Cathay Pacific (0293.HK) is working with Airbus (AIR.PA) to introduce "reduced crew" long-haul flights with a sole pilot in the cockpit much of the time, industry sources told Reuters.
The programme, known within Airbus as Project Connect, aims to certify its A350 jet for single-pilot operations during high-altitude cruise, starting in 2025 on Cathay passenger flights, the sources said.
An overview on the tech/rationale:
Safe deployment will require constant monitoring of the solo pilot's alertness and vital signs by on-board systems, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has said.
If the flight encounters a problem or the pilot flying is incapacitated, the resting copilot can be summoned within minutes. Both remain in the cockpit for take-off and landing.
"Typically on long-haul flights when you're at cruise altitude there's very little happening in the cockpit," EASA chief Patrick Ky told a German press briefing in January.
"It makes sense to say OK, instead of having two in the cockpit, we can have one in the cockpit, the other one taking a rest, provided we're implementing technical solutions which make sure that if the single one falls asleep or has any problem, there won't be any unsafe conditions."
Airbus has designed an A350 autopilot upgrade and flight warning system changes to help a lone pilot manage failures, sources close to the project said.
The mid-sized plane is suitable because of its "emergency descent" feature that quickly reduces altitude without pilot input in the event of cabin depressurisation.
Ref: https://www.reuters.com/business/aerosp ... 2021-06-16
The article also goes through LH's involvement in the program and safety concerns that are being voiced by pilot groups and others.
I've been posting about single pilot operations for a while now. I'm kinda surprised to see this could happen in a major pax fleet such as CX's A350s as soon as 2025. I would have thought it would have come in via cargo operators first, but it seems the lure of cutting pilots off the roster is too high for the industry to resist. I guess there is just too much money being left on the table via reduced staffing possibilities that is has developed enough inertia to reach this point even in the current jittery safety-conscious environment. The pilots reaction was 100% predictable: raise the spectre of MCAS v2, even though this is an EASA initiative.