By 2025, Cathay Pacific will operate single-pilot Airbus A350 flights

By 2025, Cathay Pacific will operate single-pilot Airbus A350 flights

Beginning in 2025, Cathay Pacific will offer single-pilot Airbus A350 flights. The new idea would allow long-haul flights to be operated by a single pilot for the most of the flight’s duration, decreasing the number of crew members required. The function could be available by 2025 if testing and certification go smoothly. However, there are a few key obstacles to overcome first.

Drawing closer

According to Reuters, Cathay Pacific has begun working with Airbus to develop long-haul flight operations that will require only one pilot for the majority of the journey. Programme Connect is the name of this reduced crew project, which will begin in 2025 with the Airbus A350.

During its high-altitude voyage, the A350 will only need one pilot in the cockpit, thanks to Project Connect. This would reduce the number of pilots required for long-haul flights from three to two, with rest periods in between. If the experiment is successful, it will result in significant cost savings for airlines in terms of crewing.

Cathay Pacific is trying to make long-term cost cutbacks as its long-haul business continues to struggle.

Cathay Pacific is trying to make long-term cost cutbacks as its long-haul business continues to struggle. Photo: Airbus

While Cathay has confirmed its involvement in the initiative, it has also stated that there is no guarantee that it will be implemented in the future, and that safety will always come first. The airline said in a statement,

“While we are collaborating with Airbus on the concept of reduced crew operations, we have made no commitment to be the launch customer…
How the epidemic plays out will ultimately determine the appropriateness and effectiveness of any such deployment, as well as the overall cost-benefit analysis.”

Roadblocks

Passengers, safety regulators, and current pilots will find it difficult to challenge the concept of two crew members in the cockpit. Indeed, the project is beset by uncertainties and safety concerns, all of which have the potential to derail it. Airbus and partner airlines, on the other hand, are forging ahead with the necessary improvements to make this a reality.

The potential requirements for a single pilot A350 system have been discussed by regulators. Any such project, according to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), will require real-time monitoring of the only pilot’s vitals and alertness. If one of the pilots is incapacitated or has an emergency, the other pilot should be able to arrive within minutes.

To pass regulatory examination, the technology will have to fulfil a high standard of safety. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The plan has not gone over well with pilot unions. Aside from the enormous layoffs that such a scheme will entail, many people have raised concerns about safety. Following the two 737 MAX crashes in 2019, cost-cutting and increased automation have both been criticised for their potential to compromise safety.

Any certification will also require the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) approval, which is a high standard. Airbus, on the other hand, is optimistic that new flight warning features such as emergency descent (which can fast drop altitude without pilot input) will be enough to assuage the regulator’s concerns. For the time being, keep a watch on this project’s progress and whether or if other airlines sign up.

What are your thoughts on A350 operations with a single pilot? Is this the future of aviation or a risky cost-cutting mission? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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Cover Photo Credit: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying