Manned versus unmanned airliners

hole in the ground

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I dont think it is going to matter how confident the aerospace community becomes with UAVs. Jo Public will never accept and thus we will never see a pilot less airliner...
 

blackkite

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Re: JAXA next-gen SST

Pilot less Airliner? I can't believe this really stupid concept.
 

Matej

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Re: JAXA next-gen SST

Why? In fact in most situations the pilot on board is not required. So I can clearly imagine the future airliner, which will have a tiny place called "cockpit" for one person called "captain", that will be on board as a person responsible for the aircraft and as a person, in who the passangers can trust. He can take the control of the airplane in an emergency situations and using the current technology only a one computer with the touchscreen and a joypad will be enough for it. In fact the airplane should fly almost all the time in the unmanned mode and the pilot will be on board only as the "actor" for the passangers.
 

blackkite

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Re: JAXA next-gen SST

Hi Matej! Please remember this accident.
 

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Antonio

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Re: JAXA next-gen SST

Unmanned airliner could work but I think people feels safer flying in a manned aircraft.
 

Matej

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Re: JAXA next-gen SST

blackkite said:
Hi Matej! Please remember this accident.

I remember primarily what I already wrote ;)

"He can take the control of the airplane in an emergency situations and....."
 

robunos

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Re: JAXA next-gen SST

"He can take the control of the airplane in an emergency situations and....."

I think you must have at least TWO pilots.......

see below...


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/pilot-dies-at-controls-on-flight-to-us-1709091.html


cheers,
Robin.
 

GTX

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Re: JAXA next-gen SST

I for one believe a autonomous/remotely piloted or some variation thereof (i.e. an "un-piloted" airliner) is doable as soon as the general public get over their un-informed fears. In fact one can counter the one-off Hudson river type argument by looking at the number of incidents that are essentially pilot induced (apologies to pilots, but this happens an awful lot). I will however admit it won't happen in the near future because of these fears - unless of course someone whispers it to Michael O Leary at Ryanair as a way to further reduce costs. ;)

Regards,

Greg
 

blackkite

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Re: JAXA next-gen SST

Hi GTX! I think pilot induced accidents are very rare. I think the reasons of air accidents are as follows.
1.Structural or equipment design problem including software problem.
2.engine trouble.
2.Bad weather.
3.Bird strike.
4.Shot down.
5.Bad maintenance.
6.Control tower mistake.
7.Terrorism.
8.Volcanic cloud.
I think all pilots have enough skill and have very strong intention to keep passengers life.
Flying is very special action,far from surface travel.
 

Matej

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Re: Manned versus unmanned airliner

I again disagree. It is a general estimation, that almost 90 % of all accidents are caused by the human factor. I can illustrate it very clearly on tragic accident of one of our An-24. 42 soldiers were killed, because the plane crashed to the hill. Official statement is that it was caused because the ground proximity warning malfunction, but the fact is, that the pilot turned it off because of the unknown reasons. They made the official statement as the technical failure, because if it is human failure, than the family of the pilot will not have financial compensation. So... officially technical failure, but in fact human factor. And it is much the rule than the exception.
 

blackkite

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Hi Matej! Will you please show me the source of general estimation? I think Human factor means not only pilot. We are discussing about pilot.
 

AeroFranz

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I think airlines will leave one pilot aboard first (mainly to allay passengers' fears), then eliminate it altogether. Airlines will want to do that because of cost. If right now they are limiting how many peanuts they give you on a transatlantic flight, how do you think they feel about saving a pilot's salary? his training? his pension?
To a smaller extent, people must have freaked out when ETOPS was established too, but now twin engined overwater flight is more common than three- and four-engined.
It's just a matter of public perception. We may not be there yet with technology, but as soon as we achieve a decent (not perfect) MTBF, airlines will want the savings.
 

Matej

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You are right, human factor means not only a pilot, but all personnel in the aircraft and also in the airport. I cant show you the source of the 90 % estimation, at least in the way you are expected, because it is all insider information during the air accidents investigation in my region, to which I have access. Term "insider" means that it is as real as it can be, but also that it is unofficial, so nobody will officially confirm that nor you will see that in any official report. The reasons are various - the one of them I described in my previous post.

However to argue with some solid evidence, I can use the official World aviation safety report from the previous year and make some citations from it. According to it, in the 2008 we had 33 fatal accidents with 589 people dead. From all accidents 75 % of them was caused by the human factor. Only the rest 25 % goes to the technical failures and all other reasons. The most deadliest factors are:

1. LOC (lost of control) - caused for example by pilots disorientation (turning during the night, flight by the instruments IMC and others). Interesting thing is that one of the most important recommendation for that year is that the companies must put the bigger attention to the Company culture and Crew Resource Management, especially to the work of the second pilot, because in the most cases the failure was done by the first pilot and the intervention of the second pilot, that could save the situation, was done too late. There is also the economic pressure from the airliners managemet to the pilots not to do "go around" after a unsuccessful landing approaching, that causes also a lot of troubles.

