According to Reuters, Cathay Pacific is working with Airbus to introduce “reduced crew” long-haul flights, with a single pilot in the cockpit for the majority of the flight.
According to the sources, the project, known internally as Project Connect, intends to certify Airbus’ A350 plane for single-pilot operations during high-altitude cruise commencing in 2025 on Cathay passenger flights.
On the road to international acceptance, there are still many obstacles to overcome. Longer flights would be possible if a pair of pilots alternated rest intervals, rather than the three or four that are currently required to keep at least two in the cockpit.
In the face of uncertainties about the post-pandemic economics of intercontinental travel, this might save airlines money. However, it is expected to face opposition from pilots who have already been laid off in large numbers, as well as safety worries over aircraft automation.
A representative for Lufthansa told Reuters that the German carrier has also worked on the single-pilot concept but has no intentions to employ it at this time.
Cathay Pacific Airways acknowledged its participation, but stated no decision on deployment had been made.
Airbus has already announced plans to equip the A350 with single-pilot capability, but the airlines’ involvement had not been revealed. The COVID-19 program has restarted after the COVID-19 issue, according to chief test pilot Christophe Cail.
“We’ve proved over decades that putting the latest technology in aircraft can improve safety,” Cail told Reuters, declining to name project partners. “We’re working with airlines on any design changes.”