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Pilot Unions Form Coalition to Oppose Single-Pilot Operations, Citing Safety Concerns and Profit-Driven Motives

MONTREAL, CANADA — Pilot unions are strongly opposing single-pilot operations for commercial aircraft, labeling these automation-dependent concepts as profit-driven and posing significant safety risks. The Air Line Pilots Association International, European Cockpit Association, and International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations have formed a coalition to counter such initiatives and are committed to protecting the safety of passengers. ( More...

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Kevin Walker 34
A good few years ago my friends brother was flying a plane full of tourists to the Canary Islands , half way into the flight he felt dreadful and passed out . 1st officer safely landed the flight. Captain was ok after a spell in hospital for influenza. No way will single crew commercial flights ever be safe
I should note , before anyone says “ he must have felt ill before the flight “
It was the first thing I asked him , and the reply was “no , felt fine , I wouldn’t have taken the aircraft if I didn’t “
EMK69 26
Besides the ALPA and other Pilot Organizations, the general public is opposed to single-pilot operations. I wished I had kept the poll but a recent poll showed the flying public response with 94% opposed to such an idea. Several of the comments were hilarious
James Simms 4
If only the Powers That Be actually listened to John Q. Public
Bayouflier 0
If you think the aviation machine gives a rat's a$$ what the general public thinks, you are sadly mistaken. The unions made the same racket when the engineer went the way of the navigator. The copilot is next. Get used to it.
Brent Bahler 16
Murphy’s Law: if it can go wrong it will go wrong.
Bahler’s Law: Murphy was an optimist.
James Simms 3
You should read ‘Murphy’s Laws of Combat’
Ken McIntyre 3
Finagle's Law..."Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment."
gerardo godoy 13
As Musk says "AI will probably kill us all" This is the Most Stupid Technology man is developing...As a pilot I find this as the work of Satan...I am glad I will never see this take effect. Evel reigns guys!!!!
Edward Bardes 11
I think there's a broad consensus on the part of everybody except the airlines and their spokesmen that single pilot commercial operations are a danger to public safety.
David Purtz 27
If I remember correctly it was Delta's Ed Bastian who said he wasn't getting on an airliner with only one pilot; neither am I as most of the flying public won't either. Find something else to improve on like food service and quality.
How come that the profit maximization tactics of the airlines is always at our expense?! Who in their right mind looks at this issue from various vantage points and still conclude that a single pilot is ideal?! Common, it’s time to value the people who keeps you in business.
Dan Grelinger 3
Years ago many said the same thing about self-driving cars.
Josie Rojas 6
Not the same! I love aviation, but I would not get on a flight with one pilot. What if the pilot has mental problems and decides to commit suicide with us included! Just a thought!
Just like the german pilot some years ago! And posible flight MM370 .
srobak 4
On case you haven't been keeping up on the news - that's been a trainwreck.
Every day someone comes up with a senseless idea. Single pilot flight decks tops most of them.
Dan Grelinger -3
Kind of like putting tractors in front of plows! Save the horses!
John Roche 4
Troll alert
Jim McGuire 18
Simply stated. I was a commercial pilot for almost 40 years. I will not get on an aircraft with a single pilot.Nor would I recommend my family to get on an airplane if It only has one pilot.
Greer Kemp 16
It's a truly dreadful idea, and puts everyone at risk - both in the air and on the ground. The airlines are really becoming a load of low-life money grubbers with seemingly no concerns about safety. Automated systems can take over the load during normal operations, but if something goes wrong (as it does) and a single pilot simply cannot take over all of the necessary tasks, who takes responsibility for the potential loss of hundreds of lives?
Dan Chiasson 7
Could not agree more. This is about stock prices, return on investment, and other greed-driven financial terminology. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with making a profit and running a successful business - BUT NOT at the expense of the general flying public. IMHO, the first airline to adopt a single-pilot model will experience the wrath of the consumer which, in such a cut-throat / low-margin business, will end in financial ruin. All IMHO.
srobak 6
agreed on all the points, and while I do think that money is a partial driver in this issue - I think they are also trying to shortcut their way around the pilot shortage issue while maintaining current and growing schedules. Think about it - an overnight doubling of the size of your pilot roster would sure fix that problem. But only create new and worse ones. I'd rather get late or cancelled than to become part of an oversized lawn dart because the plane wasn't properly staffed.
Jim Allen 5
I hate to say this.. but I disagree. Over and over again, passengers have voted with their wallets. It’ll take a couple of crashes to make a difference.
Michael Dealey 2
Yep.. what if single pilot was already a thing and this happened?

