Safety Concerns Raised Over Commercial Airline Single-Pilot Operation

Some cash-strapped airlines are looking to cut corners by getting rid of flight crews, and instead taking to the skies with only a single pilot.

Commercial planes in the future are likely to have a much smaller cockpit. That's because many airlines are cutting back on flight crews. Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific is teaming up with Airbus to create a single-pilot operation for long-haul flights. Aviation expert Jay Ratliff says the move has led to debate within the industry.

“A lot of people in management and on the airline manufacturing side will say so much of the aircraft right now is automated that one pilot can safely navigate it, and of course, you have people like me that say it’s always nice to have a redundant or a back-up system in the event you have a medical emergency with the single pilot,” Ratliff said.

Many airlines are facing a problem right now. There's a boom in travel demand as more Americans are vaccinated, but there’s a shortage of qualified aviators. Pilot unions say the move towards a single-pilot operation is nothing more than an attempt to cut overhead costs.

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