The Air Line Pilots Association is fighting to ensure large commercial aircraft do not evolve to have only one pilot.
The union released a report on 17 July stressing what it describes as the criticality of maintaining two pilots in the cockpit of transport aircraft – a standard it says is under attack.
"Pilots on board an aircraft can see, feel, smell and hear many indications of an impending problem and begin to formulate a course of action before even the most sophisticated sensors and indicators provide positive indications of trouble," says the union in a statement.
"Studies collectively indicate that despite the dramatic technological advances since the rules were established, a cockpit crew of at least two pilots remains necessary to maintain the current high level of safety and flight deck security," says the union's report, titled The Dangers of Single-Pilot Operations.
A single-pilot cockpit means " increased workload for the remaining pilot, the elimination of a critical layer of monitoring and operating redundancy in the cockpit and the inability of a single pilot to handle many emergency situations," it says.
The report cites several aviation incidents in which "a crew of at least two pilots was necessary to avert disaster". Incidents cited include the 1989 crash of a United Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10 at Sioux City, the 2009 water ditching of a US Airways Airbus A320 into the Hudson River and the April 2018 inflight failure of the engine on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737.
ALPA's report responds to efforts by airlines and the military to cut costs, and to government research into one-pilot operations of large aircraft, it says.
Indeed, NASA has studied one-pilot operations and aviation executives have asked Boeing for such an aircraft.
Those executives include Air Lease executive chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy, who told FlightGlobal last month he wants Boeing to consider a single-pilot version of its conceptual New Mid-market Airplane.