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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 22nd Nov 2022, 16:07
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Aviation regulators push for more automation so flights can be run by a single pilot

Regulators are pushing the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to examine ways of making single pilot operations the eventual norm in commercial flights.

In a working paper [PDF] filed with the aviation standards body, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) requested on behalf of member states that the "necessary enablers" be created "for a safe and globally harmonized introduction of commercial air transport (CAT) operations of large aeroplanes with optimised crew/single-pilot operations while ensuring an equivalent or higher level of safety compared to that achieved in current operations."
https://www.theregister.com/2022/11/21/pilot_single/
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 17:10
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Well that won't happen any time soon. Less pilots can never offer a greater safety margin.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 17:36
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That would be fewer pilots - in several accidents I'm not sure that having two pilots was of benefit. These crashes seemed to depend heavily on the assumption by one pilot that the other pilot was doing some action and the other pilot doing the same, with neither doing the correct thing. PIA8303, for example, where the PIC had essentially committed to slamming it down, and the FO thought they were going around when he retracted the gear. Without the FO action it would have been significantly different.

What I would expect is a slight increase in the number of flights where the lone pilot fell asleep.

Overall it doesn't seem to me like a large positive action to reduce the number of pilots in a plane, regardless of special cases where it wasn't. It's very difficult to determine when things went right only because there were two and I'm not keen to find that number out by having those accidents with one.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 18:58
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I agree that there are examples of more than one not being helpful or not working together as intended. But the entire aviation safety system is based on redundancy and in the cockpit where it matters most they want to go single pilot? There are many incidents where even three persons could barely handle what was going on. Whenever things go crazy more than one is needed. A cabin attendant to help won't be enough.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 19:25
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Originally Posted by rudestuff View Post
Well that won't happen any time soon. Less pilots can never offer a greater safety margin.
I fully agree with you but caution the usage of English in such matters.

"less pilots" means with none. ie 'without pilots'. I'm sure you didn't intend that.

"Fewer pilots" would mean less than x - when usually x=2....
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 19:51
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What's wrong with no (0) pilots? We are already crashing aeroplanes semi regularly with 2-3 pilots on board, so long as the accident rate (level of safety) remains constant what difference does it make?

Unless you are advocating for a zero accident rate, which is an impossible dream for crewed operations,.....why are we setting the safety bar higher for uncrewed ops? (or less crewed ops)

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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 19:51
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There may well be cases where having differing opinions between flight crew members resulted in a crash/hull loss/etc, but that doesn't mean that we should never have two pilots. People are always quick to point out where pilots have made errors, but what we don't hear about is how many times having two pilots *avoided* an accident - ie where one made an error that was caught by the other. (The same argument applies for wanting pilotless aircraft - where the aircraft couldn't handle a situation/suffered failures/etc and one or more of the pilots saved the day). A bit like the old 'where do we need armour on our warplanes?' story. People are quick to say 'where all the bullet holes are!" or "pilots cause (X) number of crashes" but the reality may well be 'where the bullet holes *aren't*" - 'pilots prevent (Y) times MORE crashes'
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 20:29
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My point wasn't about pilots making errors. They do and they will continue to do so.

The point was, if one pilot, or no pilots, can be shown to have the same error rate than multi pilot, then what difference does it make?

Or is the safety bar higher for less crewed/uncrewed ops than it is for multi crew operations? If it is, why?

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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 20:32
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Originally Posted by alphacentauri View Post
What's wrong with no (0) pilots? We are already crashing aeroplanes semi regularly with 2-3 pilots on board, so long as the accident rate (level of safety) remains constant what difference does it make?

Unless you are advocating for a zero accident rate, which is an impossible dream for crewed operations,.....why are we setting the safety bar higher for uncrewed ops? (or less crewed ops)

Alpha
Very wrong reasoning to think only about accidents that were created by pilots while omitting all the accidents that didn't happen thanks to pilots.
The latter are far more frequent.
Automation bugs happen really frequently.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 20:36
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Automation is the biggest business in town at the moment. Whether it be picking, packing and delivering your latest Amazon purchase, non-driver Uber cabs or drone technology.
I think it's inevitable as the power of computers and AI increases that humans are taken out of the loop. Why not aircraft? We already have autonomous trains.
I think I read somewhere that USAAF drones fly with an almost perfect safety record.
The Mars probes are effectively autonomous due to the delay between here and Earth and then there is the latest Moon lander tests.

