Fueled by what appears to be an unquenchable need for pilots in the coming years and armed with technology being developed for unmanned aircraft, NASA and industry are steadily making progress  on the human factors aspects of a long-distance relationship between two pilots flying an airliner – one in the air and one on the ground.

The progress, seen through the lens of Germanwings Flight 9525, the technology could also be considered as a means for the ground to take control of an aircraft when alerted to trouble in the cockpit. While currently designed for a cooperative or incapacitated captain on board, the technologies and procedures could nonetheless be made to deal with an uncooperative human. As with many advanced developments, the issue is not necessarily with technology, but with human and political factors, and potential unintended consequences.

VIDEO: the airliner flight deck of the future, which might feature one seat in the cockpit for a captain and one on the ground, is occupied by a “super dispatcher” or first officer.