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Airbus + Cathay working on Single Pilot during Cruise with A350

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Airbus + Cathay working on Single Pilot during Cruise with A350

Old 17th Jun 2021, 14:35
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If my airline tried to do this, I’d be asking for a very large pay raise since I’m now 100% responsible for cockpit duties. Many assume that your eliminating the cost of another pilot, but these savings are offset by the additional pay for the single pilot, the cost of automating systems to perform duties of the eliminated pilot and also the cost of ground controllers who are monitoring the single pilot. Plus one accident and all those savings are in the toilet. I’m not even going to speculate on the percentage of passengers who will not set foot on a single piloted airliner.
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Old 17th Jun 2021, 15:23
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Somebody in “Cathy” has just decided to contact Reuters to wind up the pilot body to remind us that we are lucky to have a job right now.
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Old 17th Jun 2021, 15:36
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Single pilot; no pilot, whatever.

Sitting out there, probably where you can't see him, on every aircraft that ever flies you will find little Mr Gremlin. And he's just waiting for the opportunity to push you through the third hole in the cheese. And when he does I'll want to know that there are 2 competent people aboard the same aircraft as me, trained to expect and deal with the unexpected. Why 2? Because the first hole could well be the incapacity of one of them.

It is utterly absurd to regard the remote operation of military drones as essentially the same as remote operation of highly complex air transport passenger aircraft. For a start, where's the saving? The pilots are only moving to another seat, with hugely expensive comms systems for controlling the aircraft. How many back-up systems will be needed? At least 2 or 3, each with alternate comms channels. Will duty hours change? No. Will 1 "crew" operate more than one aircraft simultaneously? No (think about it.) Etc etc. It's the stupidest notion I've ever heard, and needs to be put to bed for another 50 years to allow the technology to catch up.
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Old 17th Jun 2021, 18:32
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Timmy Tomkins

Sorry, I didn't make it clear in the original post that I assumed all savings would be passed onto the passenger. However, I suppose some of that can be kept back as profit...

Edited original post accordingly now.
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Old 17th Jun 2021, 23:19
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Less Hair

Minor correction: the Qantas A380 had five pilots to deal with the problem, the three operating crew plus two check captains (one checking the captain and the other checking the checker).
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Old 18th Jun 2021, 02:43
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Cool

I’ve quite often felt like I was “single pilot in the cruise” at CX on A30s and A50s. Go figure.
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Old 18th Jun 2021, 06:44
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Bleve

Yes, and that aircraft was climbing out of SIN, not on cruise as per the proposal. Earlier there was mention of Sioux City, where the DC10 was at cruise level. Technology has advanced considerably since 1989
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Old 18th Jun 2021, 06:50
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The point is more crew than planned can be helpful. Planning with less than two is not redundant. This would change the entire proven approach to safety.
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Old 18th Jun 2021, 08:25
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Exclamation

Anti Skid On

It has, but my issue with automation is software reliability. My longest flights are only about 6 hours, but when you fly two to three sectors a day and prepare your data entries, the odds of misbehaving software adds up. I have witnessed a few moments in flight where automation or software was NOT behaving the way it was supposed to. Thankfully, there were two of us on board. CB resets single pilot? No thanks.
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Old 18th Jun 2021, 12:22
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Reducing cost certainly is a big carrot, but not one that is compatible with safety, no matter what they might claim. Witness Boeing and the Max fiasco where they tried to save money - a fiasco that killed 300 people.

Improved navigation infrastructure and modern equipment with improved accuracy and ease of use removed the need for a separate navigator in the cockpit. Ditto the radio operator, ditto the flight engineer.

But this does not mean that it is sensible to reduce the aircraft cockpit crew to one pilot. Passenger long-haul aircraft don't cross oceans with a single engine.

Engine failure, depressurisation and fire are three major risks that would be extremely compromised if only one pilot was in the cockpit, while the other was sleeping in their bunk.

Major electrical failure would be another - we had an intermittent main generator failure once, that knocked out the A/P and the A/Thr, and it would have been chaotic with only one pilot to hand fly and deal with and solve the rapidly changing problem. QRH and memory drills are based on one pilot flying and another pilot monitoring, and performing emergency QRH tasks.

Trains have single drivers, but they run on tracks, in one dimension, at ground level. Any problem, such as incapacitation, and the train will just apply the brakes and stop. Ditto engine failure. Trains cannot depressurise and even if there is a fire, the train can stop and all the passengers can simply get out.
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Old 18th Jun 2021, 16:25
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Reducing to one pilot is a manager's wet dream. REmember the most important part though. Any single pilot aircraft needs to be simple enough that a day 1 second officer can fly it safely. They'll never get to sit next to a Captain and learn, so it's the Captain who's days are numbered. A far bigger cost saving than removing the flap puller. I think I'll stick to the ferry.
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Old 18th Jun 2021, 22:49
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I've been intimately involved with AP testing and development for automotive applications for some years now. I can safely say that it is a far more complex problem than automating airplane movements and flight - simply because aviation takes place in a controlled environment. There are no children running across a runway unexpectedly (nor would the autopilot need to tell the difference between said children and a blowing by paper bag). Further, there's very little one can do to avoid obstacles on a runway even as a human pilot. If that deer crosses when it wants to, you will hit it, you can't brake and swerve. There will be little anyone can do to prevent pilots from becoming obsolete - we do after all account for about 80% of accidents. It simply makes sense with the exception of the irrational fear we have about not having a fellow human being present in the same vehicle we are in - irrational is the keyword here.

