One in eight people willing to fly without a pilot

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  • 20% of men would fly without a pilot, compared to 6% of women
  • 200,000 new pilots needed over the next decade and up to 790,000 needed in 20 years-time
  • Advances in technology and artificial intelligence make commercial pilotless aircraft and the greater use of just one pilot inevitable
  • More routes will be cancelled, and some airlines may close down unless pilotless flights are accepted

New research from Revolution.Aero, the global meeting place for people who are reshaping, rethinking and revolutionising business and personal aviation, reveals 13% of people would be prepared to fly in an unmanned aircraft. One in five men (20%) said they would do this, compared to just 6% of women.

18% of those aged 44 and under would be prepared to fly on an aircraft with no pilot, but this drops to 11% for those aged 55 – 64, and 8% for people who are 65 and over.

Revolution.Aero warns that with such a huge and growing shortage of pilots, unmanned commercial aircraft will have to be accepted otherwise airlines will increasingly be forced to cancel some less profitable routes. It also warns smaller airlines could increasingly see an exodus of pilots as they are unable to compete with the salaries bigger competitors pay, which could force many of them to close routes or even stop trading all together.

Revolution.Aero believes advances in technology mean it’s only a matter of time before it becomes commercially viable and acceptable to have just one pilot on some flights as opposed to the mandatory requirement of two, or none at all. Aviation rules state that passenger planes with a certain number of seats must have a minimum of two pilots in the cockpit.

Alasdair Whyte, co-founder, Revolution Aero said: “The travel industry is enjoying very strong growth, spurred on by growing middle classes around the world and falling ticket prices.The world will need up to 200,000 new pilots in the next decade, and up to 790,000 over the next 20 years to meet this growing demand and replace those pilots who have reached the mandatory retirement age, which ranges from between 60 and 65 depending where you fly in the world.

“It will be a tall order to recruit this many pilots so the aviation industry and society need to give greater consideration to pilotless commercial aircraft or more flights that just have one pilot.

“Every time an aircraft takes off it generates a huge amount of data, but only a fraction of this is used today. The aviation industry is starting to use artificial-intelligence software to better interpret that data, which leads to better maintenance practices and more efficient use of equipment, all of which bring pilotless flights ever closer.”

Revolution.Aero has its inaugural meeting in San Francisco on 1st – 2nd October 2018. Some 200+ aviation professionals will be attending, including more than 50 founders or chief executive/C suite level. There are also more than 20 professional investors and investment firms attending.

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