One means none
Don’t get on board with single pilot flights

What is the problem?

Airlines and airplane manufacturers want to reduce the number of pilots flying a plane from 2 to 1. However, relying on one pilot is not enough as flying with just one pilot is like flying on a pilotless flight.

Can planes fly
with 1 pilot?

Planes, especially large commercial ones, require multiple pilots for safe flying. Flight safety relies on a team of pilots sharing tasks and working together. Their roles include flying the plane, monitoring the flight, managing automation, and addressing any risks in a complex and changing environment. If a pilot becomes incapacitated or unwell, there would be no one else in the cockpit to swiftly take control. Reduced Crew Operations (RCO) are a gamble with your safety.

Can automation
replace a pilot
?

Automation on a plane requires humans to programme and manage it effectively. And, it often fails. Two pilots work as a team, they serve as a critical safety net, monitoring systems, detecting errors, and mitigating potential hazards before they escalate. 

Planes are also equipped with multiple backups – like two engines, two generators, two hydraulic systems, two navigation receivers. This redundancy is key to maintaining today’s impressive safety record. If one system fails, another kicks in. The same applies for pilots: if one gets sick or needs to use the bathroom, another one must swiftly take over.

Who & why are they
pushing for this?

Airlines and plane manufacturers like Airbus and Dassault hope to sell more aircraft than their competitors. In particular, airlines are pushing to replace pilots with automation to reduce personnel costs and possibly increase their profits. While this serves their commercial interest, it will not make flights any cheaper for passengers.

Who can
stop this?

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is considering allowing single pilot flights, under pressure from manufacturers and airlines. It is up to all of us – passengers & crew – to stand against this move and protect our safety.

Tell us what you think about flying with only 1 pilot in the cockpit!

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Risks related to Single Pilot Flights

Safety risks
Single-pilot flights bring safety risks due to:
  • Lower situational awareness
  • Heightened pilot workload for pilot & cabin crew
  • Absence of redundancy
  • Lack of mutual cross-checks between the two pilots
  • No safety backup
  • Psychologically draining flights
  • Decision-making overload for the single pilot

Security risks

Pilots often deal with in-flight security issues related to:

  • Airspace
  • Airport events
  • Unruly passengers (potentially with malicious intent)
  • Vulnerabilities in aviation infrastructure (including cybersecurity threats and (in-flight) security issues)

How can a single pilot deal with all this while safely flying?

Operational challenges

Pilots encounter operational challenges during all phases of the flight arising from:

  • Directions from air traffic control
  • Weather conditions
  • Equipment malfunction
  • Airport congestion
  • Flight diversions
  • Issues with passengers (including frequent medical emergencies).

Having two trained pilots in the cockpit doubles the chances of successfully navigating critical situations and ensuring passenger, crew & cargo safety.

What do pilots & passengers have to say?

As a passenger, it scares me the fact one pilot could manage a hard scenario, including weather, busy airport and maybe a malfunction of the aircraft with 200 people on board. Not good!...

Alexander, passenger

This shouldn't come to pass. In any system, redundancy is a layer of protection. Peeling these layers from five crew members to just one is one step too far, because as it eliminates crucial human backup.

Américo Cruces, 2ndFirst Officer

As an aircraft mechanic, it's deeply disturbing to hear about the attempted reduction in the most important redundant safety system - the pilots....

Beckett Badland, aircraft mechanic

As I pilot, I think they are loosing their mind. Only looking for the money, not for the safety. If the pilot becomes incapacitated what? Is ridiculous......

Eduardo Arroyo, pilot

Can the manufacturers convince the pilots first? This is simply the most aeronautical nonsense and non safety idea of all time.

Elson Gomes, First Officer TAP Air Portugal

Economy placed before safety. Not the best decision in time critical complex enviroments like a cockpit....

Jesus Lopez, passengers

Who will take command and monitor the flight on bathroom breaks? Who will take over on a cargo flight when this single pilot is suddenly incapacitated?...

Joan Villarroya Rafols

As a passenger, I am worried and against this move !

Manon Ress, Passenger

A single pilot could become incapacitated, fatigued or simply overwhelmed in an emergency at 35,000 ft and 950 km/h....

Nilton Mesquita da Cruz

It's likely that Airbus is already considering plans to repurpose the cockpit jump seat into a multirole toilet or additional seating for the single pilot during cruise. We've witnessed a significant reduction in crew size over the years, from five individuals including a navigator, radio operator, and flight engineer, down to just the captain and first officer. However, this is a crucial line we shouldn't cross. Personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable flying as a passenger on a long-range aircraft where only one pilot is left alone for hours on end.

Pablo Alvarez, Airline Captain at Cargolux Airlines

I'm a purser and I don't REALLY want to work up in an aircraft with only one pilot. After 27 years flying I've been through several situations that have required the teamwork of two......

Pilar Melgarejo, purser

Insanity, what is the point of this? We currently consider the incapacitation of one pilot, leading to single-pilot operation in a transport category aircraft, an emergency situation. What is the reason behind this push for the removal of a layer of safety?

Tawanda Chieza, B737NG/MAX | B777/787 | LTC/LCC | Flight Safety Officer

Campaign Materials

Why having 2 pilots in every flight phase is crucial?
18 June 2024 Poster

Why having 2 pilots in every flight phase is crucial?

Pilots are the guardians of the skies, adeptly handling safety, security, and operational risks with a blend of situational awareness and experience. Imagine navigating the ever-changing landscape of...
Reduced Crew Operations explained
18 October 2023 Video

Reduced Crew Operations explained

One concept currently being developed by manufacturers is called Extended Minimum Crew Operations #eMCO. This practice would routinely reduce the number of #pilots required on the flight deck during o...
The Human and the concepts of Extended Minimum Crew Operations and Single Pilot Operations
20 July 2021 Position Paper

The Human and the concepts of Extended Minimum Crew Operations and Single Pilot Operations

Introduction Aviation is the safest transportation system in history by learning from its mistakes and a constant process of improving flight safety standards. Building on the knowledge and exper...

In the news

Plans for planes to be flown with one pilot in cockpit labelled ‘gamble with safety’
17 May 2024

Plans for planes to be flown with one pilot in cockpit labelled ‘gamble with safety’

European pilots criticize plans to reduce flight deck crew to one pilot during long stretches, citing safety risks. The EU Aviation Safety Agency is evaluating the extended Minimum Crew Operations (eMCO) concept, which aims to balance pilot working and resting times on long-range flights.

A united front

About ECA

The European Cockpit Association (ECA) is the voice of European pilots within the European Union. It represents over 40,000 pilots from national pilot associations across 33 European states, with 3 Associate Members. ECA advocates for enhancing aviation safety and promotes social rights and quality employment for pilots in Europe.

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