24Hr emergency line +44 (0)20 8476 4099
Join Balpa

Reduced Crew Operations: #SafetyStartsWith2

Safety Starts

With 2

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).


Reduced Crew Operations (RCO)

Live Webinar

BALPA, in conjunction with international partners, hosted a webinar on Reduced Crew Operations (RCO).

Watch the webinar below to hear from BALPA’s General Secretary, Amy Leversidge, and Head of Flight Safety, Joji Waites, about Reduced Crew Operations (RCO) – learn what it’s all about, who’s pushing it, why it’s a concern, what’s being done about it and how you can help. Hear also from John Sluys, International Affairs Coordinator for Air Line Pilots Association International, about the international RCO campaign followed by a brief Q&A session.

BALPA’s Position on Emerging Technology and Operations. 

1. BALPA is aligned with the IFALPA and ECA positions in opposition to reduced crew and single pilot 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.

2 Safety starts with

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”.


Tea for Two

Further reading:

BALPA BLOG: Understanding what goes well to deliver flight safety

BALPA BLOG: Challenging the ‘Plane Driver’ myth

More Campaigns.

Reduced Crew Operations: #SafetyStartsWith2

Safety Starts With 2 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 […]

Read more

Fighting the Strikes Bill

Government is trying to curb the right to strike for transport workers. Under new proposals, the Secretary of State for Transport would gain sweeping powers to set minimum service levels during strikes, removing or curtailing their effect.

This is unacceptable to BALPA and the entire trade union movement.

Read more

Supporting Pilot Licensing

The new and unfair post-Brexit licencing system means UK pilot licences have been seriously degraded in value and utility. The new state of play has actively prevented UK pilots, including those made redundant due to Covid-19, from securing UK jobs.

BALPA continues to campaign for a reciprocal Flight Crew and Engineer Licence agreement between the UK and EU, which would benefit all UK airlines. This would address the imbalance following Brexit and the Government must address it urgently.

Read more

Environment and Sustainability

BALPA wants to see a thriving future for the aviation sector in the UK, one that provides jobs for our members and mobility for our population. Yet we are in the midst of a climate crisis and have a moral and legal obligation to ensure our future is a sustainable one.

Read more

Fighting Pilot Fatigue

Fatigue has for many years been a worrying issue for pilots and it continues to be a huge concern across the industry today. Pilots have told BALPA they believe fatigue is now the biggest single threat to flight safety.

Read more

Maternity Pay for Female Pilots

For women, the viability and attractiveness of a career as a pilot is significantly affected by the ability to balance working as a pilot with maternity and childcare commitments. At its most fundamental level lies the issue of maternity pay. The financial support available to a woman following the birth of her child has a […]

Read more

Pilot Pensions

Pilots feel the current pension system – including the existing tax relief framework – works. They want stability and fear any changes could undermine the system and put people off saving for their future.

Read more