The computer in your cockpit: Computers set to replace pilots in future of flight?

ABC News
Power Players

Power Players

Next time you step aboard an international flight, you may want to think twice about who’s flying your plane.

“The computers are flying it,” former Marine Corps pilot and ABC News consultant Steve Ganyard told “Power Players” from the cockpit of Boeing’s new 787-9 model on display to the public for the first time ever at this year’s Farnborough International Airshow.

“The pilots are voting members,” Ganyard said. “This stick will move back and forth, the throttle will move back and forth, but all you’re doing is putting inputs into the computer. The computers says, ‘I know what you want to do, I'll do that for you.’”

The newest in aviation technology -- both commercial and military -- on display at the premier international airshow in England demonstrates that human pilots are increasingly taking a backseat to computers in the cockpit.

But before you navigate away from this webpage to cancel your next flight, Ganyard assures that the new computer technology only serves to make flying safer than before. “It's much, much safer,” he said.

The challenge now, Ganyard noted, is making sure the human pilots keep pace with their computer flying mates.

“The problem is that the technology is beginning to outrun the human being,” he said. “It's the pilots now and getting them so that they continue to know how to manually fly an airplane or understand the mechanics of flying, because the sophistication of the technology is so far out in front of the human being, that it's the human being that is having to catch up to the technology.”

In addition to the state-of-the-art technology on display in the new jetliner’s cockpit, there’s a fundamental change in the material makeup of new 787 models that’s been catching attention. Fifty percent of the shell of the plane is made of a carbon fiber composite -- a type of material that’s stronger than steel.

“It’s incredibly hard and very, very light, so what it allows the airplane manufacturer to do is to make lighter airplanes, which means there's less thrust [needed], which means that they’re more fuel efficient,” Ganyard said.

By making the plane resistant to rust, Ganyard explained, it also makes the ride a lot more enjoyable for the passengers inside.

“They can have more moisture in the cabin air, and you can actually feel it when you fly the 787 -- how much more moist the air is,” he said. “And you get none of headaches that you tend to get on the really long flights. So it's a real change in the ability to improve cabin comfort and passenger comfort in ways that we couldn't even imagine 10 years ago.”

To get a sneak peak at the newest, and perhaps final, manned fighter plane the U.S. may ever build, watch this episode of “Power Players.”

ABC News’ Richard Coolidge, Jordyn Phelps, Angus Hines, Michael Conte, Tom Thornton and Scott Munro contributed to this episode.