# No more copilot?

#### mugaliens

I have to agree that so far as take off, fly the route, land goes it is certainly capable with current technology. It is the additional factors as andre has pointed out that make a human pilot 'better' than current computer systems. Does anyone know if they've conducted tests of pilotless drones in crowded sky conditions such as those found around a major airport? (Pilotless as in flying under its own control, not like the predator drones)
While UAVs such as the Global Hawk are perfectly capable of taking off, flying the route, and landing totally without human intervention, "see and avoid" still applies, which is why they're not allowed to fly in the national aerospace system, except under certain conditions. Even so, the Global Hawk has an operator connected to it via satlink and monitoring it at all times. The radios aboard the drone allow the operator to talk to ATC the same as any piloted aircraft, and the operator is required to be a certified IFR pilot.

Should the satlink ever fail, the Global Hawk is programmed to squawk 7600 or 7700, depending on the situation, broadcast its intentions to ATC, fly to the nearest suitable military airfield, land, stop, and wait for a tow.

I think the human factor is more important when it comes to military operations as opposed to civilian, but none-the-less required.
I agree.

#### Andre

I think the human factor is more important when it comes to military operations as opposed to civilian, but none-the-less required.
One more then. I think not.

Whilst the human factor, as in anticipating the child running behind the shiny red ball, may be much more present in military air combat scenarios, it's equally important to break off the landing procedure after picking up that fire truck on the runway, that inadvertenly was sent there to pick up the remains of that dead deer hit by another aircraft, due to miss co-ordination between the local tower air traffic controller and ground control.

#### JaredJames

One more then. I think not.

Whilst the human factor, as in anticipating the child running behind the shiny red ball, may be much more present in military air combat scenarios, it's equally important to break off the landing procedure after picking up that fire truck on the runway, that inadvertenly was sent there to pick up the remains of that dead deer hit by another aircraft, due to miss co-ordination between the local tower air traffic controller and ground control.
I'm not entirely sure why you quoted me on this one, I was referring to the fact that military missions, where the use of deadly force (missiles etc) may be present, a human being there assessing the action about to be taken is important (unaccounted variables for instance).
As you said yourself, the civilian side of things is simply A to B and as such those judgements are not required. So, in as far as human judgement is concerned, I'd say the military requires a human face in the cockpit far more than civilian. All of the problems you have pointed out for civilian also exist for the military, but not all the military situations are present for civilian airliners (or do 'fire engines scraping up dead deer' scenarios only occur at civilian airfields?).

You keep mentioning crew coordination as a reason to reduce crew numbers. In which case a purely computerised system is perfect as all instructions will follow the same scrutiny and procedures each time regardless of how much work the computer is doing and no distractions possible. It is simply a case of emulating human 'awareness' that is required.

A good sensor based system (cameras, motion tracking etc) focussed on the runway and taxiways would be able to alert any aircraft to possible hazards, in much the same way as TCAS works now (theres something on the runway, in this case a fire engine, go around). So your "shiny red ball" scenario could be avoided in most eventualities unless it was extremely sudden, in which case neither human nor computer could respond in time. (I understand it is significantly more complex than this, but the principle is sound).

#### Andre

I'm not entirely sure why you quoted me on this one, I was referring to the fact that military missions, where the use of deadly force (missiles etc) may be present, a human being there assessing the action about to be taken is important (unaccounted variables for instance).
As you said yourself, the civilian side of things is simply A to B and as such those judgements are not required. So, in as far as human judgement is concerned, I'd say the military requires a human face in the cockpit far more than civilian. All of the problems you have pointed out for civilian also exist for the military, but not all the military situations are present for civilian airliners (or do 'fire engines scraping up dead deer' scenarios only occur at civilian airfields?).
It actually happened to me a few decades ago, but if you'd want to express the importance of catching such an eventuality in number of potential casualties, should it have gone unnoticed, then obviously in a civilian scenario, it would have been much more important.

You keep mentioning crew coordination as a reason to reduce crew numbers. In which case a purely computerised system is perfect as all instructions will follow the same scrutiny and procedures each time regardless of how much work the computer is doing and no distractions possible. It is simply a case of emulating human 'awareness' that is required.
...about which I have said, that would wonder if this level of automation can ever be reached, as it requires anticipation of sometimes new possible scenarios. That's the same discussion if AI can ever reach the level of natural intelligence.

