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Will pilot still be a job in the future?

With advances in technology like artificial intelligence and automation, many people wonder if human pilots will still be needed in the future or if their jobs could be replaced by machines. Here are some key considerations around this question:

Will planes be able to fly themselves?

It’s likely that autopilot and automation capabilities on planes will continue to improve. However, having pilots onboard provides several benefits:

  • Human judgment, flexibility and problem-solving skills to handle unexpected situations
  • Ability to take manual control if needed
  • Oversight of automated systems
  • Reassurance for passengers

While routine flying tasks can be automated, pilots focus on high-level decision making and have training to respond to emergencies and system failures. Most experts think a human component will remain essential, especially on passenger flights.

Will automation reduce the number of pilots needed?

Possibly, but to a limited extent. For example, first officer duties could potentially be reduced in the future if automation takes over more co-piloting tasks. However, you still need at least two pilots on larger passenger planes for safety reasons and to manage the workload. Long haul flights may begin staffing an extra “relief pilot” too.

The number of pilots needed for cargo planes may be reduced more significantly since having zero crew onboard is more feasible. But passenger airlines will likely keep today’s standard crew sizes.

How is pilot training changing?

Training programs are evolving to cover both traditional manual flight skills as well as implementing and monitoring automated systems. Simulators are also become more sophisticated and lifelike. Airlines may begin requiring pilots to have training or experience flying drones and other autonomous vehicles to keep skills sharp.

What new skills will future pilots need?

In addition to mastering the latest aviation technologies, pilots will need skills like:

  • Understanding artificial intelligence, data analytics and aircraft automation systems
  • Monitoring automated systems and performance
  • Identifying when to override automated controls
  • Effective communication and coordination with automated copilots
  • Increased focus on handling unexpected situations and emergencies

Will there be new aviation roles for non-pilots?

As cockpits become more automated and planes potentially controlled remotely, there may be some emerging aviation jobs. Examples could include:

  • Remote pilots – Controlling aircraft from the ground
  • Aviation systems engineers – Designing and maintaining aircraft automation systems
  • Aviation data analysts – Monitoring in-flight data and system performance

However, these would likely be specialized roles versus replacing onboard pilots entirely.


Automation will change the role of pilots in many ways, but is unlikely to completely eliminate the need for human pilots, especially on major passenger airlines. Safety demands and public expectations will still require on-board pilots. However, automation will reduce pilot workloads for routine tasks and require new skills and training to effectively oversee automated systems.