Plane & Pilot
Thursday, July 1, 2004

Cockpit Career Update Part 3: The Future Of Pilot Careers

Last month, we covered the technological changes occurring in the industry today. In this final installment of our three-part series, we’ll discuss what you can expect in years to come.

No one has the luxury of peering into a crystal ball, especially when it comes to predicting the future of the aviation industry. Technological developments continue to change the face of aviation, and the result of this progress is anyone’s guess. There are, however, certain factors that help foretell what may happen to this ever evolving industry." />

Several experts also anticipate low operating costs with this air-taxi concept, which will make them compete with full-fare airline tickets. Eclipse, for example, projects a low 69-cents-per-sm operating cost for its Eclipse 500 micro-jet. And its initial price tag of about $1 million makes it more cost-effective.

Plus, technological advances included in these micro-jets will provide future air-taxi companies with lower overheads. Avio, the total aircraft integration system that will be used exclusively in the Eclipse 500, will provide its pilots with easier engine management and avionics operation and automation. It will be much easier to handle, in fact, that the micro-jet will be certified for single-pilot operation, which means that air-taxi companies need only pay for one pilot, instead of two.

So what does this mean for future pilot hiring? There will be fewer passengers for each flight, which means more flights, translating to an increased demand for professional pilots.

“We’ve sold 2,100 aircraft so far. So from a pilot standpoint, Eclipse thinks that the future couldn’t be brighter,” explains McConnell. Groundbreaking training programs are also finding their way to the future. Eclipse, for instance, will include a digital prep course on disc and on the Internet of its pre-type-rating training to allow pilots to gain a basic understanding of its light jet.

The airlines, too, are jumping in on the bandwagon with computerized groundschools. “It’s not being used that much by the airlines yet, but I think it’s coming. New hires have to put their entire lives on hold and go to school for several weeks in a different city, so it would be nice if a portion can be done at home on their own schedule,” says Kit Darby, president of AIR, Inc.

Perhaps one of the most immediate and far-reaching change in the future of pilot training lies in the full-glass panels that will soon adorn Cessna 172s and Piper Warriors alike. Future student pilots can learn on MFDs and PFDs from the get-go, a preamble to the instruments seen on the big leagues. These new screens will mean a change not only in student training, but also instructor training of these glass panels. Both students and instructors will have to interpret numbers rolling up and down a screen, rather than read needles on a dial.

Even though this technology will look quite new and different, students will still learn the same old concepts of flight. Ted Beneigh, professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, says, “The students will still have to learn the relationship between pitch, throttle and airspeed.” They just won’t be taught to read and learn the old steam gauges.

Pioneering career opportunities also are being developed for those who prefer to operate aircraft remotely from the ground. The technology for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is already here.


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