Pilot Recruitment and Robots

7-second speed read:

  • Robots already exist in HR
  • Robots can write your CV for you
  • Only humans can convince other humans that a pilot job is cool
  • HR will focus on high-touch tasks

I recently acquired an iRobot vacuum cleaner to substitute me in house-cleaning. It buys me time to write articles here.

While I may be a late adopter in practice, automata creeps more and more into my prattle on airline operations. That seems to spur from human ingenuity finding applications for robotic process automation away from obvious OCC work, the most recent example being human resources.

Robots are already searching for candidates and interviewing applicants with a recorded video for the human to review. 93% of employees would take direct managerial commands from a non-human manager. So, there’s no obvious reason cost reduction will not further their introduction in human resource management, and more importantly, why the humans shouldn’t already figure out what to skills to specialise in once the androids are a daily part of it.


What’s the robot going to be doing in people supervision in the next 5-6 years? What it’s good at: collecting, sorting, and storing data. It will seek the attributes a human decision maker needs (flight hours, valid ratings, medical validity and so on), reducing the candidate to a variable. Considering existing applications in maintenance, it would then not be far-fetched to suggest that by 2025 these same collectors will not only describe who’s applying but also suggest what to do with them (prescriptive analytics) or contact them again based on a forecast of fulfilling requirements at a future date (predictive analysis).

[Perhaps, you will be able to hire one to build your CV? If recruiter robots seek a set of parameters, there’s no reason why a counterpart automated service can’t generate data in a format acceptable to them. A simple chat bot can ask you questions to create a document that you can submit, so you don’t have to (if anyone monetizes this, please acknowledge that you heard it here first!)]

Furthermore, if an HR specialist spends 65% of their time on automatable rule-based processing, they will have to earn their worth otherwise. The AI will still need supervision, so let’s assume only half of the human’s time will be freed up, likely in the application of “soft skills“.
replace you


Source: Readers Digest

Android lack of these is the butt of many sci-fi jokes (see StarTrek’s Data for more) but witticisms haven’t generated corporate profit yet. HR processes have and humans will need to continue creating employee journey maps. In the pre-employment phase, no robot can reach out to schools and convince pupils that the pilot job is cool. Interviews (“Know me, like me, trust me“) will likely still involve hominid interaction and a “high touch” to assist the high tech.

Later on, during the course of one’s career, management will likely be a mixed bag of algorithm and meat intellect but conflict resolution and motivation talks should remain a spur of a mortal’s emotional intelligence. New roles for employees may be suggested by digital assistant analysis but involving a pilot in tasks not fitting their primary occupation will still need creativity that machines have not demonstrated.

Perhaps some of us will be involved in automating ourselves out of a job and into retirement. At least until now, this path has not been a zero-sum game, leaving undiscovered opportunities to claim.

Flight Operations Challenge…


The Future ain’t What It Used to Be

Flight Operations circa 2058

Robots. I see robots everywhere.

Not only of the humanoid variety but as nebulous electronic brains that autonomously control all aspects of an airline’s daily operation.

The year is 2058 and humans have obscene amounts of free time. The person hiring you (people being involved face-to-face only in the last stage of the 3-step process) had one question: “How do you deal with long periods of idle isolation?” Because, in flight operations, you spend most of your time in ennui.

You are a flight dispatcher responsible for 149 flights (the difficulty of maintaining relationships with more than 150 entities, aka Dunbar’s law, has dictated this limitation). You use an interactive touch-screen wall showing flights with detected irregularities that allow a final human intervention based on estimated cost impact. You only need to weigh in whether passengers, crews, or machines are most important once the company has to spend beyond a certain threshold because small-change resolutions have been automated since 2031.

Additional human help still remains available remotely because a final confirmation from the human manager remains a requirement. These dozen highly-experienced, overpaid dispatchers have created a 24h support group (some might term it “an organized crime syndicate”) by being based in different parts of the world, ready to connect to any operations’ systems and assist e.g. when simultaneous rerouting decisions on a million passengers need to be executed instantly.

The era of mass movement without human interaction has taken over Operations Control Centres. Crew dispatchers do not exist anymore since crews have been replaced by robot pilots and passenger caterers. A few exotic regional operators still employ humans in the flight deck and some VVIP operations add on friendly, warm-blooded cabin attendants but higher C2 costs mostly dictate their demise by 2088 (as predicted by the CEO humanoid executive assistant based on assumptions for how markets will develop confirmed by the executive; one of 14 people in the 100-planes-fleet of an airline). Autonomous flight bus drivers have been widely adopted in high-speed equipment replacement excused by a proven 0.0 accident track record for 20 years (turns out that graph’s horizontal axis wasn’t an asymptote) and a reduction in the primary motivator for air travel (ticket price) assisted by well-manipulated government subsidies.

Technicians have also become hermits with long beards. Robots inspect the flying machines and repair most issues by deciding on actions automatically. The human gets involved only when a final, pre-programmed request for approval appears. Not many natural brains need intervene in this one-tap affair based on a reliability KPI dashboard.

In fact, since Amazon proved an entire cargo operation can be handled by 17 (P.P.S. see below) people with a big-data centre and ad-hoc “gig economy” assistance (that term being “so 2015”), human involvement in commercial passenger operations has been shrinking in a perpetual efficiency-optimisation drive. Mundane but essential tasks have inevitably been factory-style automated. Ground handling (baggage processing, passenger assistance, cleaning, catering provisioning): robotized or converted to self-assistance. Ticketing, check-in, terminal-side support: intelligent humanoids everywhere.

Audits though, are still in human hands. Creative marketing, legal disputes, international relations management, start in the minds of hominids and complete under the metal hands of androids. Those replaced have accepted to instead voluntarily fly to promote how great Intelligent Robot Airlines are. And stay with other volitionists.

Think I am exaggerating? Writing down what’s on everyone’s mind?

“Just because you don’t know what the future will be does not mean you can’t imagine what you want it to become.”

Flight Operations Challenge…Accepted.

P.S. I only chose 2058 because that’s the year I plan to retire from flight operations.

P.P.S. Rough estimate: 1 CEO/COO/CCO; 2 network planners, 2 revenue managers (also international relations and part time sales), 1 sales (part-time PR), 2 marketing managers, 1 HR & admin manager, 2 dispatchers, 3 technicians, 1 technological assistant, 1 quality controller, 1 legal.