To have two pilots or one pilot? That is the question. In this latest dilemma, airlines are pushing to cut costs and operations in very concerning ways.
In the early days, a pilot could count on 4 other crew members assisting them in the cockpit. Fast forward to now, technological advances have shrunk the operations down to 2 pilots and, quite possibly, even just one. Airlines and other regulators express their needs and explain how a one-pilot model will lower costs and solve crew shortages. It will also put all the pressure and responsibility on one person. With many countries asking the UN to change global aviation safety rules, issues of safety and stress are a significant concern.
Many airlines and companies are pushing to have one pilot instead of 2 in the cockpit when flying commercial. Though many believe this will cut costs, many pilots are expressing concerns about the amount of stress that comes along with this. What does this new bill mean, and how will it affect operations? Here’s a deep dive to help you understand, prepare, and consider the risks/challenges.
What is the one pilot model?
One Pilot model or Single Pilot (SPO) operation is an important development in modern aviation technology operations. According to Single Pilot Operations In Commercial Cockpits by Paul L. Myers III and Arnold W. Starr JR, The SPO mode is a reduction from two pilots to one pilot, which no longer can interact, monitor, confirm, and make decisions between pilots. With the development of IT technology, the logical automated processing capability and the performance of aircraft systems have been effectively enhanced, but human-to-human decision-making based on knowledge, perception, experience, and cognition during flight has stayed the same. Thus, relying solely on the single pilot’s independent cognition, behavior, and competence does not meet the safety requirements set out by I0CAO.
With fuel, labor prices, pilot salary increases, and even staffing problems, the critically acclaimed SPO could save airlines some money.
Changing from a collaboration of two pilots to one single pilot can drastically increase the workload that two pilots should carry out. Specific controls, set-ups, and processes might be complicated and only possible to perform with two pilots. The SPO model adoption will need to cover or create an efficient and high-quality operation to eliminate any differences, response times, flight awareness, and decision-making for one pilot to perform effectively.
In addition, the circumstances below will need to be addressed:
When a pilot becomes incapacitated or unconscious and unable to respond to voice alerts, it can cause tragic consequences.
Establish air-ground communications and decisions.
Complex failures and problem-solving
Check and balance
Obstacles to consider
While we have come so far in automation, the technology that helps us fly can only do as it is told. Therefore, the automation will have to act as another human pilot and respond promptly and without errors to the pilot. You could program a computer to do specific tasks, but it cannot handle human cognitive functions. Automation failures can increase the workload again for pilots and break any confidence in the systems, becoming a stressor and getting in the way of how the pilot thinks, operates, and reacts.
Lastly, the biggest obstacle to consider is whether passengers are willing to accept one pilot flying with possible help from a not-so-perfect system. With so many countries asking for regulations to be changed and saying one pilot is as safe as two, an imminent change in automation technology needs to be developed before replacing an expert second human pilot.
These have been pivotal years for data, AI, and machine learning in engineering and airline operations. A great transformation is underway. Are you ready?
Airline operations, such as boarding, are trying to keep up with current demands by adopting more advanced tech for daily tasks. Technology has changed airline operations as a whole, including how companies interact and communicate with customers. Everyone involved in flying and data science creates and executes strategic decisions and workflows. Likewise, access to real-time data is helping pre and post-flight operations such as ticketing, luggage check-ins, boarding, and other aspects of transportation be more efficient—improving the customer experience while also benefiting profit margins.
What are data science, machine learning, and AI?
Data science is a process of developing systems that can gather and analyze information to help people solve problems and challenges. On the other hand, machine learning is a branch of data science that focuses on using data and algorithms to imitate how humans learn, gradually improving its accuracy. You can find machine learning in Netflix, smart home systems, Nest, monitor health systems, andhealthcare.
According to Rice University, “AI is a sub-discipline of computer science focused on building computers with flexible intelligence capable of solving complex problems using data, learning from those solutions, and making replicable decisions at scale.” Therefore, AI is used to create and learn patterns from data which then is used to develop predictive models. Data scientists use AI to understand data more comprehensively for better decision-making.
Revenue management and flight routes
One of the ways in which the magic of these new technological advancements is being put to work is in revenue management (RM). RM uses data to determine how to sell products at a fair cost, in the right places, and at the right time—based on customer behaviors and market targeting. AI also helps to decide on destinations and adjusts flight prices accordingly; thus, assisting the airlines to not only stay competitive but in helping give their customers what they want.
Flight routes are another way to take advantage of these tech tools. Scientist Konstantin Vandyshev from Transavia’sRevenue Management department stated that: “To define air routes, specialists have to analyze data and make decisions based on the insights. When researching a demand for a destination among different customer groups, they can rely on such data sources as search history and macroeconomic factors (e.g., GDP).”
