In an effort to cut costs and address staffing shortages, several countries have called on the United Nations body responsible for overseeing global aviation safety rules to switch to a single pilot model for commercial flights, rather than two.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) estimates this could be as early as 2027, but it raises safety concerns and puts more pressure on pilots.
Tony Lucas, captain of the Airbus SE A330 for Qantas Airways and president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, told Bloomberg that single pilots can get overwhelmed quickly in an emergency and backup would take a lot of time to get to the cockpit. “When things go wrong, they go wrong really fast,” Lucas said, adding that the people pushing for that change are not the people who fly these planes every day.
Another problem is that young crew members have fewer opportunities to learn than experienced pilots if they are each flying alone.
EASA is currently conducting a safety risk assessment of single-pilot flights, to determine what rules need to be put in place to manage issues such as fatigue and rest breaks.
According to an EASA statement from January 2021, there will also be a need for sophisticated autonomous systems to pilot the drone in the event of a crew incapacitation.
In a sense, this is simply a logical conclusion to the increasing automation that has been happening in the aviation industry for decades. In the 1950s, there was a captain, co-pilot, flight engineer, navigator and radio operator in the cockpit.
More than 40 countries have called for changes to the regulations, including Germany and the United Kingdom, and the European Union has stipulated that single-pilot cockpits are as safe as two-pilot cockpits.
However, one of the main hurdles is not whether it is possible to fly with a single pilot safely, but whether customers are willing to accept the idea.
Translated article from Forbes US – Author: Alex Ledsom
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