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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."


Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

De-Crewing the Aircraft

Research Update:

I am flying to Hong Kong today, and will have the chance to work with my statistics partner on our project to reduce the total time requirement of 1500 hours during my layover.  However, for my other class, Future Trends in Aviation I have read an interesting book... Innovations in Aeronautics


Researchers are promoting single pilot operations:

"With Judicious use of a range of technologies developed during the past decade there are not major reasons why a single-pilot-operated aircraft is not feasible" 

Voice your opinion: 
Why do you think we need at least two pilots?

40 comments:

  1. Yesterday's AA divert into Syracuse for a deceased pilot in the cockpit is a strong argument for a butt in the right hand seat.

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    1. Yes! But this will be in alignment with Drones, and technology from ground supporting it. However, I'm doing my best to make sure this never happens. Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo

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  2. After what happned with the unfortunate captain at the American Air flight this week, I'd say it's good that there are two pilots onboard.

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    1. Yes... but with technology of drones, they will have a back up! So... share this link and we'll make sure this never happens!! Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo

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  3. AA550. Just the latest example of why we need at least two pilots aboard every flight.

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    1. I agree! But with drone technology, they are preparing for the backup plan. However, I'm doing my best to make sure this never happens. Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo

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  4. http://abcnews.go.com/US/american-airlines-pilot-dies-mid-flight/story?id=34262287

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    1. Thanks DB.... But with drone technology, they are preparing for the backup plan. So am I! :) http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo

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  5. we need two pilots because it is safer. The other pilot (pilot monitoring) serves as the extra eye for the pilot flying. He reads the checklist, radios the ATC and serves as an extra eye in case the pilot-flying misses a step. Removing him and living just a single pilot will be disastrous because it is the pilot who will do the flying and the same time be monitoring again and yet still be contacting the ATCs and the passengers. It makes the workload stressful for him and hence affects his performance. You don't want a tired pilot to fly you. That single pilot idea can only work for those flying single engine airplanes like the Cessna 208 or the Pilatus PC12 but not for those flying airplanes like the 737 or the ATR 42

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    1. James, I could not agree with you more!! But with drone technology, they are preparing for the backup plan via technology. However, I'm doing my best to make sure this never happens. Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  6. Pilot dies in flight, co-pilot lands aircraft. I am aware that under normal operating circumstances the front end can be a low work load, but this can also change in a few seconds.

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    1. Yes! It can. But this will be the first step in drones. We'll have one pilot to be a monitor. Strewn with faults and many things that could go wrong. However, I'm doing my best to make sure this never happens. Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  7. Thanks for the suggested reading! Some very recent events may give us one reason to have at least two pilots in the cockpit. Frequent medical exams may ensure that a pilot is fit to fly regarding a set of specific parameters. However, a medical exam can't necessarily predict when a pilot will pass or when a pilot will lose consciousness as we saw this week. A pilot redundancy is a way to maintain the safety of the many passengers aft of the cockpit doors.

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    1. Austin, No kidding!! Both my novels tell why we should not. And... my current novel in progress even more so. They are planning to incorporate drones into this action for a back up. That too is problematic. However, I'm doing my best to make sure this never happens. Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  8. AA #550, UA #1614, both within the last 36 hrs. I have never seen automated system that did not fail at some point. Nothing more needs to be said.

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    1. I just had this discussion with my CA on my flight to Hong Kong. We both could not agree with you more. But, they are posing a pilot shortage, and technology of drones, and NextGen... this is the plan. However, I'm doing my best to make sure this never happens. Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  9. I enjoy flying single-pilot IFR in IMC. It's a challenge, and I don't want to minimizes the task. Personally, I find it relatively easy flying advanced light singles safely as long as regular proficiency is maintained.

    Now, transport-category operations where tons of cargo, passengers, and fuel are involved, I believe the dual-pilot combo should remain.

    In addition to skilled-aviator redundancy, I assume a flight with two aboard increases safety. One, task-management becomes less of a burden. Two, if one is preoccupied with a problem or phase of flight, the other can provide assistance and relief in accomplishing a safe conclusion.

    I'm no pro, but in matters concerning regularly scheduled flights in complex, heavy, fast airplanes around the world... well-rested, highly experienced, and well-paid aviators times two, should be the name-of-the-game.

    GO Karlene!

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    1. No kidding on all accounts. And... how will we take bathroom breaks? Actually, they are plotting this in conjunction with NextGen and drone technology. The pilot will be the back up if something goes wrong. And... I'm doing my best to make sure this never happens. Also... novels three and four will be down this path too! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  10. A pilot died of a heart attack the other day on american airlines...a little bit of a problem if he was alone..

