Boeing to test self-flying airplanes

on Jun21

21 June 2017 | 3:59 pm

If cars and semi-trucks can zip around without drivers at the wheels, why not airplanes without pilots?

Chicago-based Boeing Co. wants to find out.

The aircraft giant plans to test self-flying software in a cockpit simulator this year and possibly test it in an aircraft in 2018.

“When I look at the future, I see a need for 41,000 commercial jet airplanes over the course of the next 20 years. And that means we are going to need something like 617,000 more pilots — that’s a lot of pilots,” Mike Sinnett, a Boeing vice president, said at the Paris Air Show.

If successful, the software might allow airlines to reduce the size of flight crews for passenger flights and possibly fly freighters without a pilot on board, Sinnett said.

Commercial aircraft already take off and land under the control of onboard computers.

Robert W. Mann Jr., an independent airline industry analyst and consultant, told The Washington Post the key question is whether the market will accept the idea of autonomous planes.

“Will passengers willingly utilize a pilotless aircraft?” he asked. “I suspect that they would first go into use by cargo, since boxes don’t have a voice.”

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