"One pilot in the cockpit of the Airbus A350" - an Airbus and Cathay Pacific project

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Cathay Pacific is working with Airbus to introduce long-haul courier flights. Specifically, we want a single pilot in the cabin, after the aircraft has reached cruising level.

The program, known to Airbus as Project Connect, aims to certify the A350 single-pilot aircraft during high-altitude flight, starting in 2025. For starters, Cathay Pacific would be the first airline interested in this project.

Lufthansa was involved in the project, but does not currently intend to use it, a spokesman for the German carrier told Reuters. Cathay Pacific Airways confirmed its involvement, but said no decision had been made on a possible deployment.

A single pilot in the cockpit of an Airbus A350

The idea is simple! Currently, on very long flights there are two or even three crews of pilots, who alternate the rest periods with the wake periods and in the cockpit there are always two pilots. If the project is certified, the very long flights could be operated with a single crew, the pilots alternating the rest breaks with the old ones and thus remaining a single pilot in the cockpit during the flight.

This project promises savings for airlines, amid uncertainty over the post-pandemic period. But it will certainly face resistance from pilots already affected by mass layoffs and safety issues regarding aircraft automation.

The vital signs of the solo pilot must be monitored by the cockpit systems

The idea is not bad, but the authorities and airlines must monitor the pilots, not compromise on safety and security and all the vital signs of the solo pilot must be monitored by the cockpit systems. If the flight encounters a problem or the flying pilot is unable to perform his duties, the second pilot at rest may be called in a few minutes. Both will be present in the cockpit for take-off and landing procedures.

But there have been many incidents in fractions of a second and then the question is whether they can be prevented and controlled by a single pilot until the activation of the second pilot, who is at rest. Or what will happen if the solo pilot manages to block the systems and the colleague's access to the cockpit? Let's remember the Germanwings case. How can such deliberate behaviors and actions of pilots be prevented?

Airbus has redesigned the autopilot on the A350

Airbus has redesigned the A350's autopilot, and the system could help the pilot handle any problems. But can we have 100% confidence in automation and excessive cockpit technology? It is true that during the flight there are moments when only one pilot remains in the cockpit, but the periods are short.

Industry sources said that the systems developed by Airbus should automatically handle any unforeseen situation for 15 minutes without the intervention of the pilot, and this cannot be guaranteed by anyone.

It is clear that all these projects are focused on financial savings for airlines and are based more on automated processes, but what do we do with flight safety and security?

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