The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) is warning against single-pilot flights, arguing they compromise safety. The UN body that sets aviation standards has been asked by more than 40 nations to help make single-pilot flights a reality by as early as 2027.
AIPA President and Qantas A330 Training Captain Tony Lucas warned a single pilot could become overwhelmed in an emergency. “The people going down this route aren’t the people who fly jets every day. When things go awry, they go awry fairly quickly,” he said. “The best safety mechanism we have is two well-trained, well-rested pilots flying the aircraft.”
Lucas said single-pilot flying would also limit training and knowledge-transfer opportunities and negatively impact pilot fatigue and mental health. Lucas backed legendary Qantas captain Kevin Sullivan who warned against single pilot flights on Thursday. “The authorities would benefit from listening to well-respected pilots like Captain Sullivan, who know first hand how multiple pilots working together can save lives,” he said.
Whether single-pilot operations will ever come to pass or make it through various regulators is in doubt, at least according to the director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Willie Walsh, IATA’s head, told reporters in December that debate over single-pilot operations will continue for many years. As a former pilot, Walsh said that while he would happily fly in an aircraft operated by a single pilot, given he could “take over if necessary”, the debate on the issue is likely to “go on for some time”.
“I don’t expect to see a move to single-pilot operation, if ever, but certainly I don’t see it in the next 15-20, even 25 years,” Walsh said.