Single Pilot Airline Operations: Designing the Aircraft May Be the Easy Part

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For financial and operational reasons many aircraft manufacturers are working on the development of single-pilot commercial aircraft. It is suggested that cargo operations may commence in the early 2030s followed by passenger flights later that decade. Two technological approaches for the development of single-pilot airliners are being developed either based upon extant technology and operating concepts derived from uninhabited aviation systems and military aircraft, or alternatively based upon high levels of onboard autonomy/automation. This review considers the economic, technological, regulatory (safety) and societal acceptance of the single-pilot airliner, and examines some of the operational challenges that airlines may face. It is suggested that while the technological and safety challenges may be resolved, it is the operational challenges that may determine if the concept is ultimately viable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1171-1191
Number of pages21
JournalThe Aeronautical Journal
Issue number1313
Early online date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

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This document is the author’s post-print version, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer-review process. Some differences between the published version and this version may remain and you are advised to consult the published version if you wish to cite from it.


This work was co-funded by Innovate UK, the UK's Innovation Agency, with support from the UK Aerospace Technology Institute. The author has no competing interests. Publisher Copyright: © 2023 The Author(s).


  • single pilot operations
  • societal acceptance
  • safety
  • system architecture


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