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Podcast: Why are airlines pushing for fewer pilots in the cockpit?

written by Robyn Tongol | June 23, 2021

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 B-LXK at Melbourne Airport. (Dave Soderstrom)
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 B-LXK at Melbourne Airport. (Dave Soderstrom)

Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa are working with Airbus to reduce the number of pilots required in the cockpit during high altitude cruise on long-haul A350 flights to cut costs, but what are the implications of having just one pilot responsible for a plane-load of people?

In this episode of the World of Aviation Podcast, host Adam Thorn and reporter Hannah Dowling mull the potential consequences of airlines moving to reduce the number of pilots in the cockpit as planes become ever-more automated.

Plus, the team talk about Ryanair finally welcoming its first 737 MAX after a near-two-year delay, and the beginning of the end of a 17-year-long spat between the EU and US over aircraft government subsidies.

Finally, the crew reveal the latest development in the world of air taxis, as Archer Aviation unveils its first demonstrator model for an eVTOL that could soon grace the skies of LA and Miami.


  • Ron Spencer


    Not a good idea there has been several incidents where a pilot has locked out the other pilot then crashed the plane I read somewhere that there has to be 2 people in the cockpit at all times

  • Peter


    Even long distance trains in Australia have 2 men and if they pass a red signal brakes auto apply. Many problems if only a Pilot. The overall costs are prohibitive with such cheap fares. I try and avoid real budget carriers. Jetstar here are the exeption. But I live on a JQ port.

  • FF


    I would not fly with an Airline that is too stingy to have two pilots in the cockpit. Nuts!

    • AJ


      As a pilot for Cathay, I can confirm firstly this “news” had not been mentioned to us pilots in any of our internal emails, company newsletters promulgated by the fleet office, nor has any Executive issued a statement to the employees.

      The airline may be looking at ways to cut costs by reducing its number of pilots but they keep their oversupplied middle management. With the pilot exodus looming end of 2022, Cathay Pacific will be looking to hire pilots again once the Hong Kong Immigration Department sorts out the visa dilemma for the pilots that aren’t Permanent Residence holders.

      Fret not, their biggest challenge will be convincing the regulators (HKCAD, CASA, FAA, Transport Canada, CAA etc) that flying a wide body single pilot is safe; you all know what it’s like to deal with people on a Federal level.

      Good luck CX and LH in convincing the Authorities.

  • Ever since the German Wings crash in the Pyrenees, I understood that there would always be at least 2 crew in the cockpit at anyone time?

  • Jeremy Smith


    Whilst human nature remains infinitely variable amongst all nationalities of the world; not to mention the effects of gender, age, religion etc etc, there is ALWAYS going to be the risk of a repeat of the German Wings incident or a repeat of the AF744 tragedy.
    Believing that a pilot with sleep-inertia being dragged to the flight deck to assist in a dire emergency is going to end well each time is merely hopeful at best.
    Only two pilots on ultra long-haul flights especially or anything over 10 hours flight time is just dangerous and would only provide a small financial advantage to an airline. I acknowledge there is face/ movement monitoring technology that is used in cars today but there is SO much more at stake in the air than on the highway.

  • Ben


    What if the single pilot suddenly has a heart attack? Are all passengers follow him into the dive at 30000 ft?

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