Would you be happy with just One pilot? Its the future..

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This topic contains 46 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by  CathayLoyalist2 8 Jan 2016
at 09:37

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    As a pilot of small non-complex aircraft, there is no way I would be happy as a passenger on a large complex aircraft with less than 2 crew and the loss of the flight engineer is still a matter of regret for me.


    Reduced manpower in the flight deck will happen, it just a case of when.

    I think the natural evolution will be a ground based pilot assisting a cockpit based pilot. The technology is already here in the military drones being flown by ground based pilots..

    Would I be happy flying with 1 pilot…NO.


    Reduced ‘person power’ .. yes, from 3 to 2. Not from 2 to 1 ..

    NO, NO & NO !


    As MartynSinclair says “Reduced manpower in the flight deck will happen, it’s just a case of when.”

    Interesting piece today in Aeronouvelles. There’s an interview with Rob Dewar, VP of Bombardier’s C Series aircraft and, at the end of the piece, he says that the C Series had been specially designed for single pilot operation …should the regulators ever allow it in the future.


    Here in the UK we will soon be seeing the C Series. Swiss is a launch customer and, assuming it receives certification, it will be using this aircraft on its flights into LCY. Swiss will use the C Series as a replacement for its BAe146s.


    FinnKZ229, don’t forget on QF32 there were, by chance actually 4 pilots on the flight deck, the other two being check captains. Those two took over the engine management between them with the Flight Captain and FO doing what you said they were doing. In this case based on what I have read they needed all four given the multitude of problems occurring. As an aside and what happens if that one pilot in the cockpit suffers a heart attack or is incapacitated. Plus whose to say where human error was the problem that the software would have prevented it. There have been 2 maybe 3 examples of where the software malfunctioned and took the planes in question in to step climbs and dives before the pilot disengaged the auto pilot and gained control.


    I don’t think it automatically follows that in the GF scenario all 4 pilots have to be in the cockpit. Who is to say the engines could not have been controlled by two pilots sat in an office somewhere?

    Plus as far as the ‘one pilot becomes incapacitated’ situation is concerned, surely the whole purpose of the study is to consider that? In fact we haven’t even reached that stage as the study is to “identify the main aspects to consider”.

    We live in an era where parts of the Underground plus the DLR are already operated automatically, where drones are routinely used in conflict and intelligence and where people are sent into space controlled from the ground – I doubt the aviation industry will prove to be the exception to the rule.


    SimonS1 – 31/12/2015 14:43 GMT

    I don’t think you have ever flown an aeroplane, have you? (serious question, not a dig.)

    Until you have, it’s difficult to understand why the crew needs to sit together – a matter of synergy, only available by co-location.

    CathayLoyalist2 – 31/12/2015 13:06 GMT

    To reinforce your point about QF32 and also to flag up a warning, even with all the crew efforts, it was still impossible to shut down all the engines, on the ground, until the fire brigade pumped tonnes of water through them to ‘put out the flame.’

    No matter how well designed systems are, there will always be unusual and unpredicted failure modes that require human intervention to solve them.

    That’s why you need more than one person on the flight deck.


    The reality is ,that you’re right SimonS1. Ultimately technology will supersede humanity.
    Technologically we’re probably a whisker away from it becoming a nightmarish reality.
    And I use the word “nightmarish” deliberately,because to many of us , it’s a generation who still require human engagement in our daily interactions to build trust,but more importantly ensure a feeling of well being within us.A generation that’s not lost that feeling of community built through our ability to communicate face to face either individually or within a social gathering.

    As the younger generations are proving, they no longer are inhibited by lack of social personality skills.Indeed, this demographic trusts machines more than they trust their own intellect. Unquestioningly they follow and interact with computers more comfortably than they do with us,or indeed with themselves face to face.

    As they unwittingly become more inward and selfish ,flying in a drone plane hooked up in their individual pod seats ,it ultimately will fly to a destination or not. Why not just virtually do what you need to do from the comfort of your own cocoon without the need to interact with others. So the next evolution ,will be no planes,trains,cars or boats.

    Just pretend! After all,it’s the new reality …..

    Edited to add……And thankfully I’ll have already left the world I predict


    @FDOS – no I haven’t although both parents had pilot’s licenses (albeit not commercial) so I’m not your average GCSE dunce.

    I’m not suggesting that human intervention isn’t required, just that there is an argument that some of the work can be done remotely. Clearly I’m not the only one, which is why the study is taking place.

    I’ve heard plenty of reasons over the years on why change is impossible in all walks of life from medicine to travel to technology and everything in between. The usual outcome is the change happens anyway – I doubt my kids would bat an eyelid about remote controlled flight any more than they would about automated cars, the DLR etc etc.

    But as I said before all that is happening at this stage is a study is taking place to identify areas for potential further investigation. It’s not like tomorrow’s BA1 will be departing with 1 pilot. If investigations show it isn’t feasible it won’t happen. If it is feasible it will. Whatever you and I think will be neither here nor there and I suspect I will have long since stopped travelling that much anyway.



    Of course remote flight is feasible, this is already understood by pilots, the question is what unusual failure modes might affect these flights and the risks associated.

    I’m not just concerned as a passenger, if an airline wishes to save money, let them fly these things a long way away from my house.

    Modern airliners are very sophisticated and reliable, which is why the first officer regs have been relaxed over the years, yet when they do go wrong, they need a lot of brain power to work out how to fix the system – look at Air Asia recently, the captain made a bad technology call in response to a system problem and everyone on board died.


    I don’t disagree about a lot of brain power being required. I just don’t think it automatically follows that this all has to be on board the plane.

    I haven’t heard any suggestion that it is to save money, either. The cost of technology to make it happen could outweigh the savings – it’s not as if pilots are paid as they once were.


    Hi FDOS_UK – remote flights are only feasible to the extent an aircraft can be programmed to take off, fly a circuit / route and land.

    What can not be programmed and still needs the intervention of a pilot, are the decision(s) to abort a take off or a go around…. for example… I am sure this will come one day… just as we all used to look at Star Trek in awe of the “Communicator” and say never in our lifetime….


    Some interesting arguments here. One of the more interesting only touched on is how many crashes have occurred due to Pilot error compared to how many due to technical reasons. Perhaps we would be safer without a pilot!

    You might be aware that a lot of time and energy is going in to the driverless car at the moment. Sit back, read a book, your car takes you there safely and quickly. The technology is not there yet, but no doubt it will be. Equally I have no doubt that flight will go the same way. The problem with it is twofold, technology (not there yet) and trust (clearly not there or even close). SimonsS1 makes a good point about drones, they are getting more and more sophisticated, so why not a pax carrying one.

    Flights have been flown remotely before, albeit for the purpose of crashing for fuel flammability tests, it is just surely just a matter of taking it that bit further.

    Pilotless aircraft will come, in my lifetime perhaps not, but they will.


    MartynSinclair – 31/12/2015 17:43 GMT

    For the avoidance of doubt – remote flight = ground based pilot (a la UAV ops.)


    Mr MIchael, you wrote “Some interesting arguments here. One of the more interesting only touched on is how many crashes have occurred due to Pilot error compared to how many due to technical reasons. Perhaps we would be safer without a pilot!”

    What you are not considering are the amount of crashes avoided by pilot intervention, following systems failures = many to 1.

    FYI, it’s been known as ‘human error’ for a long time.

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