Taking autopilot to the next level - will passengers trust pilotless planes in exchange for lower ticket prices?
According to a report by Swiss banking giant UBS, introducing pilotless planes globally could save airlines almost £30 billion a year in wages, training and fuel costs - and cut ticket prices by up to 10%.
That is why the world’s major aircraft manufacturers are already investigating the technology. Both Boeing and Airbus have recently conducted tests of unmanned aircraft and the first pilotless cargo flights could take-off in the middle of the next decade.
The biggest obstacle to a future of pilotless skies is not now the technological capability, but the willingness of customers to step onto what would - in effect - be a giant drone.
A recent survey of 8,000 people found that more than half would refuse to fly on an aircraft without a pilot even if it was cheaper, and just 17% would be happy with the idea. However, amongst 18-30 year olds the latter figure was 30%, meaning that the future for pilotless aircraft may be brighter than the present.
If the move to the routine use of fully automated aircraft on passenger flights does happen, it may be that having just a single pilot in the cockpit proves to be a stepping stone on the journey.
In the short-term, however, it looks like the industry will need not fewer pilots, but more. The surging increase in demand for air travel means that, in the words of aviation economist Charles Tarry, “the real challenge for the industry right now is to train more pilots, not get rid of them.”
MSB’s origins lie in the aviation industry, with both Joint Managing Directors having begun their careers in culture change, customer service, employee engagement and people development at British Airways.
Throughout our 30 year history, we have worked with some of the biggest names in global aviation on projects ranging from culture change programmes, leadership training for captains and pursers, customer experience research and customer service training.
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