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Aviation regulators push for more automation so flights can be run by a single pilot

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Aviation regulators push for more automation so flights can be run by a single pilot

Old 24th Nov 2022, 02:30
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There was a time when large airplanes all had four engines and three pilots. Taking out the third seat made economic and operational sense, as two pilots with a limited degree of automation were enough. But they had to work at it.
Then it got easier as GPS eased the navigation chore, engines got larger and more reliable, and there were fewer of them to manage.
Now computers fly the airplanes and pilots control the computers. It does not take two of them to do this. One could manage the same way two did when they took out the third seat. That is not the problem. The problem is bad days. We all have them. You don’t want to be all alone up there when you are having yours, do you? Or in the back when it is someone else’s turn.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 05:30
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Originally Posted by FlightDetent
……

…For those familiar with the Airbus FBW: the future 1 pilot is equivalent in intended function to the F/CTL mechanical backup of today. To serve as a bridge across an unexpected multisystem failure. Designed not to solve the problem but reconfigure into a known failure mode.
What happens if the “bridge” is in the dunny wearing disco glasses and with ear pods on listening to music and there is an alarm going off in the ‘office’..?


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Old 24th Nov 2022, 05:34
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Single pilot is marketing speak for no pilot at all as backup systems will need to work without the final pilot left in case he is incapacitated. This is why the concept does not care about how future captains might gain any experience. It might work for freighters but not for paying passengers.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 07:16
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Originally Posted by Flying Binghi
Looking at the blue button on the dash in me little runabout, and what were on the dash 30 years ago, I’m thinking less than 30 years. Though agree with the two to none pilots suggestion.

Re current two pilot ops: If the argument is one pilot is enuf and the ‘electronics’ can take over if needed then why are any pilots needed?.. perhaps just in case… I’m thinking if one pilot is still required, then two are still required.
How much do we trust fully automated land vehicles? I don’t think trains are comparable, they are on rails and only go forwards or backwards and could quite easily be driverless (yet all mainline trains in the U.K. still have a driver!), it’s ok having the technology (which we probably do now) but you then have to have many years of proving this tech to the point that the public’s perception sees a paradigm shift. I wouldn’t get on a pilotless aircraft right now, and I fully understand the human factors in safety incidents.

I think single pilot operations are fine for the long-haul cruise operations where savings are made on extra crew. But I don’t see it becoming a thing in the mainstream commercial aviation sector in the foreseeable future. Imagine insurance costs, the costs of ensuring the systems are solid and the data pipelines are secure. Won’t provide any cost savings, would probably significantly increase costs to the airline operators for many years before falling back to todays levels.

This is all without mentioning the moral aspect of increasing automation/AI.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 08:20
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Originally Posted by Flying Binghi
What happens if the “bridge” is in the dunny wearing disco glasses and with ear pods on listening to music and there is an alarm going off in the ‘office’..?
The cockpit embedded toilet will have the ECAM panel installed.

Also this will never happen, same as there is no regular OEI occurrence where the plane flies 3+ hours to the diversion field.

If it does actually happen, that is untrapped by the proper recovery systems in place or the ground team, and the pilot fails to save the day
A) the accumulated death toll will be less that what's being directly caused by pilots today
B) the underlying techincal issue will be mitigated on a technical level.

Not looking forward to see the day arrive but the technology and system design will not be an obstacle.

In a sense, ask cui bono? Who triggered EASA to start researching the acceptable framework? Someone who is confident to comply with the outcome.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 08:25
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From my view there are lower hanging fruits if the industry wants to reduce costs than abandoning the concept of redundancy and handing everything over to datalinks, AI and software that might work or not in failure cases and combinations unknown before.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 08:44
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Originally Posted by alphacentauri
The reasoning is balanced when you consider all the accidents that didnt happen thanks to technology and systems (TCAS/TAWS,etc). Its not just pilots that prevent accidents. And for further consideration, what about those accidents where to avoid an accident the pilot was simply following a direction from a technology/system...the same system that could have avoided the accident if it were left to do so.
Not to mention, the numerous accidents where the pilots made a concious decision to ignore what the technology/system was advising them to do....
Alpha
No one talked about removing this type of life saving automation.
People on the other hand talked about removing life saving pilots.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 09:02
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How would regulatory authorities regulate and certificate AI systems that, through self-learning, have learnt things about which the regulator knows nothing?
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 09:05
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Originally Posted by CVividasku
No one talked about removing this type of life saving automation.
People on the other hand talked about removing life saving pilots.
Just read the working paper. Lots of talk of stricter Class One medical criteria (so that would remove half of the pilot workforce overnight I suspect), and concerns with cabin crew and passenger acceptance - paradigm shift mentioned again. Would think this would at least get rid of the P2F schemes out there now.. Every cloud and all that.

