Star Wolf wrote:
I was watching TNG the other day for the first time in years and I had to ask myself if there is any need to helm or navigation. Surely the captain/first officer could just tell the computer where they want to go and when they want to arrive by, and the ship can steer itself.
Captain: "Computer, Set course two-one-three Mark seven."
Computer: ""Unable to comply, the automatic pilot system is offline."
Automation is all very well and good, but like any system it can fail. Today a plane could take off, fly to it's destination and land all by itself." But would you fly on it without a pilot?
As for having a dedicated department, sure everyone might receive basic training in piloting a starship, but their is a difference between basic and advanced training.
The problem is that actual human technology of 2013 has surpassed Starfleet technology of 1966.
Maybe not. Essentially, all we see is a helmsman do is input flight commands--or course data--into a console. It could be said that the rest (the actual flying of the ship) is automated with the exception of a single manual lever which apparently sends the ship into warp. Evasive maneuvers and various attack patterns may also be pre-programmed flight paths that are initiated by a single button.
It actually may be far more rare than common for a helmsman to take full manual control. His or her primary job may actually be to input commands, make any necessary course corrections, and to overall monitor the otherwise computer-controlled helm to make sure they're flying in the right direction.