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Last month’s tragic and horrific plane crash in the French Alps has raised an important and unprecedented question: How can we prevent a pilot from intentionally crashing a commercial flight ever again? 

Some have suggested that we eliminate the risk by eliminating pilots—and rely solely on advanced automation technology. 

Such thinking is, in part, the result of the ubiquity of technology in our lives. But more significantly, it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what pilots do, and what technology can and cannot do. 

In the nearly half-century I have served as a pilot (much of that as an aviation and safety expert) I have seen tremendous changes in aviation technology. And these changes have dramatically changed the pilot’s job. We have gone from flying entire flights by manually manipulating the controls to flying them using technology for most of the flight and flying manually for only a few minutes. 

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