The customer base for commercial aviation are mostly concerned about getting from point A to point B as cheaply, comfortably, safely, and timely as possible. They may be concerned about both cost and safety and may be skeptical of flying on aircraft with only one pilot, when they have become so accustomed to flying on planes with two or more pilots onboard. Over time, the fact that one pilot is flying would become less controversial just like any other instance of technology replacing pilots (navigator, radio operator, and engineer). Passengers may take longer to become accustomed to the single pilot system due to the perceived lack of failover capability, such as the fear that the one pilot in the cockpit may become incapacitated without a co-pilot to provide backup would cause a major aircraft accident. Air carriers can also counteract passengers’ initial safety concerns about single pilot air transport by offering reduced rates compared to their competitors, which would be easier to accomplish with the resultant cost savings following from labor cost reduction.
2.4 Aviation Workforce
The aviation workforce is comprised of pilots, air traffic controllers, and the unions that represent them. They are primarily interested in preserving existing job and wage stability, as well as ensuring that current levels of workload and safety conditions are maintained. The notion that only a single pilot would be needed for air carrier operations would be a serious point of contention between air carriers and pilots. Pilots and unions alike would be extremely worried that a reduction in pilot labor demand from moving to a single pilot system would immediately put thousands of pilots out of work, likely leading them to applying a lot of pushback against the efforts of air carriers to implement such a system.
Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) has immense responsibility to ensure the National Airspace System is safe and well managed. ATC’s objectives are much like the pilot’s in that they want to maintain employment, bring home a stable salary, maintain workload, work in a safe environment, and have career growth opportunities. Air traffic controllers will also likely oppose a single pilot system initially, but for slightly different reasons than pilots. ATC will be primarily concerned that their operational procedures would significantly change under a new system. In addition to changing their procedures, increasing ATC task load would be unacceptable from their standpoint. Systems that seamlessly integrate existing procedures and ATC protocol may be acceptable, though some initial skepticism is expected.
2.6 Aviation Infrastructure
Aviation infrastructure includes aviation insurance companies, airports, and aircraft manufacturers. In general, these agencies are primarily driven by maintaining consistent revenue, market predictability, and a low risk profile, as well as holding onto and expanding on their current customer base.
Aircraft manufacturers have a vested interest in selling and leasing their airplanes to airlines. They are constantly seeking new ways to better their product lineups and take them to market. The move to a single pilot cockpit could prove to be a good opportunity to develop a new, unique product that can be sold or leased for an increased profit compared to older models. As long as the R&D costs involved in redesigning the firm’s existing plane models doesn’t outstrip the potential for a higher profitability, aircraft manufactures would likely be the only stakeholder besides the airlines themselves to push for implementing a single pilot system.
Aviation insurance companies will be keenly aware of the increased level of risk that introducing a single pilot system would have on flight safety. As such, they will likely require a probationary period for testing a plane newly-developed to operate under the single pilot paradigm in order to collect enough data to make the appropriate adjustments to their premiums. As long as insurance agencies are given enough time to adapt their insurance plans to the shifting aviation landscape, they are not likely to have much of an issue with the move to a single pilot cockpit.
Airports serve as departing and arrival junctions for air transportation. The infrastructure required to meet these needs is very complex and requires significant capital investment. Changes to the system would greatly impact operations and may be a significant bottleneck in terms of system operations. Airport’s objectives are to maintain its infrastructure and keep cost of existing or new systems as low as possible. Airports may develop conflicts with the airline companies because they are balancing operations for all sizes of air carriers, different schedules/capacities, and are pressured to ensure there are no gaps in service. Implementing new systems would be perceived as risky and costly regardless of long run benefits or intent, so airports would need to be assured that the added complexity from implementing a new system would not be significant enough to overcomplicate their business operations.