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Pilotless planes worth $35 billion, but nobody wants to fly without pilot

Staff Writer | August 8, 2017
Commercial flights without pilots could save the aviation industry billions every year but few passengers seem to be willing to fly that way.
Boeing cargo
Air travel   Pilotless commercial flights may follow
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is planning to test cargo planes that can fly by remote control, using technology similar to those of autonomous-driving cars, starting next year.

Pilotless commercial flights may follow, but a study by financial services company UBS found reluctance on the part of potential passengers to board one.

The survey says airlines could save $35 billion per year without pilots, but only 17 percent of 8,000 respondents said they would board an automated plane.

The 25-to-34-year-old age group surveyed was the most enthusiastic about the idea, but 54 percent overall said they would be unlikely to fly without a pilot. Over half of those questioned 45 and older said they would be resistant to try it.

The UBS report noted that 70 to 80 percent of aircraft accidents are caused by human error, with crew fatigue responsible for 15 to 20 percent of accidents - suggesting that safety would be enhanced by eliminating the pilot.