ALPA Stands Firm Against Airbus Proposal to Reduce Cockpit Crew – “It’s Insane”

Last month, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), steered by its activist president, emerged victorious in influencing the direction of the FAA’s five-year reauthorization bill. 

Now, ALPA is concentrating its efforts on combating a push, led by Airbus, to reduce the required number of pilots in the cockpit from two to one. This initiative by Airbus, which has ascended to the top of the global aircraft manufacturing industry amid Boeing’s struggles, has gained traction with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is seemingly moving towards endorsing this reduction.

During a recent address to the International Aviation Club of Washington, ALPA President Jason Ambrosi took a firm stand against what he termed “single pilot flight deck creep.” Representing 78,000 pilots across 41 airlines in the U.S. and Canada, Ambrosi cited a close call in February 2023 in Austin, Texas, to underline the risks of reducing cockpit crew. In this incident, a FedEx Boeing 767, piloted by two individuals, narrowly avoided a collision with a Southwest Boeing 737 during heavy fog conditions. Ambrosi emphasized the teamwork that prevented a disaster, highlighting how the first officer made a crucial decision to abort the landing when the proximity to the ascending aircraft became perilously clear.

“Some manufacturers and foreign airlines are actually working to design flight decks that replace the very safety features that averted these disasters,” Ambrosi said, critiquing the industry’s move towards greater automation. “Of course that’s insane,” he added, stressing the peril of reduced vigilance during critical situations, such as night flights over the North Atlantic or emergencies like engine fires.

“In practice, reduced-crew and single-pilot operation schemes, like Airbus’s so-called extended Minimum Crew Operations (eMCO), are a gamble with safety—and a gamble with people’s lives,” Ambrosi asserted. His remarks reflect a deep-seated concern within the pilot community that technological advancements should not compromise fundamental safety measures in aviation.

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