#### skeptic2

To take this another step, The Federal Railroad Administration has mandated a Positive Train Control system be in operation by 2015. This system will control speeds and stop the train if the engineer fails to do so and will be fully redundant. Already people are asking if, with that system in place, there really needs to be an engineer on board the train. It's not as if an engineer can avoid an accident by swerving or braking.

#### JaredJames

It actually happened to me a few decades ago, but if you'd want to express the importance of catching such an eventuality in number of potential casualties, should it have gone unnoticed, then obviously in a civilian scenario, it would have been much more important.
Couldn't agree more.

...about which I have said, that would wonder if this level of automation can ever be reached, as it requires anticipation of sometimes new possible scenarios. That's the same discussion if AI can ever reach the level of natural intelligence.
I agree regarding awareness, however, if you were to look at a system which monitored the airfield roughly as I described above, I don't see how anything 'new' could occur. If the system had a high enough resolution so far as watching the airfield goes (can pick out objects relatively small in size which endanger aircraft), it could keep track of all things moving around the airfield in much the same way radar looks to the sky (although significantly more complicated). In such a case, you could argue the monitoring system is 'aware' of everything on the airfield and capable of making decisions (although they would be mainly predetermined - stop aircraft taxiing, go around etc).

#### Borek

Mentor
Speaking of coordination problems. How many computers are there in a plane and aren't they coordinated and switched off if they don't agree?

Or was it a space shuttle?

#### JaredJames

Speaking of coordination problems. How many computers are there in a plane and aren't they coordinated and switched off if they don't agree?

Or was it a space shuttle?
Yes aircraft have that system, I believe it's a 'democratic' style system where they compare the readings and go with the majority. e.g. 3 computers compare readings, if one disagrees it's ignored. A simplistic description but basically there.

#### DaveC426913

Gold Member
Yes aircraft have that system, I believe it's a 'democratic' style system where they compare the readings and go with the majority. e.g. 3 computers compare readings, if one disagrees it's ignored. A simplistic description but basically there.
Is this primarily for redundancy in the system? Or redundancy in the decision?

If they're running identical programs, under what circumstance would they disagree?

1] One of the computers goes wonky. Redundancy in the system ensures two others can take up the task.

2] Each computer is given differing parameters of decision-making (importance, optimism, pessimism, etc). They can arrive at different conclusions even when all given the same data.

I'm sure it's a little of both but I imagine primarily it's #2.

#### Andre

Speaking of coordination problems. How many computers are there in a plane and aren't they coordinated and switched off if they don't agree?

Or was it a space shuttle?
Well take the F-16 flight control computer, which basically translates a desire of the pilot indicated by the stick position into a continuous control signal that does everything to hold that. That sounds very basic but it isn't. Moreover the instability of aircraft requires constant computer steered corrections. It's rather hard, but not impossible to do that manually.

The flight control computer is quadruple. Three branches are actually doing the steering, one is in standbye, that is not connected, but operating.

The steering signal is the average of the three and all three are constantly monitored on deviations. As soon as one branch gives a signal exceeding X from the other two, it is kicked out automatically and the reserve system jumps in. The pilot gets a warning.

Should one of the three remaining branches again produce an signal outside the acceptable range then it is kicked out too and the aircraft continues on the two remaining computer branches. But I havent heard that this ever has happened.

Aside from the questions about autolanding panic buttons & such, I don't see how this is going to make sense financially. I did some ballpark calculations and it seems to me that losing the copilot would save the company at most $4 per passenger, probably less, for a 3-hour flight. why is the USAF flying multi million dollar machines JSF, F22 etc with just one pilot, if two was safer? Could be because weight and space in those machines are at a premium. Just the second pilot, his suit and his ejection seat are going to weigh around 200 kg. In a plane that weighs 10-12 tons, that's significant. And those crash very often anyway for unrelated reasons, so the reduction in risk due to having a second pilot would be negligible. If commercial aircraft crashed as frequently as, say, F-16's, nobody would fly them. #### Andre Aside from the questions about autolanding panic buttons & such, I don't see how this is going to make sense financially. I did some ballpark calculations and it seems to me that losing the copilot would save the company at most$4 per passenger, probably less, for a 3-hour flight.
which is a significant portion of the earning per passenger. Just check the fares of easyjet.

Anyway, also included training costs, expenses like hotels, etc, in that figure? which is likely a multitude of his salary.

Could be because weight and space in those machines are at a premium. Just the second pilot, his suit and his ejection seat are going to weigh around 200 kg. In a plane that weighs 10-12 tons, that's significant.

