When will single-pilot commercial flights be allowed?

When will single-pilot commercial flights be allowed?

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is currently completely excluding single-pilot flights. However, the regulator still allows this possibility, as it considers proposals from Airbus and the Falcon manufacturer; Dassault Aviation.

EASA is ready to consider the possibility of single-pilot flights on certain sections of the route as early as 2027. It is assumed that both pilots will be in the cockpit during takeoff and landing, but after climbing, one crew member will be able to go to rest.

Last year, Airbus and Cathay Pacific approached the regulator with an initiative called Project Connect, the original goal of which was — the first such flight of an Airbus A350 in 2025. Optimal use of rest periods would reduce the total number of pilots on board for long-haul flights from three or four to two. “Tired” the pilot would rest in the crew rest area while the other flew the aircraft alone.

According to experts, several restrictions arise here at once: a ban on solo piloting for people with critical illnesses or insufficient flying hours. In addition, according to EASA, only the most modern aircraft, equipped with a higher level of safety than required by the minimum certification standards, can be flown by a single pilot. Today it is an Airbus A350 participating in the Cathay Pacific project, a Boeing 787 and possibly a 777X when certified.

However, the regulator emphasized that flying under the control of a single person in the cockpit by 2027 is unrealistic. Firstly, any change must meet the same safety standards as flying with two pilots, and secondly, the current level of automation is not ready for new standards. In general, any transition to riskier options requires the approval of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), airlines, pilots and other regulatory bodies.

Last year, by the way, numerous media reported that more than 40 countries, including the UK, New Zealand and Germany have turned to ICAO to help make single-pilot flying a safe reality.

Experienced pilots, however, have raised concerns about the safety of the experiments. And it's not that they want to keep their jobs. One pilot can be extremely overloaded in the event of an emergency, before his assistant can get to the cockpit and provide assistance. “When things go wrong, they go wrong pretty quickly.”

In addition, flying with one pilot makes it impossible to train and mentor junior pilots. The transition to a new reality will require new approaches to crew training and medical requirements, as well as mental health testing and job satisfaction monitoring.

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