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Would You Ride a Pilot-less Plane? Airbus Moved a Step Closer to Jets That Fly Themselves

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


My stomach aches as I write this post.

TravelPulse reports Airbus successfully “completed a series of tests Monday using a self-flying A350-1000 XWB jet with no pilot to practice taxiing, takeoff and landing – normally all maneuvers performed by a pilot.”

Writer Rich Thomaselli adds, “Like it or not, the idea of pilotless airline travel is moving forward.”

Why, no. No, I don’t like it.

And neither do some of the friends and family I asked, “Would you ride a pilot-less plane? Airbus is making it a reality.”

Most of the responses I received were along the lines of “Oh, [expletive] no!”

We Ride Pilot-Less Vehicles All the Time

When you think about it, you and I have been on many vehicles that operate themselves, at least to a degree.

Airport trams, for example.

The C-concourse tram at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
The C-concourse tram at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

And roller coasters.

Both those examples involve vehicles on tracks. But you get the point.

And while commercial flights are reportedly flown on autopilot about 90% of the time, there are (at least) two pilots up front keeping an eye on things.

But the idea of 35,000 feet in the air and traveling at 500 MPH with no one in charge of actually flying the aircraft makes me queasy.

Will We See Pilot-less Planes in Commercial Travel?

I’m guessing there will always be at least one pilot aboard autonomous planes.

Redditor ppr_24_hrs theorizes:

I don’t believe they intend to have totally pilotless vehicles for commercial flights, at best it would be a way to lower crew costs on ultra long haul flights. On the other hand, like interstate trucking you could ferry cargo on ultra long trans Atlantic/Pacific flights. I believe FedEx is experimenting with this as well currently. Most commercial and military aircraft today have auto land capabilities for when the weather is too poor for humans to safety land

Plus, organized labor groups are powerful. I can see pilots unions demanding a minimum number of pilots on every commercial flight — no matter if the cargo is human or otherwise.

What Do You Think?

Will you step foot aboard a plane that has no pilot? Tell us in the below Comments section!

— Chris

Featured image: ©iStock.com/huettenhoelscher

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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5 Comments

  1. A tangent question, ”Would you fly in an airplane that is piloted by someone one the ground?” Similar to what the US Air Force does with drones?

    The logic in me says yes to both questions. My gut says, no.

  2. Barry Graham Reply

    Uber is already planning to launch Uber Air in 2023. Initially it will be with pilots but the aircraft used will be capable of pilotless navigation.

    By the way, we all know the planes are essentially pilotless most of the time already.

  3. I disagree with the comment that planes are pilotless most of the time already. That’s not what the commercial pilots I follow on YouTube teach in their videos. (Mentour Pilot, C.W. Lemoine, 74 Gear.) There’s always a “pilot monitoring” even if one pilot is resting.
    No, I would not get on a plane that didn’t have at least one pilot monitoring at all times–and heaven’s forbid, he have a heart attack mid-flight. Can you imagine a computer making and executing the decisions Sully did that day over the Hudson. I bet the passengers on that flight are really glad their’s wasn’t a pilotless flight.

  4. I can tell you right now pilot-less planes will doom aviation if it happens. You will see so many crashes. Computers suck and auto pilots break ALL THE TIME. The newer the technology the less reliable it is. When these systems go bad it takes 2 pilots to handle. I’m sure any other pilots know this is insanity. This isn’t me protecting my job, it is facts that pilot less airplanes would be a mess. How many times do Airport trains break down !? Imagine you’re flying , auto pilot breaks and there are electrical issues and some guy in a room 2000 miles away is trying to save the airplane.

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