Another interesting thing is that there is the increase of the LOC accidents, caused by the ice coating. Not the ice coating itself, but because the pilots used this system improperly or they didn't use it at all. So there is also the second important recommendation to review all guidance books and training methods, that are related to the subject.

2. CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) - the second deadliest factor. It is a paradox, because less than 5 % of the jet airliners doesn't have TAWS (Terain Awareness Warning System) already installed. However as you can read in my previous post, the fact, that it is on board and that it is working properly doesn't always mean, that the human factor will not affect it.

3. Post-crash fire - this is the factor that causes the casualties, not the accidents themselves, so we can continue to the next factor

4. Runway Incursions and Excursions - from 2002 to 2008 more than 55 % of the RIaE was caused by the pilots, about 25 % by the flight operations managers and about 7 % by the airfield vehicles stuff.

Because of this official statistics (and as I wrote before, the reality is even worse), the most aviation accidents are caused by the human factor, primarily by the pilots. And I think that it is very natural conclusion, the same as the most car accidents are caused by the failure of the drivers. So this is the point why I disagree with your list of the reasons of the air accidents. I used the translated paper copy of the report, but I think that it is available also online somewhere and in English, so if you want additional information and deeper analysis, it is recommended reading. The fair thing is to ask you the same question - what is the source of your list?

___________________________________________________________

Now the second part of my reply, that is closer to the theme of the subject. I think that the question should be as follows:

In the case manned versus unmanned airliner, are robotic automated systems capable to sustain unexpected and emergency situations at least as good as the human pilots?

My answer is: No, not yet. So I can only once again repeat my original idea written here: It is reasonable to have an unmanned airliner, that will take off, fly and land in unmanned mode most of the time. The regular pilot will be on board, but only for the two reasons:

1. He will take control of the plane in the emergency situations, because the human brain is so far better than any current robotic system and the robotic systems are not yet sophisticated enough to sustain it.

2. He will be some sort of the actor for the passangers, so the passangers can trust in the human being, rather than in the big set of the cables and Taiwan chips.
 

Anderman

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Mh wouldn´t an unmanned airliner mean an airliner without passengers ? ;)

I think unmanned freight planes far more realistic i wouldn´t go onboard an airplane when the pilot stays on the ground.
When passengers are in the air there is no need to let the pilots to stay on the ground.

UAV and UCAV are most of the time remote controlled so the human factor is still there and even if they were automatic the programs and
controll system would still be man made.

My 2 € cents :)
 

Machdiamond

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Technically it can be done, but I think it is a moot point because economically it would not make any sense. The cost to develop, certify and maintain autonomous airliners would be much higher than paying two pilots to do the job (even more so at burger-flipping salaries).

--Luc
 

chornedsnorkack

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How difficult would it be to have an unmanned general aviation plane - where the pilot is on board but not actually flying the plane or indeed physically present in the cockpit when the seatbelt sign is off?
 

Machdiamond

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For a GA plane what I foresee in 15-20 years is a much more sophisticated autopilot using conventional flight controls, where envelope protection and navigation would be taken over entirely from engine start to shutdown. The only pilot input would be to inform where he wants to go on a macro scale (destination via this and this place) or a micro scale (I want to have a closer look at that mountain ridge I see there), essentially a license-free aircraft. I think it will happen eventually because:
1. there is a market for it, contrary to autonomous airliners
2. it can be done with today's technology
--Luc
 

AeroFranz

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Dispensing with pilots is not going to happen overnight, and it would certainly come at a cost. But airframers would be able to leverage technologies already being actively developed for UAVs. In due time these will prove technically mature enough for man-rated use. I think it's accepted that UAVs will start flying in non-segregated airspace sometime in the next decade.

How about we install auto-takeoff and auto-land on manned airliners for starters, just as a safety measure? Eventually, they will find occasional use. After they save a few lives, and operational experience is acquired, people will become somewhat comfortable with them. Then we can remove the co-pilot, leaving a supervising pilot. As Anderman mentioned, an unmanned FedEx freighter would be a good place to start.

I believe the bean-counters, more than the engineers, will push for unmanned airliners.
Even if certifying such system costs an arm and a leg, that's a non-recurring cost. Spread that over each and every flight of every future airliner for the next couple of decades.
On one hand you have the acquisition cost of the system, and its maintenance. On the other, you have the cost of one/two pilots (training, salary, pension, overnight stay, and god only knows what else) over the same timeframe.

