Boeing is building a self-flying plane, but will passengers trust it?

Boeing is building a self-flying plane, but will passengers trust it?

Boeing wants to make self-flying jetliners a reality

Boeing is looking towards the future where airplanes will fly without pilots.

The world’s largest plane maker said they hope to test technology next year that could see futuristic self-flying jetliners.

Not only does it seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, it requires a lot of trust from passengers. Who is willing to fly on a jet with no one at the helm?

Since the technology exists in self-flying drones, Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s VP of product development, believes the company can utilize what’s there.

“The basic building blocks of the technology clearly are available,” he said. Available, yes. But a drone is a long way off from a jetliner carrying hundreds of passengers.

Onboard flight computers already allow a jetliner to take off, land and cruise. The technology has reduced the required number of pilots on a passenger plane from three to two over the years.

Sinnett, who is a pilot, will test the technology in a cockpit simulator this summer and hopefully by next year fly on a plane with artificial intelligence to see if it “makes decisions that pilots would make.”

But what about the safety standards for air travel? Self-flying planes would need to meet all safety requirements, but regulators would have no idea how to certify this type of plane.

“I have no idea how we’re going to do that,” Sinnett said. “But we’re studying it right now and we’re developing those algorithms.”

If the technology is feasible, it could help deal with the estimated 1.5 million pilots that will be needed over the next 20 years as demand for air travel grows.

Sinnett said if these self-flying planes cannot land safely in times of distress, like Captain Chesley Sullenberger did on the Hudson then “we can’t go there.”

Sullenberger was piloting US Airways Flight 1549 in 2009. Shortly after taking off from New York, the Airbus A320 hit a flock of geese. Despite losing the plane’s engines, Sullenberger managed to safely land on the Hudson river. His actions saved all 150 passengers.

The biggest question remains. If such self-flying jetliners do hit the airways, are passengers willing to fly on them?

Also read: Welcome to the unveiling of the world’s largest airplane


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