Earlier in 2021, word got out that Airbus is exploring, along with Cathay Pacific, the option to introduce “reduced crew” long-haul flights, with a single pilot in the cockpit most of the times. Internally known as Project Connect inside Airbus, the move to single-pilot operations could mean that long-haul flights could be staffed with lesser pilots in the flight deck, with two pilots instead of 3-4 pilots which are needed to staff these flights currently.
Airbus receives first order for the A350 Freighter
Airbus today, at the Dubai Airshow, received the first order for the A350F, the freighter version of the A350 aircraft from US lessor AirLease. The A350F, which was announced by Airbus earlier this year, will be able to transport 109 tonne payload, and is going to be competition to the Boeing 777F programme, which is the most successful freighter programme ongoing for now.
At the AirLease order press briefing, Guillame Faury, Airbus CEO mentioned that the A350F, with its mid-decade entry-into-service target, will be in the right place to explore single-pilot operations. However, he did mention that Airbus is not necessarily “connecting” the development of the A350F specificially with these concepts.
The European aviation regulator, EASA is currently studying single-pilot operations, and the various aspects that need to be addressed to make it work. This study would include issues such as crew rest.
For now, it seems far off where one pilot could operate the flight end to end alone, but this move could cut down the need for the spare pilot to start with. Will the freighter programme look like a good testbed for this? Perhaps.
Airbus says that the A350F programme could be in a good place to start putting in the single-pilot operations. If this would happen, it could potentially be the case where both pilots don’t have to be in the flight deck during the cruise phase of the flight. However, this is still an indication of the thinking inside the company and not a decision passed on by the company yet.
What do you think of airplane which could fly with a single pilot? And what do our pilot readers think about this line of thinking?
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