Airlines push for single pilot flights to cut costs despite safety fears.
Airlines and regulators are pushing to have just one pilot in the cockpit of passenger jets instead of two, in an attempt to lower costs.
Carriers argue that by placing a lone pilot at the controls will ease pressure from crew shortages.
The savings made by the airlines can then be passed down on to the customer.
Over 40 countries including Germany, the UK and New Zealand have asked the United Nations body that sets aviation standards to help make single-pilot flights a safe reality.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has also been working with aircraft makers to determine how a lone pilot flight would operate and preparing rules to oversee them. EASA said such services could start in 2027.
However, there has been pushback from many in the industry.
Tony Lucas, an Airbus SE A330 captain for Qantas Airways Ltd. and president of the Australian & International Pilots Association, is concerned that a lone pilot might be overwhelmed by an emergency before anyone else has time to reach the cockpit to help.
“The people going down this route aren’t the people who fly jets every day,” Lucas said. “When things go awry, they go awry fairly quickly.”
It’s not yet clear what would happen if a lone pilot collapsed or started flying erratically. Automation technology and remote assistance from the ground would somehow have to replace the expertise, safety and immediacy of a second pilot.
Those who think the idea will never come to fruition are reminded that aviation has been moving toward this point for decades.
In the 1950s, commercial aircraft cockpits were more crowded, typically with a captain, first officer or co-pilot, a flight engineer, a navigator and a radio operator. Advances in technology gradually made the last three positions redundant.
“We are potentially removing the last piece of human redundancy from the flight deck,” Janet Northcote, EASA’s head of communications, said.