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    1. I could not agree more! But, they will implement this with drone technology. However, I'm doing my best to make sure this never happens. Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  11. I understand that we may be reaching a point where it's technologically feasible. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea. Having flown both single pilot and in a crew environment, one common trend it that people all make mistakes. However, in a crew environment those mistakes are almost always caught. By yourself the risks are much higher. And I know there are further arguments that the airplane could then be landed from the ground but what if things go wrong like the pilot dies and there is an electrical failure or air-to-ground communications failure? There's always a potential for things to happen that we don't expect or have never happened before (The US Air Hudson River accident is a great example). I also argue that having flown some of the latest and greatest technology (747-8), that things are not perfect. I came across several scary electronics issues with that airplane. So my question is, what is the benefit of single pilot? Are airlines actually that cheap that they would take that much of a safety hit in order to reduce money spent on pilots? And finally, we have no data on how this would really go and what repercussions there would be. And there's no way to get the data without trying it. Based on what I've seen in my short 5000 hours of flying, I will never get in the back of an unmanned airliner, and something would have to really change for me to feel comfortable with only 1 pilot. Again the real question is... why?

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    1. Daniel, the answer is yes, I suspect that they are. This will be a way out, but I think you will see it in your life. The drone technology is there, and the accidents from the ground could have been prevented with a pilot on board, and a pilot incapacitation could be backed up from the ground. This blooming FAA 1500 induced pilot shortage will create a need to do something. Park planes or use the technology to keep them flying. looking forward to talking with you about this! Maybe next month lets compare schedules!! But for now... plan is in progress! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  12. The concept of single crew in the cockpit appeals to bean counters, but no one else.

    Anyone who has flown an aircraft can attest to system failures. When systems fail, workloads go up, sometimes rapidly. Using the "super dispatcher" (someone on the ground to help) may only make things more complicated depending on the system that failed. What the pilot on the aircraft sees may indicate something different than what the instruments are showing, and the person on the ground may be reacting to.

    I don't want to fly on a single crew'd aircraft.

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    1. Tom, so much more goes into decision making with a crew as well, in addition to that backup. Watch, this reduction will come with drone technology... to make the ground the backup. I'm watching it come. So for now, plan in motion to stop it!! Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  13. "This aircraft is fully automated for your safety and convenience. Nothing can go wrong (click) go wrong (click) go wrong........"

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  14. Whilst it may be technically feasible, how many errors does a two (or more) crew operation trap on a typical multi-sector day? Data input errors, wrong mode selections etc. More than a single pilot I’ll bet. Not to say multi pilot crews don’t make errors… it is just more likely that the error will get noticed if the crew utilise effect cross checking monitoring. Also what happens when the single pilot suffers from fatigue? How bad will their performance and vigilance become if there is no one to monitor them?

    How about single pilot workload in abnormal/emergency situations? Advanced technology is great when it works, but I am sure as pilots, most of us have all experienced some technical failures of an automated system at some point in our modern computerised jets.

    If we are going to have just one pilot, why not just have one centrally mounted engine (think of the saving on maintenance!), a twin is more efficient than a quad, so a single must be more efficient than a twin? Why not have just 1 hydraulic system as well? Think of the weight saving! Who needs three? Why bother with FAR/CS-25 requirements? System safety and reliability is not a high enough level to have just one of everything, that’s why, even if the chance of a failure is x 10-6. Having more than one pilot increases reliability and safety. Who was it who said “if you think safety is expensive, try having an accident!”

    (ok there are single pilot ops in areas such as scenic flights, some helicopters, float plane ops etc. how is the accident rate in those areas compared to the airlines in the Europe/America?)

    Pete W

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    1. Peter, I could not agree with you more. Watch what happens first... 4 pilots turn to a crew of three. 3 turn to two. One will monitor while the other breaks. Then when drone technology has a better grip, Two pilots to one and the backup will be on the ground. This is what they are planning, and NextGen is well underway to make this a reality. However, I'm doing my best to make sure this never happens!!! Check this out! http://tinyurl.com/pjoecjo Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  15. Using 'drone' technology exposes passengers to a bunch of new failure scenarios. Not just in on-board radios ("We don't know why the TCAS was turned off" - Embraer over Brazil, 2006) but in ground communication as well. Remember how a problem communicating between centers was a factor in AF447? And in a solar storm, even GPS can be come unreliable, and long distance HF commuication impossible. Just watch the solar weather forecasts by Dr Tamitha Skov on YouTube.

    Pilots can put a stoip to this, if they are willing to stick together, by posing the question to the airlines, "That one pilot you need per airplane; where do you expect to get him? Because it will not be one of us."

    The bean counters have to have it made clear to them that "Death is always an option".