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Old 24th Nov 2022, 12:17
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I know we can't compare current generation automation with next gen, but even the other day while in a managed descent, the aircraft suddenly thought it was 9999' high on profile and increased rate of decent to 6000fpm to try re capture said profile, speed rocketing towards VMO.

A non event for two human pilots looking at it and rolling our eyes, as we simply pulled for open descent and the aircraft came to its senses and eased off, but it really doesn't inspire me with confidence that whatever autonomous aircraft they come up with won't have some similar issue and will be able to correct itself, if even the current generation aircraft which have been flying for 35 years haven't resolved simple computer brain-farts like this despite multiple avionic upgrades since its inception.

Not to mention that flight path control should be the simplest part of the flight to automate, it's the more nuanced issues, legalities, failures etc that should pose the complex automation task. Things like disruptive passengers, load sheet errors, birds ahead, fuel decisions on marginal weather days, assessing whether to commit or divert, airport's closed; do you hold or divert. Flock of birds hits the "artificial vision system", or AOA probes, ASI etc, how does the autonomous aircraft now cope?

I haven't done many auto-lands in my career so far but the ones I have done, particularly when there's any sort of wind element are always quite inconsistent. How will an advanced autopilot cope on days when it's gusting 60 knots? I've had the autopilot trip out on my numerous times over the years on stormy nights when it just says I'm done, over to you. And this is an aircraft again, that has been around for 35+ years and had numerous avionic updates since its inception.

CPDLC even now seems to have delays of 1-2 minutes sometimes to send messages, so these aircraft can't be remotely controlled if you have to factor in a 2 minute lag, they will have to be totally autonomous.

Far more problems to solve than can be mitigated just by paying two guys to sit up front and adapt to situations as they arise.

I'm not a luddite, in fact I've a background in software engineering before flying, but AI will really have to come on a lot more before it can cost effectively replace the flexibility provided by having two humans operating the aircraft, sat up front making decisions on the fly, if you'll pardon the pun.

I've no doubt we'll see aircraft in the next 15-20 years that could get from gate to gate with no intervention required from the humans on boards, the basics of managing the aircrafts flight path and taxi-route is not rocket science and in fact should be easily automatable. However, I can't see how this can consistently be done on every flight, we all know there are days where the thing runs on rails, these days could easily be automated. Then there's days where we're managing passenger issues, spotting dangerous goods irregularities, doing maintenance resets at outstations, changing taxi-routes on the fly, taxiing around potholes and other aircraft that have gotten stuck, picking fuel on marginal weather days off runways with marginal performance and then managing the options enroute, this will all still have to be done by humans.

So do I think we'll see an aircraft that can go from gate to gate with little or no intervention, absolutely. Do I think it will be possible to do this everyday, not a chance. And if you're going to need someone there 2-3 days a week, and if you can't tell in advance if today will be the day that HAL needs to have the CB reset, then invariably you'll need a crew on board every flight.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 12:43
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I don’t think even Airbus are advocating no crew up the pointy end. They are just trying to reduce the numbers dramatically. Pro Tem. As for AI etc. It’s currently in its infancy. Therefore I think the only aspect of ‘AI’ being utilised is in the ground phase. The current iteration calls for control from the ground. By experienced people. With the pilot ( or pilots if you have to summon your 200 hr SFI trained colleague) being the back stop.
Note that nothing in the forgoing means that I approve of it, either on safety or moral or career preservation grounds. However, it is being actively looked at…and as I said, conducted on delivery flights. Which are technically not public transport flights. So FTL’s/ other rules don’t necessarily apply.
It remains to be seen how many Authorities sign up to it. EASA land, and the mega mind graduates of the Sorbonne and Paris-Sanclay seem very keen to advance it.
Just because they can, probably.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 13:16
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Originally Posted by MENELAUS
As to VHF outages a fair part of the world has CPDLC coverage, satellite enabled. I can’t remember when I last had a prolonged comms outage, even in the Dark Continent
SATCOM outages are still common on the NAT.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 13:16
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FAA and EASA seem to want to go in different directions:

