Winston Aldworth wonders how long it will be until pilots are completely replaced by machines.
Would you be happy to fly as a passenger in a plane with a robot in the cockpit - and no pilot on board?
While recent events in the Swiss Alps might have dented the esteem and high regard in which the public generally holds the people who control the plane, I suspect many of us still fancy having a suited - and often mustachioed - character sitting up front.
Increased automation has made flying safer. The New York Times recently cited a survey in which pilots of Boeing 777s said they spent just seven minutes of a flight actually flying the plane. Some pilots rated for Airbus planes said it was half that amount.
I've heard pilots tell of how dull the job can be; of first officers sitting, waiting for the captain to be the first to pull a magazine from his bag and settle back for a good read. And that's a good thing.
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Machines aren't perfect, but I'm pretty sure the computers in my office make fewer mistakes than I do. They can work for longer, too - without coffee breaks even. The American military's switch to drone aircraft underlines how effective - and how quickly accepted - automation and remote control can be.
It used to be that lifts in tall buildings were operated by a lift attendant. It must have seemed weird to passengers when the attendants disappeared.