And those crash very often anyway for unrelated reasons, so the reduction in risk due to having a second pilot would be negligible. If commercial aircraft crashed as frequently as, say, F-16's, nobody would fly them.
Several fighters are standard in double seat like the F-4 Phantom, F-14 Tomcat, European Tornado albeit that the second crew member is weapon system operator (WSO), but it still would reduce the workload of the pilot, whereas the WSO is capable of handing the aircraft. The question is if that is reflected in the safety records of these aircraft. Are they safer being operated by two? Don't hold your breath.

#### hamster143

which is a significant portion of the earning per passenger.
$4 out of the ticket price of$300 is a minuscule reduction in operating costs that can be easily cancelled out by any number of things, like higher insurance costs or passengers' slight aversion to fly on single-pilot aircraft.

The question is if that is reflected in the safety records of these aircraft. Are they safer being operated by two? Don't hold your breath.
That's because their safety is poor for reasons that are unrelated to the number of pilots.

Commercial aircraft crash, on average, once per 3 million flight hours. Suppose that losing the copilot quadruples the risk (not an unreasonable assumption, given that general aviation aircraft, usually single-piloted, tend to crash 50 times more frequently than big airliners.) That's one additional incident per one million flight hours.

Suppose that the differential incident rate is the same for fighter jets (one crash that can be prevented by having a second pilot, per million flight hours).

But, since the cumulative crash rate for USAF F-16's since their introduction is on the order of 35 per million flight hours, reducing that by 1 would make no visible difference.

#### Andre

$4 out of the ticket price of$300 is a minuscule reduction in operating costs that can be easily cancelled out by any number of things, like higher insurance costs or passengers' slight aversion to fly on single-pilot aircraft.
I see I can get from Belfast to Nice for 25 pounds

Suppose that losing the copilot quadruples the risk (not an unreasonable assumption, given that general aviation aircraft, usually single-piloted, tend to crash 50 times more frequently than big airliners.)
Wouldn't that be a bit affriming the consequent fallacy. Couldn't it be that the pilot training, logistics, supportm etc, are on a completely different standard?

Furthermore, repeating once more, how many mishaps in multi crew aircraft would not have occured with a single crew, because the root cause was failing crew co-ordination?

#### f95toli

Gold Member
$4 out of the ticket price of$300 is a minuscule reduction in operating costs that can be easily cancelled out by any number of things, like higher insurance costs or passengers' slight aversion to fly on single-pilot aircraft.
As Andre has already pointed out: The "typical" ticket price for a Ryan Air flight is nowhere near $300, last time I flew with them I paid something like £70 for a return flight between London(UK) and Haugesund (Norway).$4 per passenger IS significant for them

Btw, Pilots working for Ryan Air are actually quite well paid (as opposed to the cabin crew, they make much less than the cabin crews working for regular airlines)

#### cristo

Staff Emeritus
last time I flew with them I paid something like £70 for a return flight between London(UK) and Haugesund (Norway).
Especially when most of that money is taxes!

#### Andre

Just to emphasize my point on crew co-ordination, this may be a good article.

Maybe also an anectdote on personal experience. I happened to work at two different stations as a team shift lead in an air defence command. Whenever the direct command job was executed there are many decisions and procedures to deal with. In one station there was a policy to have permanent teams with the same personel. The other station decided to mix the teams every new shift with other personel all the time.

The fixed teams would each establish their own routines, based on the personal preferences and the insights of the lead, which worked most optimal in high stress situations, everybody knowing exactly what to do; This was especially useful for the team lead, having not to worry about routine procedures and being able to concentrate fully on the decision processes.

however whenever some members had to be shifted around for whatever reason, there would always be little differences in the routine, which would result in a tendency that some tasks would be addressed by more crew members, while other tasks would not be thought of at all. A nighmare for the team lead, since he had to verify that all routine work is done, which detracted from the decision making processes.

Obviously the constant variation of team members worked better in that aspect but it would still lack the team spirit that minimized routine co-ordination.

These are the complications that crews, also aircrew have to deal with. Hence a single crew, performing all tasks, may have a high workload at times, but a high training level enables to do those routine tasks instinctively, without any spending any thoughts on it, Hence the real work, taking the key decisions can still be done unaffectedly.

#### nismaratwork

When it comes to air travel, reasonable or not the sense of security for passengers is not a small issue. I would hate to be the FIRST airline to tell their customers that they have one human capable of flying the plane on board. I think many would say that they prefer redundancy in all fallible systems, especially ones that can have a heart attack or (more likely in air travel) stroke out.

