Is One Pilot In A Cockpit Enough?
It is widely known that aviation industry is currently facing a shortage of pilots. But maybe what we need is to reduce the number of pilots in the cockpit to one instead of trying to find more of them?
Even though pilots getting way higher than average salaries, not even mentioning great perks such as unlimited traveling and living in the top hotels, the shortage of specialists is still huge. Men and women do not tend to choose this professional due to extremely high costs of training. Therefore airlines are fighting for the pilots. Some companies even offer to cover training costs.
But maybe we all were thinking the wrong way. US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is looking for the alternatives and one of them is reducing the number of pilots in a cockpit to one or in a meanwhile even none.
According to the European rules currently commercial aircraft, a flown by two pilot. A captain and a first officer. One of them is flying the aircraft and the co-pilot monitors the situation and helps the first one. This applies to all the aircraft which can seat more than 20 people according to EASA.
The major concern about the single-pilot flying is safety. And there is a higher rate of accidents among the private and business jets. Captain Tilmann Gabriel who is a chairman/president of International Pilot Training Association blames the lack of monitoring.
The US study executed in 2015 revealed that two-pilot aircraft had slightly fewer accidents, however half of the single-pilot accidents were fatal and 45 percent of accidents involving two-pilot planes were fatal. Despite that, 107 accidents involving study showed that two-pilot aircraft were responsible for more deaths.
“Other than the limitations of the operating rules, the biggest factor is the way the cockpit is designed. A cockpit can be designed for single-pilot operation, but for larger planes, it is typically designed for a two crew operation as a basic requirement." Says the spokesperson of Bombardier.
In order to operate single-pilot aircraft pretty much the entire civil aviation infrastructure should be changed. At this point, it would cost billions of dollars and would be more expensive than actually finding and training the pilots.
One more problem to think of is cybersecurity. If there is no pilot, the authority should have a possibility to step in case of off-nominal issues such as pilot incapacitation. Nevertheless, it is still possible that in soon future planes will be automated.
In the next 20 years, there will be 35 000 aircraft produced and they all will have 2-pilot cockpits. During the same period around 600, 000 pilots will be needed according to Mr. Gbariel.
He concludes the situation for the Telegraph “The future pilot will still be needed, but he or she will sit in an office flying and managing the aircraft from the ground like the drone pilots already do. In short, the pilot shortfall is a real threat to the growth of the airline industry in the next 20 years; but single pilot operations are not a quick fix,”.