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Airbus: Planning to fly with a single pilot?


Airbus is moving ahead with a project to allow long-haul jetliners, such as its A350, to fly long stretches with only one pilot in the cockpit, and it has at least two airline partners interested in the idea.

Called Project Connect, it would reduce crew requirements for super long-distance flights that now require three or four pilots to keep a captain and first officer in the cockpit throughout the flight. The Airbus scheme would use enhanced automation to allow two pilots to take turns being 'on duty.'

Airbus has partnered with Cathay Pacific Airlines, which hopes to implement it by 2025, and Lufthansa has also been part of the discussions. Neither airline is sounding very warm about it, however. Lufthansa says it has no plans to use it, and Cathay says "While we are engaging with Airbus in the development of the concept of reduced crew operations, we have not committed in any way to being the launch customer."

The airlines' cautious approach, despite the obvious potential savings, is likely based on two factors: At best, it will be an uphill battle to gain approval from national airline regulators, and may also trigger a strong pushback from passengers who have become accustomed to the safety that appears to be connected to full crews.

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