MIAMI – The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announces it plans to relax Single Pilot Operations (SPO) requirements.

Current Head of EASA Patrick Ky initially said that the relaxation of rules would be for less important elements of flights, such as cruising, while a more substantial relaxation of the rules allowing single-pilot operations for the whole flight could only be “a little further away.”

According to Ky, the regulator believes that “this could be implemented quite soon, typically for phases of the flight when you don’t necessarily need two pilots in the cockpit.”


Pilot Duty during Toilet Breaks

After the accident that occurred during the toilet break of the Captain on a flight of former Lufthansa Group (LH) carrier Germanwings (4U), EASA implemented a guidance to be followed by the European Carriers to ensure at least two crew members to be ensured in the cockpit when a Pilot on Duty would have to go to toilet.

This guidance, while required by EASA, has not been made mandatory, with the regulator leaving the decision to implement it or not to the criteria of air operators.

Southwest Airlines Unveils New Look with Heart. Photo Credit: Stephen M. Keller

Enroute Phase Could Receive Green Light for SPO

EASA’s rules says that on-duty crew members ”shall remain at the assigned station, unless absence is necessary for the performance of duties in connection with the operations or for physiological  needs, provided at least one suitably qualified pilot remains at the controls of the aircraft at all times.”

Hence, EASA director confirms that the agency is working to seek more relaxed measures regarding the Single Pilot Operations requirements in the next future.

EASA did point out  at an EASA Media Rountable on January 19 that this relaxation would depend on the development of more sophisticated aircraft backup systems in case of Pilot incapacitation during the phases where SPO might be applied.

Now, aircraft manufacturers need to develop complex backup system for commercial aircrafts to ensure the safety and security of the aircraft is not jeopardized in cases when the PIC (Pilot-In-Command) in SPO is able to fulfill his or her role in case of any problems.

Delivery pilots in the A319’s fly-by-wire cockpit. Photo: Airways Staff

Bottom Line

Although this measures would allow carriers to save money, we have to recall that having two Pilots in the cockpit is both for security and safety purposes in case any problems arises. In addition, Having two Pilots ensures that decisions taken during all the flight phases are always backed-up and crosschecked by a second person to avoid possible latent or active errors in the conduction of the aircraft.

Having one person in charge of commercial airliner in flight is a tricky proposition, especially with highly complex systems that new aircraft feature. Aviation safety is about diminishing the potential creation of an unsafe situation. For now, one Pilot alone in the cockpit needs a second in command to double check that all the processes have been completed correctly.

Regarding passengers, to fly on an aircraft with 180 seats and only only one Pilot could be a hard sale. Sure, there will be a reduction of operational costs, meaning airlines could offers cheap airfares, which passengers might consider purchasing without complaining about the SPO.

Featured image: Captain Chris Pohl @captainchris