That flight was lucky to have a pilot onboard as a passenger.
jbermo 6
Today's technology is surely going in the wrong direction for those opposed to the idea.
srobak 7
Not quite sure about that... as even the world's technology leaders - who are heavily vested in AI - have recently banded together in calling for a reeling back on AI due to the number of risks involved. Seems like as every week goes by - the reality of a Skynet situation is becoming more and more possible, and it is being more and more realize by those who were pushing the technology in the first place.
Dan Grelinger 1
Just like nukes, it’s those who halt development and production of a strategic advantage that will lose. It can be reasonably posited that only an AI or AI-augmented system could defeat a rogue AI.
srobak 4
And the end result would still be the same. Skynet. Either way - we will lose.
F. M. 10
In the article, near the discussion of AI and ML, the phrase "data-driven decisions" appears. Wasn't MCAS a data-driven system that, based on what turns out to be faulty, single-sourced data, made the wrong decision twice, resulting in hundreds of deaths?
strickerje 6
Yet another example of the old adage, "Garbage in, garbage out".
Lance Neward 5
Today, a properly installed and maintained autopilot can fly the airplane better than virtually any human pilot. Have you tried to hand-fly an airplane at FL300, maintaining altitude and heading, with a center of gravity that's constantly shifting due to the self-loading cargo (pax) moving about. Pretty tough to do for even 10 minutes, much less for hours, so we have the autopilot doing what it does best: flying the machine.

On the other hand, the thing that the healthy, properly trained, properly maintained and rested human can do better than virtually any autopilot is to observe, evaluate both gross and subtle issues, and make significant decisions, taking all available factors into account, e.g. Captain Sullenberger. We now have humans doing what they do best: thinking about the factors that affect the flying and making decisions based on those.

I believe it will be a long while before automation will reach the level of being able to do that kind of evaluation and decision making. AI, for all of its capabilities, still has a lot to learn; ask anyone who is technically competent in the development of the self-driving car. (I have a relative who worked on the programming for a self-driving car, and in his opinion we are still decades away from being able to truly accomplish that, if ever.)

In the meantime, we will have two pilots, at least, for the foreseeable future. Doing otherwise makes for interesting conversation over a bended elbow, but that's about it.
Pat Hull 4
I will NEVER fly on a plane with only one pilot.
Frank Addison 4
It's all about the bottom line.
Al Schraut 4
flight attendants are cheaper than pilots. I thought 2 crew people had to be in cockpit at all times for safety.
Jim McGuire 4
Simply stated. I was a commercial pilot for almost 40 years. I will not die. Will I allow my family to get on an airplane? It only has one pilot.
Edward Bardes 7
I think there's a broad consensus on the part of everybody except the airlines' upper management and their spokesmen that single pilot commercial operations are a danger to public safety.
royalbfh 7
really makes sense in the commercial world, and Part 135, even railroad companies have abandoed the idea. I wish the public would stop with the "single pilot/no-pilot" and just stick to the circle runway ideas...
srobak 7
This isn't being driven by the public. It is being driven by the airlines.
Mike Mohle 4
Wazzamatta? You can't land in a crosswind? LOL
James Simms 7
The railroads have abandoned the idea of one person crews for the time being, in the wake of the East Palestine incident; & because the FRA has mandated two person crews for the foreseeable future.

Ideally, railroads would be forced to return the use of the caboose w/@ least one person in it to view (& one can smell a burning hotbox) ahead the 10-15,000 foot monster trains. Having a third person on the end ‘may have’ prevented the above incident mentioned, but it’s highly unlikely of happening
Steve Pearce 4
In the UK, and most of the EU, most trains operate with 1 'operator' in the cab (i cant comment on freight trains!). On many services, all those operators do is monitor the computer, and open and close the doors. On some services, there are no operators.

