Top Letters And Comments, December 2, 2022


Devotion: Made Like They Used to Make Them

My father, Capt. Walter F. Madden, USN (RET) was CAG (Commander Air Group) of Air Group 3 on board the USS Leyte when this incident occurred. Like most combat veterans he talked very little about the Korean War (or WWII in which he also fought) but he did tell me this story. One point he made was that initially there was a dispute over whether to court martial Lt. Hudner or honor him as his actions were in direct violation of standing orders. Also, Lt. Hudner and the helo pilot discussed trying to free Lieutenant Brown by amputating his trapped leg but could not get access because of the confines of the cockpit made worse by the crash damage which buckled the nose of the F4U up. The only things that that had to use if they had attempted the amputation were a survival knife and a crash hatchet.

When the USS Leyte returned to San Diego my father was assigned to USN Air Station Quonset Point Post. On the family move across the country we stopped and he visited with the relatives of each of the pilots that had been killed in his Air Group. I remember visiting Lt. Brown’s wife (Daisy). She lived in a simple wooden house at the end of a red clay dirt road in Alabama or Georgia. My sister and I were told to stay outside while my father and mother talked with Mrs. Brown. As an almost six year old my principle memories were the sadness of the visit and the yellow honeysuckle that grew up the side of the porch of the house.

Bill M.

Mars Helicopter Completes 34th Flight

Congratulations to NASA for their successful Mars Helicopter ops. The tone of the messaging from NASA soon after the helicopter flew its early missions seemed to indicate they were not expecting much beyond verifying it could work. And now they are able to expand the envelope again.

KckC K.

The mars helicopter Ingenuity is precisely what NASA was intended for. Cutting edge development of experimental concepts. I am extremely impressed with this program.

And then… I see them fooling around with the boondoggle SLS Artemis. Ancient technology. Outrageous cost. Nothing gained. They can’t even hook up the fuel connection without leaks. I know… hydrogen. But that was figured out long ago.

Thomas C.

Ingenuity is a remarkable achievement. The Mars atmosphere is so thin that this little electric helicopter is operating at an altitude that would be the equivalent of around 100,000′ MSL here on Earth. Not to mention that it uses fusion energy (light from the sun) to recharge its battery. It’s interesting to note that the first reusable flying machine on Mars is an EV.


Poll: Ten Years From Now, Will Automation Allow Single Pilot Airliners?

  • Datalink speeds mean there can still be redundancy, automation means workload will be manageable, and passengers are becoming more and more tolerant of technology. In the next 10 years, we will see single pilot airliners (perhaps just freight), single-pilot in cruise operations (so long augmented crews… the cruise snooze will be legit), and an increased role of the ground segment (dispatchers and the rest of the team).
  • We are at a floor of minimum safe crew at two pilots. The fundamental principle of transport category flight is redundancy, we violate this at our peril. I always thought, whilst flying airliners, about what I was doing that could not be done by a drone “pilot”; I always came up with at least five things. Never buy a ticket to ride on a drone!
  • All systems on an airliner are redundant, two or more, for safety. I think it’s ridiculous to have an aircraft carrying passengers to have only one pilot.
  • It’ll definitely start with the freighters, first. We had this argument with the radio operators and flight engineers.
  • Like many defensive and survival subjects, one is none, two is one and three is better. Redundancy has been a key design feature in airliners for decades and the crew is the final solution for when the automation fails.
  • Yes, but should it?
  • Automation may “allow” single-pilot airliners, but policy will not allow it after the first emergency resulting in loss of life that could have been successfully addressed by having a full flight crew.
  • The technology is a few years out. However, the pilot unions will probably be strong well into the future.
  • It will ALLOW it – but whether or not the public will accept it is another matter. Plenty of railroad systems could operate that way – but there is still a “driver” up front.
  • Less than 10 years for freighters. 10-15 for passenger airliners.
  • May become an unfortunate necessity as the number of aircraft required outnumbers the amount of pilots available. Shudder to think of the implications of those scenarios!
  • Yes. Why not? The airplane is quite capable of landing itself already once setup. The pilot is really only a safety manager and makes the passengers feel confident. Look they can send robot spacecraft to the moon and to Mars unmanned they can surely fly airliners in earth airspace unmanned!
  • When it does, I will not fly aboard that airline.
  • Should be now.
  • Money will drive the decision, with successful air cargo flights as proof of concept & safety. Might take several years to play out.
  • Yes. There is too much money to be saved by airlines for the major manufacturers to not invest in this.
  • Perhaps within 10 years for cargo operators. Origins and destinations would be on direct line to/from coastal/remote areas with nary an outhouse to crash into.
  • There is already enough automation to allow single pilot operations.
  • Yes in non-passenger operations.
  • Sadly, I’d put money on it.
  • Given the way the FAA reacts, yes. They will cave to industry pressure.
  • Yes, but no. Automation will allow single pilot but the regulating authorities never will. I suspect the question you’re really asking is “will there be single pilot airliners in 10?” The answer of course is a resounding no – as it should be.
  • Absolutely. The technology is already there and the pilot shortage will force the issue.
  • I think we are already there. The public and regulators just can’t stomach it.
  • For cargo, probably yes.
  • One pilot; with some other crewmember trained to make an emergency landing if necessary.
  • Yes, anything to save a buck for the owners.
  • I sincerely Hope NEVER.
  • Yes, without a doubt.
  • Without question, and probably sooner.
  • Only when the capability of remote control of the aircraft is added to systems. Then single-pilot operations will be allowed.
  • Yes, and rightly so for anything less than say 110 pax.
  • It can, the technology is there, perception of being too risky or unsafe is the hill to climb.
  • Automation won’t, but airline lobbyists/Congress will.
  • It will happen sooner.
  • Yes but regulation to allow it will take 20 years.
  • Yes, the pilot unions are accelerating this result.
  • Single pilot freight airlines, just around the corner.
  • If it’s possible, it will happen.
  • Yes, but will any passengers accept it?
  • For sure, but there won’t be enough maintainers around to keep the airliners flying.
  • Will the solo pilot have to wear extra epaulets?

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  1. About single pilots on airliners, go to your favorite search engine and search for “airline pilot dies on takeoff.”

  2. All the airplanes now flying for the next 10 – 30 years, those under construction and on the drawing boards will be certificated by the FAA with two pilots. These aircraft will be flying for the next 50 – 70 years. One pilot? Not anytime in in the future.

  3. Put an end to the stupid FAA rule which requires 1500 hours for a right-seater and this idea will have no more steam. Before I’d fly on a single-pilot pressurized airliner I’d fly with a 100 co-pilot who’s made 3 TOs and Ldgs in it.