Would I be happy to fly on a pilotless aircraft? No. But then people thought they would die of asphyxiation on a train.
Eventually attitudes change.

Skynet anyone?
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 20:45
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This needs to be called for what it is. It's about money & distraction.

Money. While the regulators may be calling for more automation, it'll be the airlines calling for less pilots. The airlines know single pilots ops "will never fly", the regulators and public opinion will see to that. What they do want is less pilots per flight. Instead of augmented crews on long haul flights, the airlines want a 2 pilot crew with both pilots on the deck for take-off & landing - the cruise will be single pilot while the other is in the CRC. There's a potential 33%-50% saving in crew costs on all long haul flights. Job done, back slaps & bonuses all round.
Distraction. While the media will give this oxygen, there'll be push-back from the punters and the airlines will suddenly "listen to the people" and announce they are ditching the single pilot idea and that there will always be 2 pilots in the cockpit, what they won't say is that there will only ever be 2 pilots on the aircraft, irrespective of sector length.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 21:01
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This will happen. Maybe not soon, but it is the next logical step. The step after will be pilotless aircraft. Again not soon, as in our lifetimes, but it will happen. It wonít take more than a generation or 2 (up to 50 years) for public perception to switch to trusting automation over manned crew. Once they are fully used to everything in their lives being automated. There are already over 1400 self driving cars in the US. Over the next 20 years I see that being the majority of all cars.

There will still be accidents, but I think it will be the same or slightly lower than crewed aircraft by the time it happens. It will start with cargo, then the military, then commercial.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 21:10
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Envoy in the USA just had a flight out of ORD where the captain had a heart attack just on rotation. The line check pilot flew a wide pattern and landed back in ORD. Sadly, the captain did not make it. My condolences to the family. This is why you have 2 pilots at the controls.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 21:25
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Instead of single pilot cockpits it would make more sense to pair a two man cockpit with unmanned "slaves", like an unmanned freighter, that follows in automated formation distance (maybe in goose formation style for drag avoidance?) and that can be remotely controlled by the manned master aircraft and handed over to some drone landing team close to destination. Sort of the best of both worlds but not the worst like one pilot only for everybody.
Convincing the flying public will be a major hurdle.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 21:33
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Itís already being done. Airbus delivery flights from Blagnac for more then one carrier are trialing the Airbus single pilot concept.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 21:34
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And here's another good reason why we should never have single pilot cockpits. I doubt automation would help in this situation.

Captain suffers Heart Attack on takeoff | Emergency Return to O'Hare



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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 21:46
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Originally Posted by MENELAUS View Post
It’s already being done. Airbus delivery flights from Blagnac for more than one carrier are trialing the Airbus single pilot concept.
Would you care to elaborate what you mean please?
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 21:49
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My questions are these:

*if there is one pilot and the rest of the automated systems are designed by humans, do we really free ourselves from human error? Have a look at the QF72 for example.

*further to that, if the PIC is responsible under the legislation can they rid themselves of the automation if deemed necessary? If not do we charge the software designers, engineers, risk assessors and ultimately boards of the companies that will inevitably fail us?
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 21:59
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Originally Posted by Less Hair View Post
Would you care to elaborate what you mean please?

Full delivery crew available but only one pilot and the airbus observer present in the cockpit at any one time. For the cruise only so far. And not over the PRC because of terrain etc and [email protected] ATC. Aircraft controlled via datalink essentially from Toulouse. Early days yet but it is certainly being trialed on delivery flights. And doesnít take a genius to work out the airlines involved.
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Old 22nd Nov 2022, 22:30
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Very wrong reasoning to think only about accidents that were created by pilots while omitting all the accidents that didn't happen thanks to pilots.
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....

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