HS2, when it opens, will be capable of operating automatically, controlling its speed based on signalling information fed to the cab, at least until it gets to a part of the track without the right signalling (ETCS) infrastructure. High speed services in the rest of Europe already do this. Most passengers arent aware, or care.

The point is that progress has been made. We've been pottering around in trains for 150+ years and have them pretty well figured out. Having data, and data processing, helps with making progress. I'd expect aircraft to go the same way, eventually. Not yet, and probably not for a while, but eventually.

Gloria Johns 1
What's the circle runway thing?
Bill Hoffer 3
An attempt to deconflict some of these arguments would be:
The Unions will demand that two pilots be in the aircraft for nothing more than union dues (profits they use to argue with the airlines).

The FAA and insurance companies will determine currency and proficiency parameters which could go either way depending upon social experimentations.

Each of these (labor and regulation) will be marginalized by these experimentations, thereby increasing costs and decreasing safety.

Incursions, incidents, and perhaps accidents are likely to result and the airlines will be held accountable and at fault for compliances.

In the end, costs (labor, regulatory, and liability) will cause a welcoming of automation through, perhaps, the triple redundancy of a single pilot, navigation and landing automation, and remote piloting through data links that are used today.

In the end, the people will convert and fly, they have from 3 pilots to 2 pilots, and will when it goes to 1 pilot (still need that self preservation component). Technology enabled going from 4 engines to 2 engines. The prices will still go up as regulations continue to sore and the Government does the two things it does best - tax and overspend; and the unions do what they do best - overprice labor. Safety could actually increase as represented in current remote piloting statistics - assuming the same technological sophistication is utilized.

Fundamentally, this is an economic problem and that is how all parties will approach it behind closed doors. Inciting safety concerns is only to emotionally energize the people in their favor. 96% of all aircraft accidents are pilot induced even with the newer crew resource management profiles. In the design engineers defense however, the overall number of incidents has decreased through technology advancements in automation.
There’s no such thing as a single pilot . “ can a bird fly with one single wing?” I’m a very optimistic person, but it’s hard to be optimistic at this stage .
First and foremost we must protect pilot’s jobs, teach the future generations how to fly and promote the flying industry.
“ a single pilot “ idea “ is not based on reality” it will not happen.