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    1. Yes, it does. There are all sorts of problems that could and will arise. But they are working them out. And, they have answers and solutions for most. In the next paragraph, the same guy mentioned that it's time we integrate UAS into the system too. We just have to make sure it doesn't happen... not in my life. :)
      Thanks for your comment.

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  16. Karlene,

    I have absolutely no issues with a single pilot operation under these stipulations.

    Put a dog next to the pilot. All the pilot has to do is to feed the dog and all the dog has to do is bite the pilot if they try to touch anything important.

    Put the remote control operator 5 feet behind the pilot so if either of them messes up, they both die.

    The cost of my ticket needs to be cut 50% because there is one less pilot on board.

    Do those three things and I am good. Until then, keep it a 2 pilot operation and let the pimple faced kid keep crashing his drones at tennis tournaments.

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    1. Rob, they will continue to crash them, especially since anyone can play with these toys. Sadly, many of the errors are human made, and thus might be a long time to fix them. Multiple levels of safety will fall with this, and thus... just need to postpone as long as possible. Thanks for the comment. And... remember to feed that dog! And never bite back. :)

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  17. Another reason for two: diversity of experience. I doubt a drone, or a low-time 'drone watcher' pilot could have done the Gimli Glider landing, but it was the FO who knew about the presence of the old Air Force runway.

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    1. Paul, I couldn't agree more. But times are changing. 50% of flight spots in the military are being assigned drones. And new pilots are being grown on glass. This world is changing. Thus, we need to create some solid reasons why to keep two, that can't be undisputed. Thank you for your comment!

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  18. What percent of military drone flights are lost due to other than enemy action, as compared to manned flights? Lots of luck getting those stats out of the USAF. Ane the USAF is willing to accept higher losses than commercial aviation.

    New rule for the glass-trained pilots: "if you can't fly a Tiger Moth, you can't fly our airliners."

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    1. The answer to that question is the reason we are not doing this today. But look at the history of crashes... they did not stop flying, they just made the technology better. I'm with you on this. And I love the new rule!!

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  19. A while back I was in Finance for Delta and was one of the people "running the numbers" for all kinds of savings ideas that came up. I would find it hard to believe that they would seriously consider a one pilot system using today's technology. I would also find it hard to believe that the FAA would approve it. While saving money is generally a good thing, safety has to be the number one priority. If you loose the trust of the flying public your doomed as a company. At this point, I for one would never get on a commercial airliner that only had one pilot. Maybe someday in the future the technology will exist to allow different staffing but when all else fails there is nothing better then having another human sitting in the other seat to take over.

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    1. Hi Dave, Thank you for the comment. I would love to talk to you further about this. Email is best. Yes, safety is number one priority, but NextGen is building the infrastructure. I'm not sure if this is a safer, or just a more efficient idea, that they are making safe before implementation. But, first comes the system, then comes the technology to fly these automated systems, followed by reduction in international crews... 4 to 3, 3 to 2. Then when the system is proven, down to one on domestic. Military pilots have been flying single pilot for years, as do many corporate pilots. And this will integrate the drone ability creating the second pilot ability on the ground. But that second pilot will be able to back up ten planes instead of one. Is it safe? or is it safer with two on the plane? We know the answer. But as long as it's "safe" the FAA will buy off on it. Are you still in Finance for Delta? I would love to talk more about this. Thanks so much for your comment!

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  20. Just this week Google Drive had a several hour long outage affecting millions of users. This included no access to Google Docs. Google has one of the best and most reliable collection of datacenters in the world.

    Imagine a similar problem with a ground based drone system, crashing every airliner in the world simultaneously. Who wants to step forward and accept the liability insurance?

    There is a reason why makers of large computer database software, commonly used in banks, still say that their software is not to be used in runnning nuclear power plants or any other system that can directly endanger human lives.

    Many ivory tower 'researchers' have an over-optimistic idea about how reliable this stuff is.

    And on what the FAA thinks is safe, the FAA, by the rules set up by Congress, has two conflicting goals. ONE of them is safety, but the other is to promote the aviation industry. If safety was always the primary concern, they would not allow airlines months or years to comply with changed equipment requirements. If you want a safer system, these two functions have to be separated.

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    1. Paul, I could not agree with you more. There are many issues that are touted safety (AQP) but that has nothing to do but save airlines money. The FAA "negotiated" hours if the airlines would work in CRM into LOFT sessions.... and thus training footprints were shortened. Yes, they were commissioned on behalf of economics, not safety. Now they must assure safety, but not at the expense to airlines. The new definition of safety is not stopping accidents, but mitigating risk. That leaves much room for gray area. Keep the thoughts coming! I will need your support when the time comes to take a stand.

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