Other potential advantages

- You wouldn't be grounded because the pilot's association decided to go on a strike (In Italy, this happens about once a month)
- If I could design an airliner from scratch, without pilots on board, I could potentially find some little savings here and there arising from eliminating constraints due to the cockpit requirements. If you remove two crewmembers, you can increase your passenger payload by that much too. While you're at it, you could have first class passengers pay premium for the first row seats with view out the front. Or maybe fair over the nose and save a few drag counts.
- Hijackers would be hard pressed to tell the pilot to take them to Cuba or whatever is today's terrorist's paradise in this scenario ;D.
-When offered a cheaper ticket, I think the average passenger will climb aboard an aircraft even if it's piloted by a trained monkey. how else do you explain how passengers today endure the miserable experience of long-distance economy flight?

These are just silly examples, and I exaggerate a little, but the motivation to do it is there, in my opinion.
 

Just call me Ray

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chornedsnorkack said:
How difficult would it be to have an unmanned general aviation plane - where the pilot is on board but not actually flying the plane or indeed physically present in the cockpit when the seatbelt sign is off?

What would even be the point? Just buy an airline ticket or charter an aircraft then.
 

KJ_Lesnick

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I think even if there were unmanned airliners that there would be a human in the loop (i.e. A man or woman on the ground controlling the plane, or at least able to intervene in an emergency).

I should also note -- You'd also have to keep in mind that in addition of the advantages or disadvantages of such a system you'd have to realize that you'd be putting people out of business. Which isn't all that good.


KJ Lesnick
BTW: Yes, I am of the belief that UCAV's and UCAS' as well also should always have a human in the loop as well and it's dangerous to have such systems fully autonomous
 

Stargazer2006

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I find it ridiculous enough to consider 600-passenger transports because it means 600 casualties instead of 300 in case of an accident... but an airliner without a pilot is even dumber than charging for the washroom! Not that it is technically impossible... quite the contrary. Not that it would be less safe... I think that if we can have unmanned drones, we could have unmanned airliners with the same amount of safety. It's just the sheer psychological impact of having an aircraft with no pilot for the average traveler. The figure of the captain goes back a long way in history, to the times of seafaring liners, at least. You don't want it to be otherwise. And if you remove the captain, what's next? You no longer need a co-pilot, right? And then who needs flight attendants? You could provide drink and food dispensers, which would reduce the costs by removing all need for staff on board... NOT!!!!!!!!!!!
The whole thing is morally dubious because it puts a whole area of work on the dole... It totally departs from common sense: you want to know there's a captain to trust in case of trouble... You need the smile and care of flight attendants to make flying less disturbing... Who would want to be traveling up there in the middle of nowhere with only meters, buttons and computers for company? I know I wouldn't!
 
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I am going to vote "unmanned" on this one. If you load the plane up with sensors "robopilot" can see, interpret, and respond an order of magnitude faster than a human being. It doesn't get tired. It doesn't have a bad day. It doesn't die of a heart attack mid flight. Robopilot 1.0 might be good, but Robopilot 2.0 and newer will be seriously kick-a55.

The shuttle pilots trust "robopilot" and they fly a lot faster and further than I ever will....
 

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It is one thing to have UAVs orbiting a target area. Another to trust 300 people sitting in back to a lot of coding or some guy at a computer console hundreds of miles away. Same thing applies to military transport aircraft in my opinion.

Any aircraft that is gonna have passengers in it, might as well have a pilot if you ask me.
 

Just call me Ray

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Stargazer2006 said:
I find it ridiculous enough to consider 600-passenger transports because it means 600 casualties instead of 300 in case of an accident...

Eh, I'm not sure if you've really thought all of that out. According to the first bit of logic, the safest vehicles we build are the ones that hold only one occupant. GA aircraft would be safer than airliners, which is far and away from true even when you factor in the larger number of causalities (at least according to U.D. DOT statistics). Given the rarity of airliner mishaps in the countries with the best air systems (Germany, UK, the US when you factor out ground-handling "fender-bender" mishaps) air travel is safe enough to the point where you shouldn't be worrying about 600 passenger airliners being less safe than a smaller one.

As for unmanned airliners, you have a point though. If things will turn out the way Obama says, we'll probably be using trains for the vast majority of our intercontinental travel, and transoceanic airliners might be so large the extra cost of one or two pilots and a flight deck might not seem so critical (not to mention the changed economics of such drastically reduced competition).
 

Machdiamond

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KJ_Lesnick said:
... you'd have to realize that you'd be putting people out of business. Which isn't all that good.

No it's good. Two pilots will be replaced by five engineers - not counting the one needed to screw the light bulb in the computer room ;D
 

Stargazer2006

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Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not necessarily voicing my own opinion, just putting myself in the place of the average traveler...
 

AeroFranz

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I think it's pretty much accepted that UAVs will eventually fly in civilian airspace. A bunch of these are single engined, and prone to fail from time to time. If, say, a Global Hawk, or a UCAV were to crash on a school, or a hospital, it would still occasionally kill humans on the ground. Thus IMHO we are already counting on the fact that UAVs will have an acceptable mishap rate.
 

