BALPA pilots believe the safety of every airline flight always starts with at least two well trained, qualified and rested pilots on the flight deck.
Removing pilots from the flight deck is a gamble with safety.
That is why BALPA is joining pilots from around the globe to engage in a worldwide campaign that states #SafetyStartsWith2. The aim is to ensure the current standards that have helped make aviation the safest form of transportation are not eroded by a commercially driven move towards reduced crew operations (RCO).
BALPA’s Position on Emerging Technology and Operations.
2. BALPA is opposed to Extended Minimum Crew Operations (eMCOs) on long-range operations for the following reasons:
- Loss of immediate problem-solving redundancy if there is a critical system failure in the cruise.
- Depending on the sleep phase of the second crewmember, sleep inertia could render them ineffective in an emergency until full cognitive capabilities are re-established, which is likely to be too late.
- Lack of appropriately robust and ethical technology to monitor the health and alertness of the operating crewmember.
- No guarantee of sufficient rest quality due to stimuli such as light, noise or turbulence, and the prevailing circadian rhythm of the crewmember.
- The need for additional, robust FTL protections would minimise any economic benefits of the eMCO concept.
3. BALPA is not against the development of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) provided that operations are conducted in a safe and sustainable manner, underpinned by appropriate regulations, oversight and enforcement – such that the overall risk to regular commercial air transport is not reduced below current levels.
4. AAM operations should be ‘in-cockpit’ piloted for the foreseeable future.
5. RPAS operations should ultimately be integrated with other airspace users, but segregation should continue until:
- There is suitable detect and avoid technology with proven integrity and resilience.
- Appropriate separation standards and ‘rules of the air’ have been developed for those vehicles for which current ICAO SARPs do not apply.
- These separation standards need to account for risks associated with wake turbulence and upset recovery response.
6. Training and licensing for AAM pilots and remote pilots of certified RPAS should draw on the skills, competency and experience conferred by the Part-FCL CPL and ATPL qualifications – this includes airmanship, decision making, air law, HF and CRM as well as ‘stick and rudder’ skills.
7. Training for rotary-wing RPAS and AAM applications should benefit from the specific training required of commercial helicopter pilots such as mountain flying techniques to deal with hyper local meteorological effects.
8. BALPA should actively look for job opportunities for its members in RPAS/AAM operations whilst not inadvertently jeopardising prospects for members in existing aviation jobs.
What action is BALPA taking?
BALPA has created a dedicated RCO Taskforce comprised of flight safety, industrial and public relations experts to ensure the voice of pilots is heard on this topic. The taskforce is gathering data, assessing the challenges that are arising and building a lobbying campaign.
Leading global conversations and educating the public: BALPA is involved in global discussions on this topic with stakeholders and decision makers in the UK and globally. BALPA has contributed to events that have helped the ECA and IFALPA build their positions and direct their campaigns. We continue to influence decision makers.
Risk Assessment: A BALPA rep is leading the IFALPA Reduced Crew Operations Risk Assessment workstream, which is paralleling (in terms of timescales) the EASA workstream to develop a risk assessment framework for extended Minimum Crew Operations (eMCO) and Single Pilot Operations (SiPO), which are the two main RCO concepts under consideration.
Data collection: BALPA is working on two data collection tasks to collect tangible data that will support our campaign.
We will be looking at information provided by our members as to how they have worked effectively as a crew to address operational challenges (whether that be technical issues with the aircraft, adverse weather, air traffic disruptions, etc.) and to deliver safe outcomes – day in day out.
One task will be focussed on the risks associated with extended Minimum Crew Operations (eMCO) and the other will be more general.
Technology Awareness: RCO Task Force reps are keeping abreast of technological developments that are being implemented on current fleets, trialled or are still in the design phase, which could be part of critical systems on future ‘reduced crewed’ aircraft. Examples of such technology include; incapacitation detection, ATC voice recognition, weather sense and avoid, runway overrun protection and auto failure recovery.
Raising the profile publicly: BALPA is engaging with the media to build a narrative around the #safetystartswith2 campaign and to educate the public. Using traditional and social media we are raising the profile of this issue.
Daily Mail article titled ‘I’m a flight safety expert and here’s why pilots are so much more than ‘just bus drivers in the sky”.
BALPA BLOG: Challenging the ‘Plane Driver’ myth