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Thursday 24 November 2022

Don't panic, but your flight might soon only have one pilot

UPDATE: This is even more pertinent after an American Eagle flight a few days ago when the pilot collapsed at the controls shortly after takeoff and later died. 

Every thought about what happens if your pilot has a heart attack, or is somehow unable to fly the plane?

Simple. There is always a second pilot, often called the co-pilot, or first officer, on board to take over in case of an emergency.

Or there has been until now.

The industry newsletter Travel Mole reports that a call for single pilot-operated commercial flights is gaining momentum.

The reason? Money.

Having just one pilot in the cockpit is an obvious plus for cost-conscious airlines, despite the safety fears.

More than 40 countries have petitioned the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to set aviation standards to allow single-pilot flights.

They include Germany, the UK and New Zealand.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been collaborating with plane manufacturers to work out how solo pilots could operate flights safely.

EASA says solo pilot services could begin by 2027.

It could be a very controversial move.

“The people going down this route are not the people who fly jets every day,” Tony Lucas, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association said.

“When things go awry, they go awry fairly quickly."

Janet Northcote, EASA’s head of communications, said: “We are potentially removing the last piece of human redundancy from the flight deck."

EASA says sometime after 2030, flying could be automated; allowing planes to be remotely landed if a pilot became unresponsive.

Your life in the hands of virgin technology? Somehow I am not reassured.

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