The clock is already ticking to the end of the traditional cockpit as we used to know it. I am talking about commercial airliners with ONE pilot.
I know this is going to bring a huge controversy in the aviation community and flying public, but airlines are striving to reduce operating costs on every aspect and that includes the pilots on the flight deck.
The European Commission and a consortium integrated by 35 companies led by avionics maker Thales, counting among others to Airbus & Boeing is funding a project named ACROSS – Advanced Cockpit for Reduction of Stress & Workload.
The project involves three phases, first one is to “to develop, integrate and test new cockpit solutions that facilitate the management of peak workload situations that can occur during a flight, in order to improve safety and ensure the reduction of accident risks through the reduction of stress.” Second one is to explore new equipment designed to permit “reduced crew operations” under certain conditions, such as long range cruise, this phase will include also explore certain pilot aids designed to reduce pilot workload in the case the second pilot become incapacitated, or fly the airplane to a safe landing in the event that both pilots become incapacitated. Third phase will be identify “open issues” that prevent implementation of single pilot airline operations.
Up to this point we start wondering, who is going to sign a document allowing single pilot operations? What the Pilot’s Unions are going to say? The Copilot, will then be on the ground? Will the flying public feel safe to board an aircraft with only one pilot in the front?
Obviously, implementation of a program of this nature will not be done from one week to another; basically, they need to design aircraft’s cockpit systems capable of being operated by a single pilot, like certain light turboprops and business jets.
Someone can say, what about the trains? – They are commanded by a single train operator and carry as much as 5 long haul airliners. True, but trains move over the earth surface, in only two dimensions, in a fixed railroad. Aircrafts move in three dimensions, freely in an air ocean and are well affected by variables depending on weather conditions, mainly enroute.
Too many questions, but the clock is already ticking.
A website for the ACROSS program is scheduled for launch in July, but in the meantime you can see a presentation here
Author: Capt. Ivan