Release #: 24.18
June 25, 2024

ALPA President Calls Airbus Plan to Reduce Pilots on the Flight Deck a “Gamble with Safety”

Releases New White Paper During International Aviation Club Remarks

MCLEAN, Va.—In a speech today before the International Aviation Club of Washington, Capt. Jason Ambrosi, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), highlighted the safety risks of operating commercial airliners without at least two pilots on the flight deck, as Airbus is currently pursuing. In addition to underscoring the dangers of removing pilots from the flight deck, Ambrosi also unveiled an ALPA white paper that highlights the well-established fact that pilots cannot be replaced through advances in technology and outlines the benefits of having at least two pilots on the flight deck.

“Some manufacturers and foreign airlines are actually working to design flight decks that replace the very safety feature that averted these [recent] disasters. They plan to replace pilots with automation. Of course, that’s insane,” said Ambrosi. “I have thousands of hours over the North Atlantic and can tell you with no uncertainty that in the middle of the night in cruise, having only one pilot is a significant degradation in safety. Imagine an emergency like an engine fire, security event or incapacitation of the remaining pilot.”

Removing pilots from the flight deck isn’t something that only pilots are against. In a recent poll commissioned by ALPA of the flying public, 79 percent of respondents said they would feel less safe flying on remotely operated planes, and 73 percent said they would never feel comfortable flying without two pilots on the flight deck.

“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. Airbus itself acknowledges that their plan to operate aircraft with one pilot is inherently flawed,” added Ambrosi 

Reduced-crew operations not only suffer the safety risks of higher workloads for the remaining pilot, or the incapacitation of the single pilot, but also reduces the safety and security of commercial air transportation to an unacceptable level.

Currently, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been working with European Union aircraft manufacturer Airbus to develop criteria for the development of various reduced-crew operation schemes such as extended minimum crew operations and single-pilot operations on specific aircraft with an eye toward eliminating two-pilot flight decks. It is ALPA’s priority to maintain at least two pilots on the flight deck to ensure the safety and security of all flight operations. No one understands better than a pilot that when an issue arises in flight, it is the pilots who are responsible for achieving a safe outcome.

“It should be noted that this threat to replace pilots with automation won’t happen in American skies first. Rather, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency is exploring a rulemaking that would allow Airbus to remove pilots from the flight deck before completing a study on the safety implications of such a move,” said Ambrosi. “To prevent this risk to safety from reaching our country, 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. And we cannot create unsafe conditions for American passengers traveling into and out of the United States on foreign carriers.”

Ambrosi concluded his speech urging members of the U.S. aviation industry to join together to maintain the current U.S. requirement of having at least two pilots on the flight deck for all commercial airline operations.

“Throughout the history of aviation, industry, regulators, and labor have worked together to constantly raise the bar on safety. Today, we are 15 years into the safest period in U.S. airline history because we learned hard lessons from tragic losses and collaborated to build commercial air travel into the safest mode of transportation in the world. That is our collective success—and it should remain our collective goal,” said Ambrosi.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents more than 78,000 pilots at 41 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit or follow us on Twitter @ALPAPilots.


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