.....who's the next in line to go?

[/ QUOTE ]And that is what is so scary. Anyway you look at it there's no denying that the removal of the FO is the next logical step. As hard as this business is to break into now, imagine if it was twice as hard.
 

N519AT

Ahh! This is how I change this!
For some reason, just before that A320 crashed when the guy said "this is a fully automated plane........flown by a computer" I had a bit of a laugh....Even though they lost a multi million dollar plane
 

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
[ QUOTE ]
Mike brings up valid points, but the FO will be alot harder to get rid of than the rest. For one, 1 pilot would not have anyone to learn from, there would always be someone who is green in an airplane. Yes, there are sims, but there will be a need for some fimilarization. Also, the public is alot more aware of the FO then the FE and doesnt really know the difference without an FE.

It may come in the future (look were weve come in 100 years) but i wouldnt be worrying about it anytime soon.

[/ QUOTE ]

I agree with you that the actual "guys at the yoke" will be more difficult to replace.

Funny you mention the public. To them, seeing an FE in the cockpit is simply "the guy that sits sideways".
 

JHines

New Member
From a systems standpoint, couldn't most of the modern transports could physically be flown single pilot right now (compared to, as MikeD points out, older planes that needed separate crewmembers to babysit the radio sets and engines, and navigate)? It wouldn't be that much of a technology jump to combine FMS, GPS, IR/EO/TV, RADAR, and ground data with cockpit displays to turn piloting into a real-life version of Flight Simulator.

However, no matter how much automation you get, I think the crew concept, having more than one person to evaluate a situation and make decisions, is a very strong reason why 121 ops have a safety record so much better than part 91 ops.

If you check the NTSB reports, it becomes obvious that even ATPs with thousands of hours are capable of making mistakes or judgment calls that result in crashes, when they are outside the crew system. Sure, they're safer than a 100 hour PPL, but not as much safer as the crew system is overall.

So the idea about the automated remote ground station is plausible, but I would think to get an equivalent level of safety, you would have to have one rated "virtual FO" for every aircraft, which would kind of defeat the purpose of automating the plane more.
 

MissedApproach

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
you would have to have one rated "virtual FO" for every aircraft, which would kind of defeat the purpose of automating the plane more.

[/ QUOTE ] The idea is that the FO's would only be needed in case of an emergency. A few would always be ready for something to happen (kind of like the on-call fighter pilots). If multiple planes had emergencies (like on 9/11) there could be a problem.
 

Athena

New Member
It is my guess that there will only be two or three more generations of pilots before we are obsolete. At the rate that automation is progressing i don't think that is an unreasonable estimate.
 

Sprint100

Well-Known Member
I firmly believe that somehow automation/computers plus some good debating in its favor will get FO's out of the picture. They'll still be in the cockpit learning, probably learning from a jumpseat instead of the right seat.
Shoot I also believe that in 20 or 30 years we will have cockpits that are totally computer controlled.
I think we will definitely have smart enough technology to control airplanes, so I'm just saying it all depends on the lobbying effort to get the humans out of the cockpit.
 

Skinnah

Well-Known Member
personally I don't care how good the technology is. I trust a human way more than a computer. I want to have at least two brains in that flight deck.
 

pscraig

Well-Known Member
Agreed. I've spent too long in the IT field, watching the havoc caused by one line of errant code. Now that I am a pilot, I would find it difficult to completely trust automation. The human brain is the most powerful information processing tool, and it belongs in the cockpit.
 

MissedApproach

Well-Known Member
If anything I suppose this will devalue the profession, and with it the pay, benefits, etc.

Buy then again maybe the actually flying isn't what pilots are paid for in the first place.

In the mean time I'll try to keep optimistic.
 

THE_DUKE

Old Timer
Don't people realize it was the human brain which invented the computer. Point is the brain is the more complex and intellegent of the two.
 

Visceral

Well-Known Member
The military seems to lead the way with a lot of aviation technology, and their contractors are still developing drones and fighters with only ground based pilots. Its only a matter of time before it starts to bleed over in my opinion.
 

Kingairer

'Tiger Team' Member
There is a big difference there. The military is trying to keep human lives out of harms way. In aviation we already have people on the plane, so it would make no sense to have an automated airplane fly around people.
 

Alchemy

Partner, Ally, Friend
I don't see it happening for at least 30 years. Ferry boats and other oceangoing vessels still have a full complement of crewmembers and it's arguably much safer to have a fully automated boat than a fully automated airplane. For the next few decades at least, it looks like keeping the flesh and blood pilots will be a lot cheaper than setting up fully automated airliners. When it does become cheaper than human labor and or becomes legal, you can bet the airlines will start doing it.
 

pilot602

If specified, this will replace the title that
[ QUOTE ]
The military seems to lead the way with a lot of aviation technology, and their contractors are still developing drones and fighters with only ground based pilots.

[/ QUOTE ]

Andthese "unmanned" aircraft generally require just as many human operatives (in terms of gorund support, etc.) if not more than a manned aircraft. Irgo in a civillian mode they would not necessarily be cheaper to operate. Irgo management will be reluctant to "switch" over.

Could computers one day fly all of our aircraft? Sure. Will it happen? Doubt it.
 
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