KJ_Lesnick

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Do you think that if an unmanned airliner was built it should have a human in the loop in case of an error to intervene?
 

chornedsnorkack

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Just call me Ray said:
chornedsnorkack said:
How difficult would it be to have an unmanned general aviation plane - where the pilot is on board but not actually flying the plane or indeed physically present in the cockpit when the seatbelt sign is off?

What would even be the point? Just buy an airline ticket or charter an aircraft then.
Getting rid of the requirement to share the plane, pay for the pilots and account to them. Getting rid of the requirement for the pilot to hold or else carry out an emergency landing to go to toilet.

Would you like to have a GA plane where you can go flying alone AND leave the autopilot all alone in the cockpit during toilet and meal breaks? Or indeed cross oceans fast asleep back in the cabin with the autopilot, again, alone in the cockpit?

Trans America Airlines famously employed an autopilot named Otto, who was a blow-up doll, but could not land the plane. Eventually, he inflated a female autopilot doll and took off again.
 

Just call me Ray

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chornedsnorkack said:
Getting rid of the requirement to share the plane, pay for the pilots and account to them. Getting rid of the requirement for the pilot to hold or else carry out an emergency landing to go to toilet.

Would you like to have a GA plane where you can go flying alone AND leave the autopilot all alone in the cockpit during toilet and meal breaks? Or indeed cross oceans fast asleep back in the cabin with the autopilot, again, alone in the cockpit?

You mean like an autopilot, like you mentioned?

Trans America Airlines famously employed an autopilot named Otto, who was a blow-up doll, but could not land the plane. Eventually, he inflated a female autopilot doll and took off again.

Jeff Zucker called, he wants his schtick back :p
 

Lauge

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There's an old joke going around in Denmark about this exact scenario:

The very first unmanned/unpiloted airliner in the world is about to take off from Copenhagen, on its virgin flight to New York, with 350 passengers on board. As the plane taxies (under autopilot control, of course), towards the runway, the PA switches on:
"Wellcome to all our passengers on this, the worlds first fully automated airliner. This means that there is no human pilot controlling the plane. It is being flown entirely by the computerized autopilot. But please do not worry. The safety of the aircraft and it's on-board systems have been thoroughly analyzed and approved, and there is virtually no risk of anything going wrong...chrrr...going wrong...chrrr...going wrong...chrrr...going wrong..." ;D
(And if you don't get the joke, you to young to remember vinyl LP records)

Having said that, my personal view on this, having done safety assessments for 8 years, is that uncrewed/automated airliners are technologically possible, and can be made as safe as the ones with a human pilot (the types of accidents that could happen might be different, but the individual risk to the passengers would, I think, be in the same order of magnitude).

The big hurdle would, as others have already pointed out, be psychological. And don't even get me started in the insurance companies....."So, sir Richard, you want us to ensure a WHAT ? A-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA.........OMG, you're serious, aren't you ?" :D

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Denmark
 

archipeppe

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Even if it is technologically feasable, it is psychologically unbearable.

I think there's no person that would fly onboard automatic aircraft, even if it could prove to be cheper and safer.
 

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For one, I would not ride on a pilotless airplane, in a driverless bus, car or train or on a ship without a helmsman. It's totally illogical to me.
 

archipeppe

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XB-70 Guy said:
For one, I would not ride on a pilotless airplane, in a driverless bus, car or train or on a ship without a helmsman. It's totally illogical to me.

That's the clue, nobody wants to do it.
 

Stargazer2006

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XB-70 Guy said:
For one, I would not ride on a pilotless airplane, in a driverless bus, car or train or on a ship without a helmsman. It's totally illogical to me.

Actually we've got one driverless subway train line in Paris (soon there'll be two) and it's fine, but then it's quite different since you're on rails and you're not floating in mid-air...
 

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XB-70 Guy said:
For one, I would not ride on a pilotless airplane, in a driverless bus, car or train or on a ship without a helmsman. It's totally illogical to me.

then you won't be going very far, many airports have driverless trams.
 

AeroFranz

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A century ago, people were probably freaked out at the thought that they could ride in an elevator without an operator in it.
 

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It's just a question of public relations ("Do YOU want to die, because of a pilots error ??")
and of course of the price. Tell the people, that only for more expensive flights, the carrier
can actually afford to keep the crew on board, subtly stating, that it isn't the pilot either,
who flies the aircraft. And of course, to accustom the pax, the first thing, that has to be
abandoned is the stewardess. Self-service for drinks and meals and it won't take long, that
nobody will ask for a crew !
("Oh my dear, this year we'll having a flight with a REAL crew ! Well, he's eventually got his pay
rise and now we can afford it.")
 
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