Jobs being threatened, or at least dramatically altered, by automation is a hot topic – and airline pilots are no exception to the trend.
One vision of the future role of pilots, put forward on CNBC’s Squawk Box by UBS analyst Jarrod Castle, was that: “We’ll go from two pilots down to one with a ground control handler” who could be monitoring up to 10-20 planes.
“Who better to actually operate the controls but an ex-pilot?” said Castle, one of the analysts behind a report by the bank on pilotless planes. He also suggested that today’s pilots could also ultimately move into aerospace or avionics instead.
Castle pointed out that the number of pilots in the cockpit of a plane used to be three in the 1980s, though this number has since reduced to two.
“70 percent of accidents are due to human error, not machine error,” he added. Castle also said that pilots only actively fly planes for five to 10 percent of the time, and are “monitoring the systems” otherwise.
Castle did preface his assertions by saying that, “At the moment, there’s a very big demand for pilots actually given the global fleet delivery schedules.” He added that in the coming two decades, the airline industry would likely demand up to half a million pilots. “There will always be a role for those kinds of individuals,” he said.
The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority confirmed to CNBC via telephone that there were no planned changes regarding the number of pilots required for passenger planes.