Airbus and Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific are developing a system designed to allow for single-pilot, long-haul passenger flights in the A350, according to a report from Reuters. Relying on an increase in cockpit automation, it has been suggested that the system will include features such as an emergency descent mode that does not require pilot input as well as real-time, on-board monitoring of the pilot’s vital statistics and alertness. The program—called Project Connect—is reportedly looking to certify the A350 for single-pilot ops at high-altitude cruise by 2025.
“While we are engaging with Airbus in the development of the concept of reduced crew operations, we have not committed in any way to being the launch customer,” Cathay Pacific told Reuters. “The appropriateness and effectiveness of any such rollout as well as [the] overall cost-benefit analysis [will] ultimately depend on how the pandemic plays out.”
If successful, the system could reduce the number of cockpit crew members needed for long-haul operations to just two. Airbus has been working on similar ideas for several years, having launched its Disruptive Cockpit (DISCO) concept, which is aiming to “enable single-pilot operations for new aircraft,” in 2019 and the Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off and Landing (ATTOL) project in 2018. As previously reported by AVweb, ATTOL completed its first fully automatic vision-based takeoff in January 2020.