In response to pitches made by Airbus and Dassault Aviation for the right to operate the cruise phase of commercial flights with only one pilot in the cockpit, the European aviation regulator has ruled out the prospect of flights with a single pilot until at least 2030. However, the regulator is considering the possibility of allowing single-pilot elements of a flight by 2027.
Limitations would be set that bar pilots with existing medical conditions or insufficient flight hours from operating on their own at any time. The move to solo pilots relates more to long-haul flights where pilots would be able to take rest breaks without there having to be replacement pilots on board. This is in response to the aviation industry’s problem with a current pilot shortage.
Andrea Boiardi of the EASA has stated that it is “absolutely not realistic” to expect commercial planes with only one pilot on board to be flown by 2030 as automation had not advanced far enough and solo flying required a level of safety equivalent to existing operations. In addition, Solo flying, even in cruise, needs approval from the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization, individual airlines and their pilot unions.
Boiardi made it clear that the most advanced planes would be suitable for solo flying during the cruise phase as they are equipped for a higher level of safety than required by minimum certification standards. Such planes would include the Airbus A350 and potentially the Boeing 787 and 777X. Even limited solo flying, however, is causing conflict among airlines and sparking public fears, while also creating a growing backlash among pilot groups such as the European Cockpit Association. “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada are very much aware of our position that two pilots on the flight deck is the most safe,” said Tim Perry, Canada President of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).