Single pilots may fly future commercial jets

Washington: Large commercial flights today are flown by a captain with a co-pilot, but a new NASA study is exploring the idea of having a single pilot on board to overcome the shortage of trained airline pilots.

The study by the US space agency and Rockwell Collins Inc will focus on the idea that co-pilots could remain on the ground.

They can remotely assist solo aviators on the flight deck during the busiest parts of flights.

Researchers seek to analyse changes in technology and operations that could make the concept feasible, ‘ The Wall Street Journal’ reported.

Many airline industry officials are worried that the world-wide pool of pilots will dwindle over the next two decades while air-travel volume doubles.

Researchers said aviators on the ground could be assigned to assist solo cockpit pilots on multiple flights, virtually co-piloting during the busiest times through crowded airspace, approach-and-landing manoeuvres, or if something goes wrong.

However, industry officials say all-new aircraft would be needed with cockpits designed from the start with a single pilot in mind.

NASA has awarded USD 4 million and a four-year contract to Rockwell for the study, the report said.

The nearly half-decade study will include running simulations, determining where technology is needed and even potentially undertaking live flight trials.