Airbus says it is ready and able to build a pilotless airliner but is says it is up to the airlines to sell the concept to the public.
Addressing global media at Airbus Innovation Days Airbus executive vice president of strategy and future programs Christian Scherer said that “airlines are pressing it to reduce costs on a plane “and pilots are the highest costs aside from fuel.”
“We [through parent EADS] are a leader in pilotless drones for the military and we can develop the algorithms for even the [US Airway’s water landing on the] Hudson River,” said Mr Scherer.
“We can build a pilotless commercial plane now but it is up to the airlines to sell the concept to the public.”
Mr Scherer said he didn’t think the flying public was quite ready for a pilotless aircraft but said that Airbus needed to be ahead of the technology and ready to move if demand eventuated.
Mr Scherer said that a number of airlines both cargo and passenger were talking to Airbus about a pilotless plane but he declined to name them.
However, there are significant challenges with the technology with such important aspects such as cross-wind landings with current auto-land systems unable to handle strong winds.
In the meantime, Airbus is working on advances to cockpit technology, and forecasts a step change in flightdeck layout and technologies in future airliners.
“The next aircraft after [the A320] neo is going to have a very different cockpit than the A320’s today,” Mr Scherer said.
“I would guess there will be a rupture and there will be a new standard on which we will build [flightdeck] commonality.”