https://www.theregister.com/2022/11/...uter/?td=rt-3a

Yet even as the FAA is looking to ensure pilots can handle planes without automated assistance, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is pushing for more automation. The EASA has filed a working paper to develop ways for commercial airlines to operate with a single pilot rather than two of them. The initiative, born out of cost concerns and crew shortages, necessarily entails greater use of computer assistance.

"HAL, land the plane. … Siri, why isn't HAL responding? … Alexa? … Cortana? … Anyone?" ®
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 14:02
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I really don't understand why an aviation authority would initiate a paradigm change away from redundancy out of airline cost control or staffing concerns? Or does this tell us the other message "only at the same level of safety we will permit single pilot ops" as in "never"?
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 14:03
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Originally Posted by vilas
Aircraft have crashed, had incidents with one, two or even three pilots in front and for reasons like inability to land fully serviceable aircraft in VMC or executing an improper go around. So the safety theory with more humans in front doesn't hold any water. Piloting errors still remain major cause of accidents. Improved safety is due to more automation. Militant flashing of Human factors doesn't really come to the rescue of the pilot but in fact becomes the worst advertisement for human presence in the cockpit. Humans in front don't provide 100% Safety . So why expect 100% safety from fully automated aircraft? As long as it is better than human operating aircraft and significantly cheaper it will be accepted. It's the March of technology it may be delayed but can't be stayed.
your reasoning is completely flawed. For every pilot error there is a multitude of pilot preventing accidents.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 14:37
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Originally Posted by armagnac2010
And we have yet to see a computer committing suicide.
MCAS comes to mind, as does this attempt prevented by the crew:

https://avherald.com/h?article=47d74074


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Old 24th Nov 2022, 14:39
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Originally Posted by Less Hair
I really don't understand why an aviation authority would initiate a paradigm change away from redundancy out of airline cost control or staffing concerns? Or does this tell us the other message "only at the same level of safety we will permit single pilot ops" as in "never"?
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. There are obviously some clever tech heads out there now developing this technology and proving concepts. This is all fine, but it doesn’t consider the commercial factor.

A chocolatier could make a chocolate fireguard, it would look like a real fireguard, but I don’t think it would get through the H&S risk assessments to be used as a fireguard. The chocolatier would therefore find that demand for these would mean mass producing them would not be commercially viable.

Glib analogy perhaps, but is the tail wagging the dog here? Do the airlines really want to reduce/eradicate the pilot role altogether? I suspect the answer is only if it saves them a lot of money. With the exception of long-haul cruise pilot, I don’t see how unmanned or single pilot operations would provide a cost saving for the foreseeable future.

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Old 24th Nov 2022, 15:09
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A question not usually addressed in the back-and-forth on this subject is, "what technology are the advocates for single-pilot and autonomous flight ops relying upon?" Typically the advocates point to particular systems, like GPWS and its refinements, and assert that the human element is becoming or will become unnecessary.

That is, when the advocates get away with ignoring the second type of necessary technology - the computer software (or must we refer to code only as algorithms now?) capable of truly substituting for human flight crew members.

Case in point: show the effectiveness of code, operating today's flight control systems and those reasonably foreseen to be implemented within, say, five years, to figure out what was going wrong on the Delta flight out of LA a couple years ago in which the pilots first decided to dump fuel before returning to land. It was discussed in a thread on this forum, in part because of concern over where the fuel landed, and also among aviators about the sequence of, and reasons for, pilots' decisions and actions (though this SLF/attorney admits having forgotten the flight number).

