Thursday, June 26, 2014

What happens when you don't train enough replacements

I note with interest that Japanese airlines are going to have to cancel thousands of flights this year because many of that country's older pilots are being forced to retire - and there aren't enough younger ones to replace them.  The same problem will affect US airlines to an increasing extent in the near future.

Like it or not, I think this will drive the development of automatically piloted aircraft to an ever-increasing extent.  Just as automatically piloted cars are now being tested, so expect this technology to extend to the airlines sooner rather than later.  At present each major commercial flight has two pilots.  I expect that within ten to twenty years, technology will have developed to the point that each flight will have a single pilot who's basically along for the ride.  He'll be there as a backup to the automated technology that's actually flying the plane - or as a backup to a pilot sitting on the ground somewhere, flying the aircraft by remote control, just as is now common with military UAV's.  Within another decade or two, I expect to see the first fully automated flights, without a pilot at all.

That's a scary prospect at present, with UAV's having recorded a far higher accident rate than manned aircraft.  However, like it or not, if there aren't enough pilots, this is the way the airline industry will have to go.



Snoggeramus said...

Merely the beginning of what will happen to Japan and any other country that embraces abortion and wipes out their future citizens. Japan isn't replacing its population, their young don't value having children, and it will not exist in its current forum in a generation or two. It's a Darwin Award for nations.

Anonymous said...

Old aviation joke:

The airplane of the future will have an autopilot, a pilot, and a dog.

The pilot's job is to turn on the autopilot.

The dog's job is to bite the pilot if he touches anything else.

Don in Oregon

newrebeluniv said...

UAVs crash a lot because of pilot error. A lot of them are really just remote piloted vehicles, not true drones with autolanding, takeoff, and piloting.

Murphy's Law said...

Hey, maybe I can get an airline gig. That may be the best way for me to figure out if the Airbus really is capable of inverted flight or not.

Richard Blaine said...

This was a standard question of one of the profs I had way back when in one of the 3rd year software engineering courses.

"You walk down the isle of the airplane, find your set and fasten your seat belt. A short time later the plane rolls away from the gate and starts down the taxi way. An automated announcement comes over the speakers.

"Congratulations this flight has been selected as the first fully automated flight in history. There is no pilot on this aircraft, there are no controls. Please sit back and enjoy the flight"

Show of hands, how many people here would try to get off that plane?

The general response is 100%

When systems work, they can work very well - when they don't - it can get very bad very fast. Now days, I'd be as worried about having the system hacked from the outside as I would a bug causing a fatal reboot.

Virtually all of our computer systems are built on fragile foundations. Code that is full of potential exploits and bugs.

We've made more progress on the bugs than the security. All security at this point is a kludge. (yeah there's a term you don't hear much anymore.)

Chris said...

Whatever you do, don't let Elesnor Holmes Norton into the cockpit!

Will said...

On the same subject here in the US, the FAA has changed the requirements for pilots to climb the ladder of increasing capabilities. You will eventually see the same lack of airline pilots here, due to this expensive bottleneck. Then, factor in the downturn in military spending, which will lower the number of medium and large aircraft experienced pilots that would normally look toward the airlines for work, after leaving the Air Force.

If I understood the FAA change, the impact will be seen first in the small commuter airlines, as they will not be getting much in the way of warm bodies anymore. Since they are the breeding ground for the big guys, this reducing pool of pilots will hit the major airlines as their senior aircrew retire.

Since the .gov tends to be blind to problems they create, and they rarely rescind laws and regs, expect them to be totally surprised when this situation eventually impacts the public. (I'm not sure how quickly this will show up, as I don't have the numbers to work with.)

A.B. Prosper said...

Sorry Snoggeramus abortion is flat out illegal in Japan except in case of rape or to save the mother.

The pill isn't to blame either, its only been legal for a few years

The issue is simply an unwillingness to be a pilot at the wages offered. The solution though is pretty simple, pay a bit better to compete for scarce labor

Also re: Japan's birth rate, its a pretty simple thing. Break a deal face the wheel

The average Japanese man expected lifetime employment in exchange for his loyalty and tolerating pretty difficult conditions.

Japanese industry couldn't or wouldn't fulfill that deal so people started to look out for themselves as they should.

Given issues of crowding, cost of living ,gender politics and yes lack of private or public safety nets, people did exactly what they should do.Only had children in wedlock and that they could afford

Unfortunately this is like 1 per couple so the population is aging and shrinking

So be it, Japan is simply over its carrying capacity and the people there being smart and disciplined are getting the population back to where it was sustainable.

Happily also Japans elites actually have race loyalty so its all good. In some decades Japan will stabilize and stay Japanese.

Comrade Misfit said...

Japan also has no significant domestic general aviation industry. JAL has run an ab initio program for decades in order to have Japanese butts in the cockpits. They once hired a lot of Americans as "temporary" pilots(some of those guys worked there until they retired), but most of them are gone.

Will said...

A B Proper:

"or to save the mother"

This exception is what is used in Japan to generate probably the highest induced abortion rate in Westernized countries. That exception is health or financial harm to the mother. So, this is why it has been resorted to as much as it has over the last couple of generations. Essentially, it is legal in the first trimester, according to everything I can find on the web.