Last week, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) president Jason Ambrosi took on an Airbus-driven initiative to promote single-pilot operations. He addressed the International Aviation Club of Washington as leader of the organization that represents 78,000 pilots flying for 41 airlines in the U.S. and Canada.

In his address, reported by Forbes, Ambrosi noted the near-disaster in Austin, Texas, in which a landing FedEx crew narrowly avoided a collision with a Southwest Boeing 737 in foggy conditions. The FedEx first officer made the quick decision to abort the landing, and the two pilots worked together to effect a safe response to the near-tragedy. Ambrosi told his audience, “Some manufacturers and foreign airlines are actually working to design flight decks that replace the very safety features that averted these disasters. They plan to replace pilots with automation. Of course, that’s insane.”

Ambrosi told the listeners that the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is working with Airbus on hammering out criteria for the manufacturer’s extended Minimum Crew Operations (eMCO). He called the plans “a gamble with safety; and a gamble with people’s lives.”
“To prevent this risk to safety from reaching our country,” he continued, “we must work together with aviation regulators and stakeholders to discourage it across the globe. We cannot allow foreign regulators to grease the skids for their manufacturers, trying to force our hand to undermine safety in our country.”

Airbus’s new commercial aircraft CEO Christian Scherer, who assumed his position in January, told The Sunday Times of London that single-pilot airline operations are “technologically feasible.” “And bear in mind,” he continued, “if you go to a one-man cockpit, you might as well go to a zero-man cockpit. Because it all needs to cater for the eventuality that this one guy just ate a bad oyster and is incapacitated and the airplane has to take over. So, one pilot or zero pilot is effectively the same thing.”

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