Let’s be serious and realistic, Ladies and Gentleman.
And let's not mandate the jab as a condition of the pilot's employment.
David Rice 2
Maybe someday, perhaps, but if the manufacturers and their engineers (Airbus, for instance according to the article) do not support single pilot ops, then why would anyone think this is in the near future? Of course, it's a NO right now. Perhaps the complaints should wait until manufacturers and their engineers actually propose such a thing, which is not currently the case.
Dan Grelinger 1
It may be they know that if development of sophisticated auto-pilot functionality continues, the data will eventually support single-pilot commercial airliner operations, and want to prevent the development of such systems.
Chet Patel 1
The manufacturers are already looking into it, because they have to work on it now for it to be available in the future. It was Airbus and Dassault that applied to get these certified at least for certain segments like cruise.
srobak 1
Because by then it's too late.
David Bier 2
That hasn't changed. Most will not trust a self driving car to fully control the car. Safety assistance is great and welcome - but that's far from "self-driving".
Only single pilot mode of transportation I will ever take is my car and me.
k1121j 1
agreed at least your less likely to die if you pass out driving then if you fall from 35 thousand feet.
Rob Palmer 2
Formerly with FAA in Washington, I could have used a co-pilot when low blood sugar caused me to wipe out a pine tree and telephone pole with my Chevy 2 years ago, which totaled the auto. I had no physical warning for this event; just woke up in hospital with firemen leaving. Been driving 69 years with no previous events, even when not driving. I always thought one would get some sensation of a problem, but I had no warning at all. Now, if I can ever get my license back in the State of Maine, I would be so happy! I am a driving person as pilots are "flying people"; I drove in all states and overseas in all conditions. I have Dutch ancestry, and am proud to see the King of Holland flies daily as a working copilot. What a great guy!
James Simms 0
Before the chinese flu & the jabs, a lot of USAF pilots left the Active side of the service once they obtained enough rank, destined to ‘fly’ desks afterwards for the remainder of their careers.
Greer Kemp 4
It's a truly dreadful idea and puts everyone at risk - both in the air and on the ground. The airlines are really becoming a load of low-life money grubbers with seemingly no concerns about safety. Automated systems can take over the load during normal operations, but if something goes wrong (as it does) and a single pilot simply cannot take over all of the necessary tasks, who takes responsibility for the potential loss of hundreds of lives?
bbabis 4
I'm too young to remember the loss of Radio Operators and Navigators but do remember the fight put up for Flight Engineers. All results were the same. Innovation, technology, Data, and history will move on. As facts overcome fear mongering, SPO is in the future.
btweston 11
Didn’t a pilot become incapacitated just last week, leaving the OTHER pilot to land the plane?
jbermo 3
Didn't the pilot crash his airliner in suicide a few years ago with German Wings and EgyptAir?
John D 5
Actually, the first officer. That incident caused airlines to not allow anyone on the flight deck to be alone.
bbabis -1
And if all pilots are incapacitated, the plane lands itself.
srobak 1
There are certain things that cannot be innovated against, and if you think the facts are going to lean in favor of SPO - you're dreaming. It isn't fear mongering if it's true.
bbabis 0
The technology has been available for years. Perfectly safe. View the video below.
D Rotten 3
'Safe Technology' is an Oxymoron! lolol
srobak 2
Yeah I saw that quite a while ago. A small, single engine aircraft at an isolated airfield in low traffic airspace is a whole lot different than a loaded commercial airliner at a mid level or major airport. It will take a lot more than "just adapt it" to go there, too. Thinking otherwise would just be unrealistic.

Either way - this is a great development and is certainly useful and can help in emergency situations. But just like rear view/360 cameras, smart cruise, lane-keeping and bumper sensors on a car - it should only be used as a supplement (or in this case emergent) - not as a primary means of operation. And just like flight automation that has come into common use so far - when used excessively or as a primary means of operation - it significantly impacts proficiency in airmanship. Losing aviation skills as a result of depending on automation is not a new concern, and we do not need things that will only make a grow.

It was officially one of the root causes of the Asiana SFO crash and had been under scrutiny for even a decade before that. There is no shortage of reports, surveys and test results to support that.
Tyler Ballance 3
I trained as a Naval Flight Officer in our Navy. All of my flights were in single piloted aircraft. While our T-2 Buckeye trainers had a stick and control pedals also in the back seat area, the F-14, A-6 and F-4 left the guy in back with the only option when things went bad to eject. The Air Force version of the F-4 still allowed their Wizzo (WSO-backseater) to fly the plane if necessary. I really like the idea of having an additional trained human in the aircraft who can fly the plane. I really hated flying when my only option was to punch-out if things started to go bad. Riding around in two pilot commercial aircraft is only a little more comfortable, especially with the affirmative action hires they have up front these days.

Would I rather have two affirmative action hires in the cockpit or perhaps one Sully Sullenberger who had the assistance of an expert system that helped reduce his admin load throughout the flight and could automatically fly the plan to a safe alternate if there was trouble? I think that it is a concept worthy of some trial runs.

What I really want from commercial aviation is a new sort of flight class that excludes stupid and crazy people, crying babies and animals from flights. I would pay extra to have something like private club style flights, where people would dress to impress, the stewardesses were cute girls instead of transsexuals "on a journey" and passengers would be be screened by a bouncer (like at the exclusive night clubs) so that if they looked or smelled bad, they wouldn't get on the flight. It would be like the classy sort of flying that we had back in the 1960s.
James Simms 2
Agree, I would want people there up front because of their demonstrated competence, Intelligence, ability to use reason & common sense in high stress environment, & not because they just so happened to fall into a category w/ lower standards. Same goes for any other profession/career involving the well-being of people such as legal, medicine, accounting, pharmaceutical, etc.. if they can cut it obtaining high standards of competency, fine...

