Release #: 19.22
July 17, 2019

ALPA Releases New White Paper Highlighting Safety Benefits of Keeping Two Pilots on the Flight Deck

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Capt. Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), released a new white paper today highlighting the proven safety benefits that having at least two pilots on the flight deck provide to our nation’s aviation system.

The document, released in conjunction with the Association’s annual Air Safety Forum and as Capt. DePete testified before Congress on the current state of aviation safety, affirms ALPA’s position regarding maintaining the role of—and recognizing the importance of—the most vital safety feature in transport-category aircraft now and for the foreseeable future: at least two experienced, well-trained, and well-rested pilots on the flight deck. Despite clear evidence that at least two fully qualified pilots on the flight deck is an airliner’s strongest safety asset, some special-interest groups continue to push for reducing the flight crew on board large aircraft—possibly down to even a single pilot—to cut operational costs.

“Airline pilots know—as do our passengers and shippers—that the presence of at least two pilots on board our airliners not only contributes to a proactive, risk-predictive safety culture, it’s the reason why U.S. air transportation is so safe today,” testified Capt. DePete.

While current aircraft automation technology can reduce a flight crew’s shared workload, it’s only a tool to assist flightcrew members, who remain responsible for the safe outcome of every flight. However, a growing number of interested entities—including technology companies, airlines, and the military—are seeking to cut operating costs while governmental research organizations are looking to chart new horizons by advocating for reducing the current number of flightcrew members in large aircraft to just a single pilot.

“Pilots are required to control an aircraft in a dynamic environment. We interact with air traffic control, communicate with dispatch, check weather patterns and trends, visually scan for other aircraft, and monitor the performance of multiple engines. Currently, technology cannot adequately replicate or report the sensory information—sounds, smells, and vibrations—a flight crew depends on to safely operate a plane in real-world conditions,” added Capt. DePete.

Last summer, ALPA commissioned a public survey on this subject—and 80 percent of respondents agreed that two pilots working together is the best option when it comes to problem solving while operating an aircraft. And 81 percent said they would not be comfortable on a plane that was completely pilotless.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 62,000 pilots at 35 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or