Case in point: United flight out of Denver. P&W engine caught fire, due to a blade separation IIRC. All the P&W-powered United 777 aircraft were grounded. Flight returned to Denver safely. Show me the effectiveness of code.

Case in point, perhaps. American 191 out of Chicago ORD 25 May 1979. Engine separated and fell onto runway. Hydraulics severed, slats retracted, stall speed increased without any way for the flight crew to know these had occurred. (See NTSB final report, and as a veteran aviator poster on this forum has said in a different thread, it was a perfectly flyable airframe - if only they could have known what they were dealing with). Okay then, code advocates, fly the doomed, I mean fly the damn airplane.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 15:30
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Originally Posted by WillowRun 6-3
A question not usually addressed in the back-and-forth on this subject is, "what technology are the advocates for single-pilot and autonomous flight ops relying upon?" Typically the advocates point to particular systems, like GPWS and its refinements, and assert that the human element is becoming or will become unnecessary.

That is, when the advocates get away with ignoring the second type of necessary technology - the computer software (or must we refer to code only as algorithms now?) capable of truly substituting for human flight crew members.

Case in point: show the effectiveness of code, operating today's flight control systems and those reasonably foreseen to be implemented within, say, five years, to figure out what was going wrong on the Delta flight out of LA a couple years ago in which the pilots first decided to dump fuel before returning to land. It was discussed in a thread on this forum, in part because of concern over where the fuel landed, and also among aviators about the sequence of, and reasons for, pilots' decisions and actions (though this SLF/attorney admits having forgotten the flight number).

Case in point: United flight out of Denver. P&W engine caught fire, due to a blade separation IIRC. All the P&W-powered United 777 aircraft were grounded. Flight returned to Denver safely. Show me the effectiveness of code.

Case in point, perhaps. American 191 out of Chicago ORD 25 May 1979. Engine separated and fell onto runway. Hydraulics severed, slats retracted, stall speed increased without any way for the flight crew to know these had occurred. (See NTSB final report, and as a veteran aviator poster on this forum has said in a different thread, it was a perfectly flyable airframe - if only they could have known what they were dealing with). Okay then, code advocates, fly the doomed, I mean fly the damn airplane.
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I do think on the coding side though that NASA are in advanced stages of testing such capabilities. As far as the specifics of coding is concerned, I struggle to understand binary so it beats me.

The issue is such that the events you mentioned fall outside of the accepted risk, I doubt you would find them in any airline LOE programs. So does the advent of such a significant shift in operating procedures mean that a whole new aviation risk analysis should be completed? I.e in such a scenario would a human flight crew do a better job of saving the lives on those on board and avoiding crashing into the hospital for poorly puppies, than a computer system that might prioritise saving the lives of the 150 on board over potentially thousands on the ground?

Again, would the basis of such events even be considered being that they are probably outside of what is considered ‘accepted risk’? As if it’s is the case, there will only be the human factors argument, which autonomous aircraft would eradicate in terms of human control. I accept that you will have humans programming these machines, so the human element cannot be removed completely.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 16:51
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The Illusion Of Risk Control

It is interesting to follow this type of discussion where the subject is quickly misrepresented, which then degenerates into binary debate, us vs them, 2 vs 1 crew, with 'clear cut' black and white thinking.

An alternative is to reconsider the proposal for what it is - a working paper for the need to consider technological advances with respect to:

- the feasibility of extended minimum-crew operations (eMCO) two crew, only one on the flight deck in specific situations

and, at a later stage,

- single-pilot operations (SiPO).

There would be greater value, both for ourselves and the regulator to consider the issues. Operators have a wide range of knowledge with current systems; apply this to what is known about existing and new technologies so to contribute to the debate. Create the future opposed to decry its uncertainty.

There are already commercial single crew operations; where are the differences in risk. Two pax fatalities in a light twin vs two pax in a wide body; the ultimate debate is about unknown fatalities - unknowable outcomes, our fears.
This is not an easy debate, probably without solution with current thoughts and processes of safety management; thus time, need to think more widely:-

'The Illusion Of Risk Control'; very relevant in our modern complex world.

https://link.springer.com/book/10.10...-3-319-32939-0

N.B. Aven, chapt 3.0 and Paries 4.0, and conclusion.

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