A big new European research programme — called ACROSS (‘Advanced Cockpit for Reduction of StreSs and workload’) — has begun to look at the possibility of a single-pilot flight deck for commercial operations. Funded by the European Commission and others to the tune of €30 million…The ACROSS project is looking to replace the second pilot (at least temporarily) with automated systems…to allow pilots to cope with peak workloads and deal with crew incapacitation.

It is a response to two apparently contradictory pressures. On the one hand…pilot error causes a lot of crashes. On the other hand, airlines would like to reduce pilot costs. For example, instead of sending four pilots on a long-haul flight, they could send just two; one flying and one ‘in reserve’.