The critical junction Airbus is now at deals with how to implement complete automation (level 5 autonomy) without making things LESS safe during implementation. Going single pilot would be an absolute facepalm decision - and I don't think for a second they really are considering this. What they will want to do is not add new variables. Leave all as is, but start relying on the pilots for backup only. It will take several years of fully automated flight to demonstrate that the autopilot handles all abnormals as well (or better) than a crew would. Regulators will follow, the rest is history.
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Old 19th Jun 2021, 03:16
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You’re comparing how difficult it is to achieve a level of automation sufficient to avoid children crossing a runway with commercial aviation? Jesus Murphy.
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Old 19th Jun 2021, 04:26
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Hey Physicus,

You would be very surprised how many surprises there are in the “controlled” aviation environment.

eg weather, birds, crews who misunderstand a clearance, computers which fail to follow instructions, guys with jet packs, etc.

It happens often.

ps Good luck with making cars smart. Our “smart” aircraft are still trying to kill us.
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Old 19th Jun 2021, 06:00
  #75 (permalink)  
 
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As long as profitability matters to companies, safety will have a hard time claiming the top priority. I think the MAX saga has made it quite clear. Engineers will always be under pressure to take shortcuts. Even when designing advanced automation.
"Human factors" on the other hand don't just cause accidents. They also prevent them. You just don't read about that part in the newspapers.
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Old 19th Jun 2021, 07:51
  #76 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by old,not bold View Post
Sitting out there, probably where you can't see him, on every aircraft that ever flies you will find little Mr Gremlin. And he's just waiting for the opportunity to push you through the third hole in the cheese.
Would have given you that argument with aircraft designed until the 90's - 744's, 777's, A330's... essentially the first full glass deck kit. There was (and is) plenty of 'What's it doing now" going on in those machines. But they are 20 to 30 years behind an A350, and in those 20 years we have made incredible leaps in terms of computing power and systems reliability.

The predictability and sheer boredom of operating the 350 is really impressive engineering, doesn't make pilot's jobs more interesting - but I am convinced this paves the for safely pulling the human out of the loop.
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Old 19th Jun 2021, 09:15
  #77 (permalink)  
 
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The Martin Baker pre flight checklist consists of saying a four letter word and has been handled quite easy by single pilots for years. I do not see the problem from a pilots perceptive ?
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Old 19th Jun 2021, 09:17
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But the basic premise is wrong. Just because there are thousands of hours flown by transatlantic 'heavy' crews in which nothing happens, is not a reason to get rid of one of those pilots. Nor is reducing to one pilot to reduce passenger's air fares a valid premise. Have we learned nothing from the Boeing Max ?

Say there were only two pilots and there was a depressurisation after Cap had been in the bunk for an hour. Cap is in deep sleep, so is not going to be able to assimilate the situation for some minutes, which could be critical and would reduce safety. F/O has mask on and is descending to FL100 and has turned towards an alternate, but with the high workload, has forgotten to set emergency squawk or put the belts on, or notify the CC. Meanwhile, the CC has (hopefully) realised and woken the Cap and given them a portable oxygen set. Captain, just awoken and low on oxygen blearily makes their way to the cockpit.......Would you be able to think clearly if you were that Captain ?

Or a cargo fire. We have very little time to get a fire under control before it compromises flight.

What about a single pilot operating guarded switches with nobody to check the correct switch or the correct failed engine ??

If 80% of incidents are (allegedly) 'caused' by pilots, then having fewer pilots will not reduce that figure, it will increase it. Humans make mistakes, and in the vast majority of cases, pilots catch each other's mistakes - that's why there are always at least two of us - and therefore usually nothing goes wrong. But having only one pilot would remove that safety net. Two brains and two pairs of eyes are better than one.

AF447 does NOT prove that a single pilot would be better than two. It only proved that a very poor "pilot" had somehow slipped through all the training and exams, which does not make the case for reducing pilots. It also proved that a Captain just awoken from sleep is not able to assimilate situations very quickly and see the solution in time.

For goodness' sake, don't reduce below two pilots, but do improve training of all pilots.
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Old 19th Jun 2021, 09:40
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This would need to be permitted for certification by aviation authorities first. As in actively promoting this. I don't see it happening. The FAA is still recovering from the MAX and EASA has been more safety concerned anyway and moves back to even more own party analysis.

It might be some Airbus initiative to clear the technical and bureaucratic path for an optional single pilot operated A320-successor one day just in case but still this collides with every basic redundancy requirement.
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Old 19th Jun 2021, 09:44
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The lawyers will kill the idea of autonomous aircraft.
Who is responsible in matters of strict liability ?
Military drones may be very capable but they have a shed load of trained personnel supporting the mission and in the subsequent inquiry when there is a SNAFU there will be questions asked as to whether or not rules of engagement etc. where followed.
There still has to be a Pilot in Command. In the air or via a datalink on the ground.
Civil aviation will be the same.
Who will be responsible for;
…..Flight Planning
​​​​​ ….Fuel order
…..Accepting the maintenance release
…..Liaising with Flight Attendants and off-loading drunken disorderly
…..Weather avoidance enroute
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Might seem plausible to accountants / engineers / managers who have no experience of the operational environment,but I think they are clueless.
Oh , and love to see fully automated aircraft cope with a runway change with 40 aircraft in the queue and a thunderstorm in the vicinity.
Someone will still have to be in Command.
Cant see it ever happening.
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