What your forgetting is all the times a pilot makes a suggestion to do something inappropriate, out of inexperience or ignorance, and a more senior pilot on the flight deck says “we won’t be doing that for this reason”. And the junior pilot says “oh OK didn’t know that” and the flight carries on uneventfully. Go to single pilot and you’ve removed that layer of safety.
That probably happens multiple times per day worldwide yet never makes a newspaper, an incident report, even a company report. There’s far more to aviation safety than the few incidents that attract attention.
We're not talking about single pilot from takeoff to landing...
And neither was I. All those incidents I’m thinking of would refer to an incident in cruise on a long haul flight.
Lots of times there’s only one pilot up the front for sustained periods of time. I’ve been a passenger on two-crew 747s to New York where I’ve been friends with the first officer and they’ve come back and hung out in the galley for 20 mins. My good buddy’s first flight on the 777 was to Mauritius which is a three person crew trip, and still managed to be alone for about half an hour, one in the bunk and the other guy had his wife onboard or similar and was down the back socialising. And this was his first ever sector on a new type (and his first widebody). Reality is, it’s routine for a long haul pilot to be up there alone.
Yeah it’s not uncommon to go back and have a leg stretch and stand up in a well lit environment and have a quick chat. It’s about maintaining physical and emotional health.
But the difference is that pilot is awake and cognitively functioning, so if a situation arises the pilot in watch can cal the other pilot back and they’ll be there in seconds, ready to deal with that situation.
A pilot in the bunk in deep sleep is 30mins-1hr away from being cognitive and functioning.
There also cruise situations where two pilots would be on duty, crossing a line of weather, high traffic environment, over high terrain where depressurisation escape procedures are in force, inflight rerouting and weather/fuel assessment.
This thread is full of people saying how easy it is to automate someone’s job without really knowing the details of that job. It’s more than being there for dire emergencies, you’d be surprised at the amount of work that needs to be performed on a relatively quiet long haul flight cruise portion.
There’s another factor as well everyone who has never done this job is missing, albeit I wouldn’t say it’s the most important factor. The cruise is where “the knowledge” is shared, stories are swapped, discussion of incidents is had, advice given. The learning process for a junior pilot is far more than in a simulator, put them up there alone and that disappears. There is a human factor that most posters here are missing, the moulding process for a truly competent pilot is dependent on good oversight and mentoring. You can’t solely create a good pilot by technical means, nor replace their experience by technical means.
It’s easy to understand the technical aspects of flying, which is why we’re discussing MTBF, EDTO redundancy, Autoflight control systems etc. But the human aspect is more difficult to understand especially if you aren’t in the career.