I'm not sure that I could separate my knowledge of the sophistication of many modern aircraft with a sense of anxiety in such a situation, and I'm not even sure where I stand on the issue from a practical standpoint! $4 Per ticket does you no good if you're losing enough fares because people would rather pay 4 bucks for human redundancy. People pay twice that for a box of goobers at a movie theater... I think many would "splurge" for a co-pilot at an airline that provided one. #### JaredJames I think the issue here has developed into a situation far more complex than it really is. Ryanair uses aircraft such as the 737. Which is not designed to have only one operator. The cockpit layout is not a good design for a solo pilot situation. Although it can be flown by one person for emergency purposes, it does not mean it is suitable for solo pilot operation continuously. What is being proposed is to have only one pilot on such aircraft as the 737. Of course it is possible to design an airliner for solo pilot operation, but the cockpit would be radically different and further computerised emergency systems (your 'emergency land' button) would need to be introduced. We seem to have a number of various discussions going on here, ranging from 'which is better, solo or multi-crew' to 'can we just remove the crew completely' so, I think we need to address the primary issue at hand from the OP, which is Ryanair wanting only one pilot in their current aircraft (unless Mr O'Leary plans on designing his own fleet of solo orientated planes...). (I am asking this as I fully support the idea of automating aircraft as much as possible, but so far as current aircraft go, I do not see this 'solo pilot' situation being viable.) #### turbo Gold Member When it comes to air travel, reasonable or not the sense of security for passengers is not a small issue. I would hate to be the FIRST airline to tell their customers that they have one human capable of flying the plane on board. Good point. Another point I would like to float out there is that pilots are humans, with human weakness, failings, etc. I would prefer to have the redundancy of a 2-pilot situtuation, in the event that one of them developed a sudden illness, experienced a psychological disturbance, experienced a seizure due a previously un-diagnosed case of epilepsy, sudden onset of a stroke, etc, etc. #### Andre I think the issue here has developed into a situation far more complex than it really is. Ryanair uses aircraft such as the 737. Which is not designed to have only one operator. The cockpit layout is not a good design for a solo pilot situation. What exactly is wrong with the cockpit layout of the 737 to not suitable for solo operations? If we have exact details we can address them. #### Andre When it comes to air travel, reasonable or not the sense of security for passengers is not a small issue. I would hate to be the FIRST airline to tell their customers that they have one human capable of flying the plane on board. I think many would say that they prefer redundancy in all fallible systems, especially ones that can have a heart attack or (more likely in air travel) stroke out. I'm not sure that I could separate my knowledge of the sophistication of many modern aircraft with a sense of anxiety in such a situation, and I'm not even sure where I stand on the issue from a practical standpoint!$4 Per ticket does you no good if you're losing enough fares because people would rather pay 4 bucks for human redundancy. People pay twice that for a box of goobers at a movie theater... I think many would "splurge" for a co-pilot at an airline that provided one.
What exactly is the logic?

Anyway for the single pilot concept, a reduced number of pilots also means that their quality selection can be on a higher standard, so the operator can take his pick of the top notch. Who would you rather have in the cockpit? One single topnotch A class pilot or two C class pilots?

And, suppose, just suppose, -not saying that it is true-, but suppose hypothetically that the chance of a mishap due to having a single class A pilot (illness, capacity overload, anything) is 10 times smaller than mishaps due to crew miss co-ordination between class C pilots, what would it take convince the public that in reality the single pilot concept is safer ?

But I don't think I'll see the day that logic prevails over fear.

#### JaredJames

I'd like to think I have two well trained pilots in the cockpit.

Why are you saying two pilots aren't as well trained as one pilot? You can't compare fighter pilot training to commercial training. You seem to keep repeating that two pilots aren't trained well and one pilot is brilliant. What makes you so sure they'd increase training, and even if they did why would that improve pilot quality?
If they 'improve' the training, that would cost more, plus insurance rises, I can't see there being any saving in that scenario.

#### Andre

No it's not training, it is capabilities. There is no way around it, but some animals are more equal than others. The 100 best persons from your pool to select are simply better in average than the best 200 persons you can select. No way around that.

#### JaredJames

You assume they choose from the top 100 / 200? Again, this isn't the military where this is the case.

Airlines are driven by costs, the best pilots, although desirable will cost you more. (I'm not saying they don't want the best, but if you advertise a pilots position, the 'best' as you put it are more likely to go for the better paid positions and aren't going to readily apply, especially if the pay isn't particularly good [unless they really need a job]).