Plans to develop aircraft and technologies that will allow a single pilot to operate commercial jetliners are being considered by Airbus in face of a world shortage of crew particularly in China and the Gulf region.
The manufacturer's chief technology officer, Paul Eremenko, told the Chinese Daily the move will help the company to cut costs but also contribute to the debate on aircraft of the future."We're pursuing a single-pilot operation as a potential option and a lot of the technologies needed to make that happen have also put us on the path toward an automated operation," Eremenko added.
He noted that the aerospace industry had begun seeing a similar trend as the car market, where manufacturer were investing in or acquiring start-up companies specialising in autonomous driving.
In the 1970s Airbus pioneered the two cockpit crew concept on its A300 jet transport by going from three to two crew members, eliminating the position of the flight engineer in the A300B4, A310 versions of its aircraft. Boeing followed the trend with the introduction of its two man Boeing 767 and 757 jets.
Aircraft makers were also racing to develop artificial intelligence that would one day enable computers to fly planes without humans at the controls, despite the industry norm for several decades of having at least two pilots in the cockpit for commercial flights.
Eremenko said Airbus had now agreed to set up an innovation centre in Shenzhen, in China's Guangdong...