Thales Aerospace is following Embraer’s lead in researching single-crew airliners as part of a program called Cockpit 3.0, which is targeted for the 2030 time frame. Embraer has indicated an interest in an airliner that can be flown with a single pilot, instead of conventional two-pilot crews.
“Of course the convenient answer is to say ‘forget it, it will never happen’ and certainly the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 replacements will have two crew in the cockpit,” said Thales innovation director Joseph Huysseune, “but looking far to the horizon we have clever ideas to go in that direction. As an equipment and systems supplier, we have got to be ready when it comes, and to be proactive in proposing solutions.”
The goal of Cockpit 3.0 is to reduce crew workload and complexity, which in turn could reduce human error. Thales is also looking at reducing the physical size of the flight deck to maximize payload.
By 2030, the company hopes to have simpler and safer aircraft cockpits that are easier to train on while being single-crew capable. As a bridge to this ultimate goal, Thales will study workload reduction for standard two-pilot crews.
Gil Michielin, Thales’ vice president and general manager for commercial aircraft solutions, noted, “The answer may not be the same for all sectors. For instance, the single-pilot crew for freight transport might happen earlier than for passenger transport. Obviously we have a say, but in the end the market will decide.”