09 February 2024, by Emily Proctor

The Dutch pilots’ association VNV has criticised plans to introduce single-pilot planes and its members have branded the idea as “unsafe”. The organisation dismissed the idea of scaling back the co-pilot’s role, calling the proposals an “irresponsible and unnecessary gamble with air safety”.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific rumoured to be planning single-pilot operations

Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific is rumoured to be drawing up plans to reduce its crew for long-haul A350 flights to be carried out using a crew of just two pilots, rather than the standard four. This would mean that for the majority of flight operations, just one pilot would be present in the cockpit.

The EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has also commissioned a study into the feasibility of single-pilot planes, which is set to be published in summer 2024. European aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Dassault are already in the process of developing single-pilot aircraft.

EU report to look into ground-based co-piloting

EASA is looking into two scenarios for the future of single-pilot aircraft. Firstly, there is the option of having a co-pilot assisting during take-off and landing but without assisting for the rest of the flight. The other option would see a single pilot fly the plane with support from a colleague on the ground at the airport

Pilots from the VNV argue that this is not a good idea. “What if the pilot suddenly feels unwell? Then you’re glad that there are two pilots up front,” VNV chairman Camiel Verhagen told NOS. “Imagine the pilot needs the toilet. Should they keep an eye on the plane with their trousers around their ankles, or is there nobody at the controls? Taking a pilot out of the cockpit won’t improve any safety issues; in fact it will create one”, Verhagen added.

Thumb image credit: Jordan Tan / Shutterstock.com

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