Airlines and regulators are pushing to have just one pilot in the cockpit of passenger jets instead of two. It would lower costs and ease pressure from crew shortages, but placing such responsibility on a single person at the controls is unsettling for some.
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 has also been working with planemakers to determine how solo flights would operate and preparing rules to oversee them. EASA said such services could start in 2027.
The plan doesn’t sit well with pilots. It’s a hard sell for passengers, too.
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.”
That’s what happened on board Air France Flight 447 on its way to Paris from Rio de Janeiro on June 1, 2009. With the plane cruising at 35 000 feet (10,670 meters) over the Atlantic Ocean and the captain resting in the cabin, the two co-pilots in the cockpit started receiving faulty speed readings, likely from frozen detector tubes outside the aircraft. – Bloomberg