In the future, air cargo freighter planes could fly without pilots.
Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), the joint venture between ST Aerospace and Airbus, recently announced it had secured a launch contract from Vallair Solutions Sàrl (Vallair) for its A321 Passenger-to-Freighter (P2F) conversion solution. EFW will convert 10 A321-200 passenger aircraft to a 14-pallet cargo configuration for Vallair.
The first aircraft will be inducted in the last quarter of 2018, scheduled for redelivery by the end of 2019.
ST Aerospace is also working on a solution to the freight industry’s shortage of pilots. Adrian Lim, Programme Director, ST Aerospace, explained:
“As part of our continuous effort to create greater value add, currently we are looking into unmanned cockpit systems, as to incorporate it into our passenger-to-freighter solution.”
He concludes: “We believe that next, the unmanned or single cockpit pilot operation [will] be the future for freighter operations.”
A report from UBS Evidence Lab last year found that cargo planes would likely be the first to go pilotless, and that technically this could be as soon as 2025. While passengers are inclined to be more worried about flying in an aircraft without a pilot, there is less concern around cargo operations.