From a Team of Five to None? – Airways | Airlines

Pilots In The Cockpit Of A330 Qatar Msn871 002.jpeg

 DALLAS – Improvements in automation technology may eventually eliminate the need for a Co-Pilot on commercial flights, a potentially disruptive trend that has generated safety concerns among Pilots and Cabin Crew.

Single Pilot Operations (SPO) refers to flying commercial aircraft with only one Pilot in the cockpit. The sole Pilot would be assisted by advanced onboard automation and/or ground operators, providing piloting support services.

According to a whitepaper from the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the evidence and experience that includes more than a decade of study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) show that the safety risks and challenges associated with SPO far outweigh any potential benefits.

The paper further adds that the increased workload for the sole Pilot, the loss of a layer of monitoring and operating redundancy in the cockpit, and the difficulty of a single Pilot in handling several emergency scenarios are the most significant risks of SPO.

The Autonomous Taxi, Take-off, and Landing (ATTOL) project leveraged computer-vision technologies and techniques to complete fully autonomous tests (taxi, take-off, approach, and landing) using a commercial aircraft. Image: Airbus

An Industry Shift?


Commercial flights must have at least two Pilots in the cockpit, according to the current US law, FAA rules, and EU legislation. However, in January of this year, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) revealed it was considering the relaxation of the rules that restrict Single-Pilot operations in commercial aviation.

In 2021, several media outlets reported that Cathay Pacific (CX) and Airbus were working on a project named Connect, which was intended to reduce the number of Flight Crew on long-haul flights by using a single Pilot in the cockpit for most of the flight time.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Airbus aims to…

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