Do Planes Basically Fly Themselves?


Quick Answer

While technology and automation are essential to modern flying, airplanes cannot automatically fly themselves without a pilot. Automated controls on commercial airliners allow the pilot to do many things, such as taking his or her hands off of the steering column or letting the airplane control the aircraft's altitude, but all of these functions must be programmed and controlled by pilots.

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Do Planes Basically Fly Themselves?
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Full Answer

Some airline pilots may even be insulted by the insinuation that their job requires little effort. Even if a pilot uses automated controls during a flight, he or she must have full knowledge of how those functions work in addition to being able to operate the airplane in case the automation fails.

Though the name may imply a state of total automated control that allows a pilot to check out during a flight, autopilot does not absolve a pilot of the need to pay attention throughout a flight. Pilots typically use automated controls to for assistance as opposed to complete control. Even a highly trained pilot may make use of these tools, particularly between takeoff and landing, but that doesn't mean that the cockpit becomes a leisure zone during the flight. Pilots must always monitor controls, communicate with air traffic control and be ready to take control in case of an incident or emergency.

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