Speeding up the boarding process
Many airports and airlines use AI to speed up the boarding experience and defuse chaos. For example, Southwest Airlines is using data science to help with their boarding process by collecting real-time feedback and monitoring boarding through trial and error; in other words, monitoring the boarding process according to who boards first and the speed at which they do so. How are passengers behaving, what is causing specific triggers, and what solutions can be implemented to fix any potential delays immediately?
Delta is another airline that has rolled out a fantastic biometric system to scan passengers’ faces and match them with border control databases. These self-service solutions can create a safer and faster flow in the boarding process.
According to Analytics Vidhya, “In 2018, U.S. passenger airlines were losing on an average of $74.29 per minute due to delays. The U.S. Department of Transportation calculated that delays caused by plane servicing accounted for 5.8 percent of all delayed flights.” However, by using real-time information, airline employees can monitor how long processes such as fueling, cargo, catering, and other operations take and help evaluate how to proceed more efficiently and speedily.
Other uses of AI and data
Not only are these incredible tech tools helping speed up the boarding process and the operations mentioned above, but they’re also aiding in monitoring fuel consumption by collecting information from each flight and performing a deep analysis to help identify saving and efficiency opportunities. Likewise, air traffic control automation is a computer program that plays a hand in air safety by automating rudimentary air traffic control planning and decision-making functions, allowing airlines to plan, make decisions, and act on them more successfully.
Lastly, maintenance can rack up costs incredibly fast and cause costly delays. However, by implementing data solutions and predictive analytics, support teams can determine problems faster and find solutions more efficiently, thus, reducing long-term expenses associated with such maintenance.
Briana Brownell, CEO of PureStrategy Inc, states: “I see many opportunities! For instance, to optimize operations, including adding, changing, or removing routes, setting flight times, pricing, and product offerings. Ultimately, success is driven by having a deep understanding of different customer segments and where new market opportunities exist.”
It’s no secret that the world is changing with incredible vigor with the help of data science and machine learning alike, speeding up and automating operations. These cognitive technologies help us make sense of data and streamline areas such as maintenance, customer service, internal operations, tasks, and airline management, amongst others. And they are just getting started.
From safety to new systems, infrastructures, tools, engines, and more, 2022 was an incredible year for aviation growth.
Indeed, 2022 was an excellent year for aviation advancements and general aviation technology, with some of the biggest winners in the industry being businesses. Likewise, we saw numerous companies fighting for sustainability, working with AI, and optimizing airports to be smarter using bioptics and greener products, methods, and systems.
Over 30 new products and methods were introduced in the industry, significantly benefiting general aviation operators; among the most popular were new aircraft systems, flight operation analysis, and optimized connectivity in planes. For example, the Astronautics AeroSync is one of the most groundbreaking tools in general aviation. Launched in 2022, this new Wireless Airborne Communication System provides data and health monitoring for operators and in-flight cabin connectivity for passengers alike.
Avionica’s miniAID new aircraft interface device is also making great waves! According to the Vice President of Products and Services, Scott Ridge, the interface “Allows two-way connectivity from your connected aircraft to your Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), with the wireless built in and the cellular built in, this connects your EFB to the aircraft operational data. A very specific application that is often used is an aircraft moving map.”
This year, new advances in air mobility also had a tremendous impact on the aviation industry’s eVTOL developers and the companies behind the planes. With new rules and regulations established by the FAA, the certification pathway for an eVTOL aircraft changed, now placing them under Section 21.17, previously created for a special class of power-lifted aircraft such as sailplanes and drones. Under this section, pilots will have to change certifications and undergo additional training.
Hydrogen has been all the rave lately. With many companies such as Rolls Royce conducting tests with electric and hydrogen aircraft flying, we are now closer to creating more sustainable engines and fuel that will lower costs and help bring a more green approach to aviation. Read about aviation sustainability advancements in our blog: A sustainable approach to engine building and aeronautics.
AI and machine learning
Perhaps one of the most fun changes in aviation being applied worldwide is Artificial Intelligence. AI and other such technology are helping the overall security, check-in routines/procedures, retail, parking, and more. On the manufacturing side, these new technologies can help find engine issues/failures timely, and error-free while also helping with durability, creating better pieces, and reducing both time and costs. At the same time, machine-automated solutions can make designing and maintaining planes even better.
Smart airportsand self-service
Smart airports or semi-smart ones are here! The pandemic pushed us to adopt new solutions to help keep passengers, pilots, and our crews safe. For example, if you are traveling through SJU, you might see self-service kiosks with facial recognition and biometrics, such as CLEAR.
