Daily Management Review

In The Future, UBS Analyst Says, Multiple Planes Could Be Operated From The Ground By Today’s Pilots


In The Future, UBS Analyst Says, Multiple Planes Could Be Operated From The Ground By Today’s Pilots
Airline pilots are no exception to the trend of jobs being threatened, or at least dramatically altered, by automation. And this has become a hot topic for economists and business.
"We'll go from two pilots down to one with a ground control handler" who could be monitoring up to 10-20 planes, was one vision of the future role of pilots that was put forward on a television show on Thursday by UBS analyst Jarrod Castle.
"Who better to actually operate the controls but an ex-pilot?" said Castle, one of the analysts behind a recent report by the bank on pilotless planes. Instead, aerospace or avionics are t het areas that today's pilots could also ultimately move into, he also suggested.
The number of pilots in the cockpit of a plane is now just two and this used to be three in the 1980s, Castle pointed out.
"70 percent of accidents are due to human error, not machine error," he added. While simply "monitoring the systems" otherwise, pilots only actively fly planes for five to 10 percent of the time that they are airborne, Castle also said.
By saying that, "At the moment, there's a very big demand for pilots actually given the global fleet delivery schedules," Castle did preface his assertions. There could be a likely demand for up to half a million pilots in the coming two decades by the airline industry, he added. "There will always be a role for those kinds of individuals," he said.
There were no planned changes regarding the number of pilots required for passenger planes, the U.K.'s Civil Aviation Authority confirmed to the media over telephone.
Following a Germanwings tragedy in March 2015 in which one pilot locked his counterpart out of the cockpit and then deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps, regulation on the number of professionals in a cockpit has been a talking point in recent years.
A rule stipulating that two people must be in the cockpit of a plane at any given time was subsequently introduced by many airlines. However, since then, some of the airlines have already abolished this rule.
Pilots operating planes from the ground was a possibility, said Steve Landells, safety specialist at the British Air Line Pilots Association, in a statement. But his organisation did not believe that genuinely pilotless flight would ever be a reality, he also clarified.
"Automation in the cockpit is not a new thing – it already supports operations. However, every single day pilots have to intervene when the automatics don't do what they're supposed to," he said.
The safety of remote pilots was also questioned by Landells. "While moving pilots to a control tower on the ground might eventually save airlines money, there would need to be huge investment to make this possible, and even more to make it safe," he added.
"Generally speaking, having a pilot on the aircraft who is as much at risk as the passengers is probably the surest guarantee of safety there can be," Landells said.

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