We don't want to alarm anyone, but it is now more theoretically possible than ever before that you could one day be flying on a commercial airline flight with only one single pilot, and that pilot could die during the flight—oh my god.
Not to overemphasize this remote possibility—we are simply keeping you informed of the ever growing, though statistically small, chance that your routine airline flight could one day be flown by one lone pilot, without any co-pilot in the cockpit at all, and, to everyone's shock, that pilot could suffer a sudden heart attack or stroke while 35,000 feet in the air, and who is going to save your life now? Oh sure, some computer. Okay. Only some computer program stands between you and a fiery death, plunging into the unforgiving earth at hundreds of miles per hour, your body shredded by flying steel and burned by flaming jet fuel.
We are just informing you that this could happen, in your lifetime. Information is power.
The Wall Street Journal reports that NASA is formally studying the possibility of one day having single-pilot airline flights. God is your copilot! As well as a computer somewhere on the ground. Here is the essence of the idea:
Under the concept the researchers are studying, aviators on the ground could be assigned to assist solo cockpit pilots on multiple flights, virtually co-piloting during the busiest times through crowded airspace, approach-and-landing maneuvers, or if something goes wrong. "It's a reasonably new area" to study how the notion may apply to large jets, according to Parimal Kopardekar, the program's manager based at NASA's Ames Research Center in northern California. When pilots need a midair rest or bathroom break, those on the ground even may "need to baby-sit the vehicle," he said.
In this age of driverless cars, automated banking, and ubiquitous drones, it would be downright illogical and antiquated to obsess over the possibility—however remote—of your sole human pilot's mid-flight demise, followed by one of those "computer errors" that are always happening, combining to doom you to a hellbound "flight to nowhere," in which you are condemned to ride in an uncontrolled plane for hours until its fuel runs out and it plunges to a final deadly resting place, a nightmarish period in which there is little for you to do except to contemplate your own looming violent demise. That is statistically unlikely.