Airline Pilots Unite Against Single-Pilot Cargo Aircraft Proposal

FAA reauthorization legislation includes funding for a study that backers say could solve the pilot shortage.

ALPHA
Airline pilots who oppose research into single-pilot cargo airplanes will visit Capitol Hill next week.ALPHA

Airline pilots are bristling at the suggestion that the nation’s pilot shortage can be solved by a transition to single-pilot cockpits, calling the plan an attack on safety and urging Congress to act.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) wants the House to strike language from draft FAA reauthorization legislation calling for research into single-pilot cargo aircraft, describing the move as an assault on air safety.

The two-pilot cockpit, ALPA argues, is a key component of the safety infrastructure that makes U.S. commercial aviation so safe. Nevertheless, the provision that would fund a study of single-pilot operation of cargo aircraft remains on the table as part of the bill now awaiting a Senate vote.

Last week, ALPA, which represents more than 60,000 pilots at 34 airlines, asked its members to contact members of Congress and the Senate to express opposition, writing on its Facebook page, “We must ensure there are always two pilots in aircraft. We will never compromise safety, the core mission and vision of ALPA and our pilots since 1931.”

ALPA argues that remote pilots on the ground would not be able to interact with pilots in the air in a manner that promotes effective cockpit resource management. Airlines, meanwhile, envision a future where single-pilot airliners ply the skies with automated systems and remote humans ready to take over in case of an emergency.

In a recent speech, ALPA President Tim Canoll said, “At the eleventh hour and with no advance notice, a dangerous provision was inserted into the House FAA reauthorization bill by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to push for single-piloted and computer-piloted operations of cargo airliners. This is an attack on our profession, passenger and cargo operations alike.”

Next week, about 150 ALPA members from across the U.S. will descend upon Capitol Hill for ALPA’s annual Legislative Summit on June 10-13 to voice their opposition to single-pilot commercial air carrier operations.