Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers

risk level
Based on 1,056 votes
by year 2031
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

40% chance of full automation within the next two decades

Our visitors have voted there's a low chance 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 2031

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

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
Unlikely says
Unlikely for a long time. First of all, there’s the technology which is there. Currently, automation has to be set and monitored by the pilots. It is extremely accurate and does fly the plane better than a person can, but it has limitations.

Most emergencies or abnormal events are known about and there are checklists to deal with them, but not every situation is the same or black and white. My specialty is flying airplanes, not computer science, but I find it hard to imagine current AI being able to properly handle a plane in an emergency, especially if it is a new situation.

There is also public opinion. I don’t like the idea because it takes a lot of jobs away, and I know many others don’t like the idea of a couple of hundred people being flown in an airplane completely controlled by AI.

The FAA is also notoriously slow with changing and adapting the rules. They have plenty of rules that are outdated and strange policies, but most of it is in the interest of safety. They prohibit people from flying unless they meet specific physical and mental health criteria. To my knowledge, pilots aren’t allowed to have any form of mental illness, and can’t take antidepressants or other similar things which could easily be treated.

The point I’m making here is that they’re slow to change and this big change would certainly take a while.
Jun 16, 2022 at 05:14 AM
Michael (Highly likely) says
Airbus already has an airplane that can fly all phases of flight by itself.
May 14, 2022 at 08:19 AM
Asher (Low) says
People aren’t trustworthy of artificial intelligence it could take 50 years+ for them to start being used alone and you’d still need a pilot just in case
Apr 26, 2022 at 04:23 PM
Adam (Highly likely) says
I think it will be partially automated before fully, but that will have an impact on how many jobs there are by about half. If things can be automated enough to remove the co-pilot, then that will happen first. Then single pilots will be flying from home just like the military flies drones now. Over time, with the increase in AI that can make decisions in real time about outside factors, the planes will become fully automated.
Apr 20, 2022 at 11:54 AM
Sean (No chance) says
Everything moves very, very slowly in the world of aviation. We still use technology from the 90s. There is no way it will be automated in my lifetime.
Apr 09, 2022 at 01:25 AM
Thomas ( not yet) says
The average lifespan of an airliner is 20 years. Even if they started producing fully automated aircraft tomorrow, most of the planes would be manned for many, many years to come.
Feb 01, 2022 at 05:18 PM
Ryan (Uncertain) says
Maybe or maybe not. I mean you could probably have something similar to those unmanned UAVs that the military has that are no pilots and use the same tech in the commercial airline but there’s still an operator of the aircraft by remote. Or they could just program the aircraft to do the set route and that’s it. I’m not a pilot nor do I plan on being one but me personally as a passenger would prefer a human for this one sorry robots.
Sep 30, 2021 at 04:02 AM
JP (Moderate) says
Autoland already exists. Commercial ops will be reduced to a single pilot with autoland already existing. The biggest barrier is emergency management.
Jul 29, 2021 at 12:34 PM
Yes (Highly likely) says
Cars are becoming automated, sea craft becoming automated, so why not planes? At the end of the day planes sort of have an "autopilot" feature so it's only a matter of time before they're fully automated
Jul 24, 2021 at 08:35 AM
MMS says
Will not be flying...AI cannot make good decision...Needs a human
Jul 11, 2021 at 02:03 PM
sev (Moderate) says
with drone technology pilots may not even need to fly.
Jun 06, 2021 at 10:38 PM
Amin says
Illogical. Pilot can be offset with proper flight planning software, making its higher risk in being replaced with aircraft engineer or aircraft technician.
May 25, 2021 at 08:41 AM
Boris (Low) says
There may still have pilots to control the plane if robots have some accidents.
Apr 30, 2021 at 08:18 AM
looney townes says
People forget that the aviation is a heavy safety regulated industry. The technology is there but the cost benefit analysis is not. It is going to happen eventually but not in our lifetime, anybody who can read this. Single pilot airliners will start with cargo operations then proceed to airlines. If single pilot airliners are proven to be well trusted, then fully autonomous planes will be up next. This is going to take decades upon decades to even be invented, if ever.
Jan 19, 2021 at 05:44 PM
Pavel (No chance) says
This occupation is reliant on skills that require being able to make very complex choices based on the context of the situation/problem. I don't see machines or AI developing the necessary skills on the near future.
Jan 06, 2021 at 09:06 PM
Anonymous (No chance) says
Because even if bots could do everything, we still need humans in case something goes wrong
Dec 30, 2020 at 05:18 PM
Mehmet (Highly likely) says
Pilot costs are second after fuel, it will help.
Jun 07, 2020 at 08:50 PM
Beuh says
Not pilots, personnel. That includes cabin staff, gate agents, mechanics, flight attendants etc. Even if they removed pilots personnel will still be the #2 cost of operations.
Nov 29, 2020 at 04:22 PM
Abraham S T Mariam says
AI aircrafts will definitely take over real soon for 2 main reasons: Commercial Boeing have estimated to save over 40 Billion dollars by eliminating the commercial pilot his co pilot and flight engineer.

This is a business move and money is the reason for all things and all agendas. 2nd reason, autonomous software has a much better precision on working the system than the pilot or the flight engineer, back in the days the flight engineer would often make mistakes and push the wrong button and the plane crashes leaving everyone dead.

Autonomous software will never make a mistake. So many sensors will be built in on the air craft that can sense all things and nodes on the air craft will communicate with the cloud meaning the pilot can man the plane like a drone. Autonomous software will maintain the air craft 24/7 bu using algorithms, consequently eliminating any type of failure to occur.

Another thing, 5G technology is being implemented, we are in the early stages, give it about 5 years before we are living in a fully functional 5G world and you will start to see smart cars and smart homes, that being said smart planes will be more efficient in a world of 5G.
Apr 30, 2020 at 11:17 PM
nanda says
You realize you wrote this after the 737 Max fiasco, which dashed the idea of autonomous airliners for at least a century, if not longer.
Feb 04, 2022 at 03:55 AM
Dean says
5g is on towers which cannot reach planes (as of yet), sensors go bad all the time (I drive a computer daily with more sensors than anything that a regular License will never understand, and you clearly have never flown a plane, let alone know any button in the cockpit...
Aug 02, 2022 at 04:46 AM
Vikrant (No chance) says
Less trust on machines in case of emergency
Mar 10, 2020 at 11:19 AM

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