CLEAR’s innovative identity technology powers faster, easier, and more secure identification process experiences at hotels, stadiums, and offices, amongst others. With CLEAR, you only have to identify yourself with a boarding pass and fingerprint/iris identification. The TSA PreCheck also offers a faster and more convenient security check by omitting the steps of removing your shoes, coats, laptops, and whatever else you have on you. Check out the CLEAR blog over at SJU for more information.
While all these changes were absolutely groundbreaking, the aviation industry is always moving faster than light producing new tools/technologies. It is safe to say that since 2020 (known as the worst year for the industry) to now, several of the issues that plagued the industry, the impact of the pandemic, and user/passenger demands have significantly been resolved.
From sustainable fuels, engines, and more, reducing the environmental footprint is now more attainable than ever in aviation.
Today, numerous aerospace and aviation companies are adopting greener technologies with new systems utilizing hydrogen fuel and more innovative practices overall. For example, electrified aircraft propulsion systems are proving to be incredibly beneficial despite the challenges and applied technologies necessary to make them work. Likewise, more sustainable techniques are starting to be implemented to successfully develop aviation electrification, minimize fuel burning, and in turn, lower emissions and costs for the industry.
According to A Review of Concepts, Benefits, and Challenges for Future, Electrical Propulsion-Based Aircraft, the aerospace industry consumes well over 276 million tons of jet fuel and produces around 2.7% of CO2 emissions yearly while flying. Additionally, the demand for fuel is estimated to grow by approximately 4.8% annually; by the year 2050, it is predicted that we will see a 60% plus increase in air travel miles with a 38% increase in energy usage and over 209 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. Though the subsequent environmental damage associated with these numbers is incredibly concerning, the restructuring of efficient technology, the use of new propulsion techs, decarbonization, and other green technologies, are bringing increasing promise to a more sustainable world.
Unsurprisingly, jet engine producers and maintenance crews always look for ways to reduce costs and repairs. Engines are a significant part of the airplane, and having to maintain and/or repair one can result in pricey outcomes. In turn, many engine maintenance companies are adopting new methods to strengthen engines and increase their life cycles while also helping decrease ecological and environmental impacts. For example, new technologies and product developments such as the NASA and Pratt & Whitney Hybrid Thermally Efficient Core are improving engine combustors with cleaner energy.
“In order to meet the Aviation Climate Action Plan’s carbon emissions goals, future single-aisle aircraft engines will have to be able to burn sustainable aviation fuels,” said Tony Nerone, HyTEC project manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. “HyTEC’s role is to develop these small core engine combustors that are more efficient, more durable, and able to use sustainable aviation fuel without compromising the engine performance and while providing significant emissions benefits.”
Companies such as Rolls Royce are leading a new way of creating Civil Aerospace engines, pledging to have fully compatible engine types in 2023. To keep up with environmental standards, their engines help planes fly on blended Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and are over 98% recyclable.
Additionally, the use of 3D printing and Additive Layer Manufacturing is allowing certain airplane engine parts to be created with less waste while also cutting down production times. An example is the Pearl 10X engine. On the other hand, the modified A380 from Airbus will be tested using a hydrogen-powered engine that can potentially bring lower-emission fuels to air travel. This plane is one of the largest passenger planes, with enough room for liquid hydrogen tanks and more.
Hybrid electric and water-enhanced turbofans
A current European Union-funded project has big aero engine companies such as MTU Aero Engines, Pratt & Whitney, Collins Aerospace, GKN Aerospace, and Airbus working together. The companies aim to create two leading engine techs: hybrid electric and water-powered turbofans. This technology will help engines be more efficient, have electric taxiing, takeoff boost, and much more.
According to Simple Flying: “The second part of this puzzle is the water-enhanced turbofan or WET for short. Based on a gas turbine and under development by MTU Aero Engines, the WET uses residual heat from exhaust gasses to vaporize water in the engine. The vapor is injected into the combustor, which MTU says has the power to significantly drive down nitrogen oxide emissions. Alongside this, fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and contrail formation are all reduced.”
Likewise, Boeing is working to make fuel more sustainable and affordable with a hydrogen-powered plane. Through successful test flights, Boeing has already proven that choosing more sustainable fuels over petroleum jelly can work and transform the current climate change situation. Today, sustainable aviation fuels are mixed directly with conventional jet fuel up to a 50/50 blend — the maximum allowed under current fuel specifications. To meet the aviation industry’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2050, airplanes need the capability to fly on 100% sustainable aviation fuels well before then.
In conclusion, new and more sustainable technology and alternative materials are constantly and successfully being used to address current environmental challenges and socio-economic issues associated with the aviation industry. These new developments are not only benefitting aerospace businesses but the world as a whole.