Not only that, but Sulley had a career in the USAF & glider pilot experience to fall back on.

Years ago, I was coming into PHL when the plane had to circle for 45 minutes because of weather w/a crying baby in the back of the plane. Yes it bothered me (& likely others), but realized it couldn’t help it being so young not knowing any better.
Ren Babcock 3
With all the issues with the CV Vaccine effecting the heart, I vote NO on single pilot operations at least the next years. They've already relaxed the EKG requirements on the medical.
Nooge 0
With all the issues with the CV Vaccine effecting the heart, I vote no on uninformed politically motivated science and fact deniers
jbermo 2
Yeah, yeah - they did the same 40/30 years ago when eliminating the FE with the debut of the two-man widebody crew.
That reduced the flying crew by 33%, this by 50%. And the result in ending up where you payed for to a 50/50 chans! If an airline really wants to end up bancrut, then implement this stupid idea, and the passenger numbers will drop at a rate unheard of once it is public!
Steve Pearce 2
Elsewhere, turkeys voted to abolish Christmas.

I should add, I dont disagree with their concern at the moment. But that doesnt mean that, at some point in the future, it wont be possible. Unions and regulators need to work together to find that point in time. Public perception will be guided by the thoughts of the unions and regulators.

Remember, that plenty of aircraft fly around with single pilots now. Some fly with no pilots. There is no god given right to have 2 people up front of an aircraft. Back in the day, there were 3. At some point in the future there will be 1, and maybe 0. Probably many (50?) years away, but eventually.

Having said all that, until the safe system can be guaranteed, which at the moment it cant, the efforts of bean counters should stop. But i wouldnt expect manufacturers to stop their efforts to make those safe systems work...!
srobak 3
Most of those single pilot aircraft don't have 200-400 people sitting riding along behind them. Many of the transcontinental flights have additional crew riding along as well & rotate to the front seats midway through flight. We are 1 if not 2 generations away from suitable advancements in technology remotely being capable of this without putting the passenger's lives significantly at risk.
Dan Grelinger 1
Hmmmm. I wonder if Air France 447 would have been flown by an AI-autopilot, would those people have died? A close of examination of that accident could reasonably lead someone to believe that humans in the cockpit may be our worse problem.

I suggest that we let THE DATA tell us when this is safe to do, not our ‘rage against the machine.’
srobak 2
kinda like MCAS used "the data" which was flawed? Sorry - but there is no substitute for good airmanship.
Stefan Sobol 1
Plenty of single pilot passenger carriers already. Just not operating under part 121.
N Phillips 1
will dehavilland dhc2 pilots need a copilot ?
Brent Lee 1
Brings new light to advising crew that “I’m a GA pilot, if you need me…”
Michael Myers 1
After 5 years on the 787, I’m not sure we need any pilots on board the modern aircraft. Next thing you know, these greedy managers will want to pull the flight engineers off the airplanes and elevator operators off the elevators.
Michael Meyers 1
The Luddites still exist. These are the same folks who said train safety would suffer if the caboose riding train conductor position was eliminated, despite the implementation of technology that handled those duties.
golflaw 4
Yep, train safety is terrific today. So long as you don’t care about the people who live anywhere near a train track like East Palestine Ohio. Not a very good analogy by the way.
srobak 1
Notice that trains still have 2 engineers, though.
D Rotten -2
When pilots 'pass out'/DIE, from the Experimental mRNA Bio-weapon Injections, WHO will then LAND THE PLANE????
r44jmp1 -1
But none of us have any problem jumping on the driverless high speed tram that takes us from the gate to the terminal.
I think the problem is the fear of loosing a career due to improvements to the electronics which will happen sooner than we expect.
srobak 2
That's not high spend, there is no Y or Z axis, no possible method for course deviation, turbulence and weather do not affect it and there aren't thousands of other teams in the immediate vicinity. Then there's that whole falling 6 miles out of the sky thing.
srobak 1
Teams = trams
Juan Jimenez -1
Ha. Soon it will be zero pilot operations. It is inevitable.
srobak 0
Then it will also be a zero passenger operation. That is inevitable


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