Imagine the next time you board an airplane, there are no pilots at the controls.
That’s what airplane manufacturer Boeing is working on.
The company announced Friday it plans to put such technology to the test sometime in 2018.
Former American Airlines pilot—and professor at Embry-Ribble Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.—Ron Carr, said he believes the technology may make it safer to fly.
The numbers are conflicting, but many reports blame pilot error for the majority of commercial plane crashes.
Carr, however, worries about the rare event of an emergency.
“I don’t see how they’re going to be able to handle the multitude of things that pop up, even on a normal flight,” said Carr.
Carr admits airplanes are already largely automated. From takeoff to landing, pilots count on powerful autopilot features.
But Carr doesn't necessarily see automation as a positive thing.
“That removes [the pilot] on stay away from the flying the aircraft,” Carr said, adding hand flying is a crucial skill when something goes wrong; it's humans who take over in emergencies for now.
How are they going to replace the human ability to be creative in the cockpit?” he asked, citing US Airways flight 1549, which crash landed in the Hudson River after taking off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport back in 2009.
But Carr said he’s heard talks of the possibility of having co-pilot able to take control of such a plane—even if from somewhere else.