NZ's CAA supporting investigation into single pilot passenger flights

The Civil Aviation Authority's supporting work to investigate whether commercial flights could cut back to one pilot in the cockpit.

The UN body responsible for setting aviation standards (ICAO) has drawn up a working paper titled "An approach to new operational concepts involving extended minimum crew operations and single-pilot operations".

Reportedly, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has said solo-pilot flights could start operating in 2027.

Airline pilot.

While the proposal is in its early days, New Zealand's CAA says it's interested in whether the proposal has merits, without safety trade-offs.

In a statement to 1News, a spokesperson for the authority said "as new technologies are introduced to aviation, such as greater automation of flight control systems, understanding how operational safety can be maintained at current levels, or be further improved is critical."

"By supporting this paper, we are not adopting a final position on the merits (or otherwise) of single and reduced crew. So, this is an important paper as regulators such as ourselves must be able to assess and ensure the safety of future technological developments in this area prior to any final decisions, and the programme of work recommended by the paper would support this outcome."

While the proposal is still being worked though, it would likely mean on some flights there would be multiple pilots working on board the aircraft.

However, they'd likely operate in shifts, with both only required in the cockpit for landing and takeoff.

Companies like Boeing have been lobbying for changes from regulators, calling for steps to be taken so only a captain would be needed in the cockpit without a co-pilot.

"The psychological barriers are probably harder than the technological barriers," Boeing Southeast Asia President Alexander Feldman said earlier this month.

1News understands the New Zealand Airline Pilots' Association doesn't support the proposal.

Air New Zealand has also said it's yet to form an opinion due to the idea still being in its early stages.