While Reaction Engines’ rocket designer Alan Bond still hopes to see his airbreathing-rocket powered Skylon space plane design fly one day and may even ride in it inside its passenger cabin himself when it does so, he told the audience at the European AstroFest astronomy conference in London in February, that Skylon would not actually have a pilot, using on board systems and command data links to control the craft instead.

Apart from the extra development and operational costs as well as the loss of payload capability that having a pilot would incur, there was another reason whey it is best not to have pilot capability, “We are not allowed to kill test pilots like we used to.” Bond quipped in a moment of black humour, raising a laugh from the audience as he did so..

While this writer is a small shareholder in Reaction Engines he does not really want to fly on a aircraft or spacecraft without a pilot.  For while it is true that when it comes to air accidents, pilot errors are often cited as being part of the cause, having a pilot aboard may also be best hope of getting you out of trouble when it happens.