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The Features Of Single Pilot Operations

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Concepts reasoning

The aviation world is an ever-progressing industry always looking to become more efficient in all facets. However, the commercial airline field runs a fine line with development while also protecting the integral safety of the industry is essential. One aspect the airlines have looked to become more profitable and efficient is the amount of pilot in the aircraft. Overtime the number of pilots has reduced from 5-6 pilots with sometimes having a flight engineer to now 2 pilot in majority of routes and flights. Paying pilots is one of the biggest overheads for a commercial airline, so reducing the number of pilots on flight deck would allow for airlines to become more profitable and thus focus on other areas of the business. The flight crew often represents the highest area of direct running expenses (e.g., 25%) for the airlines (Norman, 2007). However, having two pilots on the flight deck provides a feeling of security and safety to the customers specifically due to incidents in the past where not having two pilots in the flight deck at once has resulted in catastrophic disasters i.e Germanwings Flight. In this report will outlie the overall outlook for this development but also the ambiguous journey SPO operations will undergo in terms of scrutiny and checks and balances to become achievable.

Innovation and Types of Aviation autonomy

In terms of autonomy and making the industry more efficient. The aviation bodies are looking a different type of autonomy which look at reducing the workload for pilot in the cockpit, the automation needs to be developed so that a single pilot can fly the aircraft without the aid of a second human operator. Whether this comes in the form of the aircraft becoming fully autonomous and the pilot monitoring the overall landscape of the operations or the plane being autonomous to the point where no second pilot is needed however the pilot is required conduct other procedures.

One concept that has provided a bright light in regard to SPO success is ATTOL by Airbus which is a extension to the base abilities of a standard autopilot. ATTOL using a vision-based system in order to successfully take-off a A350-1000. With only power input and runway alignment the requirements of the pilot. ATTOL uses image recognition technology with the use of cameras in order to achieve the take-off and rotate. The cameras are able to identify the centreline of the runway and maintain its position on the centreline throughout the duration of the take-off. Although this does not make a second pilot in cockpit redundant, the concept behind ATTOL provides evidence that autonomy can be adapted to normal cockpit operations and thus be. Expanded upon.

Another concept that has come to the forefront of autonomy is the Safe Return Emergency Autoland System by Garmin When activated, it finds the nearest suitable airport, develops flight path that navigates the terrain and identifies any bad weather, while also communicatin with air traffic control, and autonomously configure the aircraft onto the runway and to a complete stop manipulating the throttle and the brakes. This specifically designed for pilot in capitation when in single pilot operations. The Autoland also has the ability to activate when its detects that input in the controls from the pilot is null for a certain amount of time, this can be specifically targeted to situations for example all aeroplane occupants suffer hypoxia and are unconscious. Although this only been trailed in small aircraft such as the Cirrus Vision Jet, it also provides answers to many safety questions in oppose to SPO operations.

Human factors considerations

Although the technological advances of the world of aviation autonomy is truly exciting and one that commercial airlines would love to incorporate in order to create SPO’s in their industry, there are many Human factors considerations that must be made in order for SPO’s to be safe and effective. First, we need to look at the role of the pilot second in-command or the one who’s role is being viewed to be made inept from the cockpit.

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What would the. Landscape of the overall operations. Look. Like with a single pilot in the cockpit. Currently in the two pilot cockpit system it allows for workload to be shared while also having sets of eyes to monitor each other’s actions, but they also provide a relief of stress bestowed on one pilot due to high workload and also allow both pilots to be relived of monotony being left alone which is shown by A study conducted by (Mary L. Cummings, Alex Stimpson and Michael Clamann) where commercial airline pilots were interviewed to gather data about necessity of the second pilots role. With having a high workload and relative sense of boredom the Single Pilots level of vigilance that is required with the overall demand of being a Single Pilot operator would reduce dramatically especially on long-haul international flights which is can be justified (Norman Mackworth 1948). A way in which Pilot can sustain alertness and be more vigilant throughout the duration of the flight is to enable the autopilot to be disengaged allowing for the single pilot to perform a variety of tasks, allowing them to feel like they are actually needed in cockpit to do something rather then sit and monitor autopilot and its performance.

One of the main concerns with SPO operations is the security and safety of the overall aircraft and its passengers. Allowing one single pilot be in control of the aircraft could be catastrophic when the pilot’s mental state becomes an issue as seen in (Germanwings flight).

Another past event example that has created a stigma with autonomy with flying passengers is Boeing 737 max-8 crashes, these crashes show what could happen when certain parts of the. Autopilot system have control of the aircraft. Recent past events such as these have placed anxiety in both anxiety in passengers and airlines seeing numerous policies with regards to have two pilots in the cockpit at all times. In order for autonomy to be successful there has to be a feature where no one human or autopilot has full control of the aircraft, where either the autonomy of the plane is able to be disengaged, and there is another pilot or operator outside of the cockpit to be a firewall in case in catastrophic event is imminent without action.

Certain concepts designed at overcoming Human factor difficulties

A way in which companies are looking into overcoming these certain human factor hurdles is through ground base concepts. First Officer be situated in a ground base and is able to support the Pilot in the cockpit when requested. This allows for their to be pilot gradient which is normally the case in a standard Captain to First officer layout, this allows for checks and balances to be performed while also having the First officer relieve the captain of any unnesscary workload. A concept of this ground operational concept is the Harbour Pilot which is showed in Bilimoria, K.D., Johnson, W.W., and Schutte ramework for single pilot operations, where a harbour pilot would occupy and have specialist knowledge in certain airspace and geographical areas such as i.e Inner Melbourne CBD class A airspace. These Harbour pilots would allow for a great deal of speacilization for each pilot due to having only a certain area to focus on.


While the world of autonomy provides another avenue for the commercial aviation sector to develop and evolve, the overall success of implementation is profoundly impacted by the human factors aspect tied to operating such any form of SPO. While innovation such as ATTOL and Safe return emergency Autoland system has provided partial autonomy there is still a long way in development of these technologies in order to become to the point where single pilot can fly the aircraft without the aid of a second human operator. In order to accommodate for the concerns of safety and pilots vigilance decrement due to monitoring of the autonomy of the plane, there has to be more innovation and concepts in order to furfill these needs. If SPO operations were to be implemented in would run a fine line with accommodating for the economic benefit while satisfying the human factor concept.

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The Features Of Single Pilot Operations. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from
“The Features Of Single Pilot Operations.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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