On March 27, 2023, leaders of the world’s largest pilot organizations announced a global coalition to prevent airlines and manufacturers from pushing ahead with plans to remove pilots from the flight deck—a profit-driven scheme that poses a significant safety risk. Pilot representatives from the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), the European Cockpit Association (ECA), and the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) vowed to take collective action to protect the flying public and counter an aggressive corporate-led lobbying campaign that targets regulators around the world, including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
“Whether you depart from New York, San Francisco, or Atlanta bound for London, Paris, or Tokyo, a crew of at least two qualified, experienced, trained, and rested airline pilots is at the controls on the flight deck of your plane. Every aspect of your flight—the aircraft, its systems, the regulations and standards that apply to the flight, and the procedures that pilots follow—is deliberately designed for a team working together on the flight deck,” wrote ALPA President Capt. Jason Ambrosi, IFALPA President Capt. Jack Netskar, and ECA President Capt. Otjan de Bruijn in an Aviation Week opinion piece.
A 2017 study by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration identified unacceptable safety risks posed by single-pilot flight operations, especially during abnormal events and emergencies. Yet, some airlines and aircraft manufacturers are currently pressuring international aviation bodies to put profits first and introduce an unacceptable risk to commercial aviation. Professional pilots embrace and support new technology on the flight deck that enhances safety; however, they unanimously agree that removing skilled aviators from the flight deck—so-called “reduced-crew operations”—will increase risk and compromise safety.
Despite developments in automation and improved technologies on the flight deck, two pilots at the controls remains the most important safety features of an aircraft. Pilots eliminate system-failure scenarios and act as a critical onboard backup for failed systems, bridge technology gaps, and adapt in real-time and in the real environment to unanticipated situations and emergencies. Technology, no matter how sophisticated, is not a replacement for pilots on the flight deck.
The global pilot community, including the Associations of Star Alliance Pilots, the Oneworld Cockpit Crew Coalition, and the SkyTeam Pilots Association, are united in the fight against reduced-crew operations and will do everything in their power to ensure the current standards that have made aviation the safest form of transportation in the world will not be eroded.
Airline pilots stand firm when we say: “Safety Starts with Two.”