Single-Pilot Transport Back In Play


Buoyed by burgeoning public acceptance of autonomous cars and air taxis, various companies have dusted off the idea of creating single-pilot transport aircraft, although all seem to agree that passenger service is likely decades away. At the Singapore Air Show last week, Singapore-based ST Aerospace was showing off its concept for a single-pilot heavy cargo transport and reported it was getting lots of traffic. ST’s airplane would have a single pilot in a redesigned and more automated cockpit and there would be another pilot on the ground who “can potentially be supporting up to 12 single-pilot aircraft simultaneously,” according to a company statement. The next step would be a full-size pilotless cargo plane.

Boeing is taking a somewhat different approach in its quest to take humans out of the air transport equation. Spokesman Charles Toups agreed passenger flights are not a current option but he told reporters the proliferation of driverless vehicles on the cusp of mainstream acceptance is helping to make the case for fewer humans in cockpits. “We are studying that, and where you will first see that is probably in cargo transport, so the passenger question is off the table,” said Toups.