Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers

risk level
Based on 1,155 votes
by year 2032
or $101.81 per hour
as of 2022

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Automation risk

65% (High Risk)

High Risk (61-80%): Jobs in this category face a significant threat from automation, as many of their tasks can be easily automated using current or near-future technologies.

More information on what this score is, and how it is calculated is available here.

Some quite important qualities of the job are difficult to automate:

  • Manual Dexterity

  • Social Perceptiveness

  • Finger Dexterity

User poll

41% chance of full automation within the next two decades

Our visitors have voted they are unsure if this occupation will be automated. However, the automation risk level we have generated suggests a much higher chance of automation: 65% chance of automation.

What do you think the risk of automation is?

What is the likelihood that Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers will be replaced by robots or artificial intelligence within the next 20 years?


The following graph(s) are included wherever there is a substantial amount of votes to render meaningful data. These visual representations display user poll results over time, providing a significant indication of sentiment trends.

Sentiment over time (yearly)


Fast growth relative to other professions

The number of 'Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers' job openings is expected to rise 6.0% by 2032

Total employment, and estimated job openings

* Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the period between 2021 and 2031
Updated projections are due 09-2023.


Very high paid relative to other professions

In 2022, the median annual wage for 'Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers' was $211,790, or $101 per hour

'Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers' were paid 357.3% higher than the national median wage, which stood at $46,310

Wages over time

* Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics


Moderate range of job opportunities compared to other professions

As of 2022 there were 89,580 people employed as 'Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers' within the United States.

This represents around 0.06% of the employed workforce across the country

Put another way, around 1 in 1 thousand people are employed as 'Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers'.

Job description

Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo. Requires Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for specific aircraft type used. Includes regional, national, and international airline pilots and flight instructors of airline pilots.

SOC Code: 53-2011.00


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Leave a comment

. (Low) says
you will always need humans incase something happened. its possible but not in the next 20 years
Feb 22, 2024 at 04:26 PM
Luca (Highly likely) says
Automated flight is already a well-established reality, the pilot on board serves only to reassure passengers who are not yet accustomed to the idea of a completely automated flight.
Dec 03, 2023 at 03:43 PM
boo (Low) says
Automation has the ability to control events in a certain context, and wouldn't be able to handle an emergency or malfunction, considering the usual age of aircraft computers.
Nov 29, 2023 at 02:09 AM
Harry (Low) says
Landing and take off needs accurate readings and a lot of man power we also need to understand the runway so it my not be
Nov 11, 2023 at 12:01 PM
KickinTyres (Low) says
The public's perception of safety is intrinsically connected to having human pilots in the cockpit.
Sep 25, 2023 at 07:07 AM
Ayden (No chance) says
New plane can fly it self but they still need pilot or co pilot to make sure nothing is going wrong especially when it is landing
Sep 02, 2023 at 04:11 AM
Alneez (Moderate) says
Airbus Project Dragonfly
Aug 11, 2023 at 02:55 PM
C.L.M. (No chance) says
It is not a technological issue, it is a sociological, legislative, and regulatory one.

People are too anxious to get on a plane without another human being up front with their life and safety on the line. This will be even more true as we move through the inevitable accidents during automation of ground transportation. At least that's what I heard as an FAA research scientist working on future drone airspace research projects.
Jul 15, 2023 at 05:31 AM
Captam (Highly likely) says
The “need for the human touch“ when things “go wrong“ with a flight is arguably correct However this function can be provided perfectly adequately from a remote control room. The human does not need to be sitting in the cockpit. The ability to fly precision drone operarions from control rooms thousands of miles away proves this. Flights can be totally automated but when an abnormality occurs, the controllers (who oversee multiple flights)can be alerted, and intervene renotely if necessaey.
Jun 23, 2023 at 01:59 AM
MKD (Low) says
Social licence
Complex decision making
Unknown and unforeseen circumstances requiring reactions not programmed
May 21, 2023 at 05:33 AM
Landon (Low) says
Too many FAA regulations for something so untested
Apr 20, 2023 at 08:25 PM
Allen (No chance) says
The consequences of having a 'computer's problem are too dire. It may be that there will only need to be a single pilot instead of a co-pilot backup. There will always be a human pilot when transporting humans.
Mar 26, 2023 at 07:48 PM
Corey Snyder (No chance) says
Human factor is often blamed for air crashes, however the Human factor is truly the only thing that can prevent accidents in the complex air traffic system. An AI is not capable of making the philosophical and logical decisions that a required crew member on an aircraft has to be able to make. A theoretical AI that could add up every single factor in an Instant still could not make a rational choice that would balance deontological and consequentialist philosophies.
Mar 18, 2023 at 12:58 AM
mike (Low) says
it is just too risky, to put so many peoples lives on the line of an AI with no emotion is a madness
Mar 09, 2023 at 05:19 AM
John Ostrum (Uncertain) says
Not because of issues with flying the plane, but more for issues with landing the planes. Also, the insurance would be nightmarish, and ATC would need to be changed.

In addition, the ATC lines are done through phone or broadband, so integrating an AI would require a continent-wide overhaul in the infrastructure necessary to actually integrate the AI. This would be needed even if one that was commercially viable as a pilot were to start existing.

Furthermore, testing the AI would involve crashing planes, as well as making planes that had fully modified hardware to accommodate an AI. It's not impossible for certain, not by a long shot, but the steps to get there are noticeably less cost-efficient than just training more pilots.

So, it probably won't happen for a while.
Feb 03, 2023 at 10:46 PM
Jarrod (Uncertain) says
Aviation is slower-moving than other industries due to regulation, safety requirements, and perception.

I could see cargo aircraft being fully automated well before passenger flights. Modern aircraft are largely automated from a systems perspective. However, the decision-making, particularly during emergencies or edge cases (where information can be conflicting or confusing), is where human pilots are still definitely required.

I think the chance of passenger flights being fully automated within 20 years is slim.
Jan 31, 2023 at 05:46 PM
Michael (Highly likely) says
AI is advancing rapidly and is on track to replace pilots within 10 years.
Jan 21, 2023 at 02:47 PM
a-flight-worker (No chance) says
People want humans as the final safety net for airplanes. When things go wrong, computers can get confused. I work on airplanes alongside pilots. We still have to reboot (yes, "turn it off and on again" reboot) planes fairly regularly to fix simple problems. For instance, the lights may not respond to control buttons properly. Light controls that have only three states: on, dimmed, or off, can get messed up and seemingly can only be fixed by rebooting the entire airplane.

In the event of an emergency, people trust in other people. Automation will happen to a degree with pilots, but it will require massively improved AI and other systems to be stress-tested extensively before the two-body system used today is replaced with a no-body system.
Jan 10, 2023 at 08:35 AM
Tyler (Low) says
Because I feel like there are other occupations in aviation, or other careers, that would become automated before pilots do.

The cost of the technology at the beginning will also be really high, so it will take a while for it to become widely used after the price comes down.
Jan 09, 2023 at 03:18 PM
V (Highly likely) says
Every new plane that comes out is increasingly automated. Also, as time passes, there's less and less crew in the flight deck. Think about flight engineers, for example.
Jul 06, 2022 at 03:03 PM

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