Release #: 18.16
July 31, 2018

New Survey Shows Americans Strongly Opposed to Removing Pilots from the Cockpit, Weakening Safety Training Requirements

Eighty percent say two pilots required to keep flying safe

WASHINGTON—As Congress debates a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, a new survey commissioned by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) shows Americans strongly oppose removing pilots from the cockpit because of the important role they play in aviation safety and security. Americans also solidly support today’s robust pilot-training requirements.

Eighty-one percent of those surveyed said they would not be comfortable on an airplane without pilots. Yet some Members of Congress have expressed interest in reducing the number of pilots in planes—and moving toward automated aircraft.

The survey results also demonstrate Americans’ strong support for maintaining two pilots in the flight deck, with 80 percent of respondents maintaining that two pilots working together is the best option when it comes to problem solving while operating an aircraft.

“These survey results show that Americans overwhelmingly agree that keeping two pilots in the cockpit is necessary to ensure the safety of passengers and cargo,” says Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA president. “During unexpected situations in flight, the highest levels of safety are only achieved with two trained-for-life pilots on the flight deck.”

More than just public opinion, a recent NASA study that simulated single-pilot flying with today’s flight decks has already concluded that having just one pilot is “not nominally acceptable due to the significant task demands and workload.”

The evidence is clear: To maximize safety, flying an airliner requires two pilots in the cockpit. But, as it stands today, Congress is still considering a taxpayer-funded program in support of having a single pilot in the cockpit. The polling results found that only 8% believe that the government should invest public resources to develop technology that would eliminate one or both pilots from the cockpit to save airlines money.

“Instead of wasting taxpayer money on an unnecessary and dangerous program, Congress should look to the existing research, and the public’s opinion, when legislating on these vital issues,” says Canoll. “The U.S. airline industry is experiencing one of the safest periods in the history of commercial aviation—why would Congress do anything that might adversely impact that safety record?”

The survey also found that Americans recognize the importance of maintaining the current pilot requirements and training, with 73 percent saying they oppose proposals to reduce training and experience requirements.

“Congress must uphold current training and qualification standards for pilots because of what we intuitively know: well-trained, experienced, and rested pilots enhance safety,” says Canoll.

The survey was conducted July 19–24, by Ipsos Public Affairs and 1,109 adults in the United States were interviewed. 

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 60,000 pilots at 34 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or