If you stepped onto an aircraft for passengers in 1950 and looked inside the cabin, you’d have seen five people in the cockpit (almost definitely men), including two pilots as well as a radio operator, an engineer, and a navigator. Engineer.
As time passed, technological advancements in radio communications and navigation systems and monitoring systems onboard gradually eliminated the requirement for the previous three, allowing to fly a safe passenger plane using just two pilots. It has been the standard of commercial aircraft for around 30 years.
However, shortly, the process could be further streamlined with one of the remaining pilots — who is technical, the first officer be gone, leaving just the Captain. A lot of smaller military and civilian aircraft are already operated by a single pilot; however, for commercial aviation, this could mean stepping into an entirely new realm.
“The change from a 2-pilot cockpit single-pilot operations will be a lot more difficult as compared to the transitions from a five-person cabin to a two-person cockpit” is the conclusion of a 2014 study of single-pilot operations conducted by NASA who has been conducting studies on the subject for more than ten years. However, according to the study, a well-designed switch can “provide operational cost savings while still ensuring security that is comparable to conventional 2-pilot operation in commercial settings. “But what is the best way to eliminate one pilot? One option is to improve the efficiency of the cockpit by delegating more work to computers. Another option is to transfer the same duties from the cockpit onto the ground, with the pilot serving as part of the “distributed team.”
The second option is more practical at the very least in the short term since a lot of the information that is needed to implement it is already in place. “Technologically, it’s possible to claim that many situations we’re already in place,” says Patrick Smith, an airline pilot. He is flying Boeing 767 aircraft and is the author of the well-known books and blogs “Ask for the Pilot. “”But in doing this,” he continues, “you get rid of certain redundancies. I’m not happy dealing with this, as I fly aircraft to earn a living, and with two pilots inside the cockpit, things could become extremely hectic — to the point that there is task saturation for both.”
In one scenario, suggested by NASA, the pilot in the cockpit could be assisted by a “super dispatcher” at the ground level A trained pilot who could supervise a variety of flights wholly and simultaneously control the plane remotely should it be required if, for instance, the pilot in the cockpit becomes incapacity.
Another alternative is to use the “harbor pilot,” who is also a certified pilot but specialized in a particular airport, who may assist multiple planes arriving and departing from the airport.NASA had conducted tests on the setups using Pilots and crew members from actual aircraft into separate rooms before they were presented with challenging flying conditions on the Boeing 737 simulator.
The pilots all managed to land their planes successfully. Still, the study found a “significant increase in workload” compared to standard two-crew flights, resulting in “subjective evaluations of performance and safety being substantially lowered.” In addition, the inability to discern the visual cues of the other pilot could result in confusion or confusion about the tasks that were completed or not. Having just one pilot on the plane could reduce costs for airlines but only if new ground operators and the latest automation don’t cost additional, NASA says. A few extra savings could come from lighter or smaller cockpits used in the future of aircraft.
Another option is to use a single-pilot operation with a single pilot, but only on long-haul flights. These currently have a third driver, who assumes the role when the other two rest.
In this scenario, three pilots would then be eliminated. The remaining two pilots are expected to continue operating normally for takeoff and landing; however, they would take breaks in alternating intervals during the cruise phase during the course.
“In this scenario, it’s a transition between two and a single pilot in certain types of flight,” says Smith. “But in other modes of flight, and if required, there will have at minimum two pilots. So I’m willing to talk to them about it and am a lot more open to this discussion than eliminating a pilot completely.”