Airbus doesn’t specifically tie its new A350F to single-pilot operations, but it does recognize that the entry-into-service schedule coincides with the initial concept testing schedule – and that it could serve as a platform.
The American lessor Air Lease has become the launch customer of the freighter, a five-frame shrinkage of the A350-1000 which will have a payload capacity of 109 t.
Airbus has investigated the potential for longer-term single-pilot operations, and freight services are seen as an area where the concept could be tested.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Air Lease order, Faury observed that the A350F – with its target to enter service in the middle of the decade – will be in the “right place” in terms of an overall timeline for exploring single-pilot operations. .
But while he suggests that the freighter could be a single-pilot “candidate”, he points out that the aircraft manufacturer “does not” specifically link “the development of the A350F to such concepts.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has embarked on a research program to analyze the main safety risks of two particular single-pilot scenarios, which have been approached by aircraft manufacturers interested in reducing the number crews on board.
These scenarios include extended operations with a minimum crew, in which flight times are increased by allowing single pilot periods during the cruise and allowing crew rest.
These could be introduced around 2025, coinciding with the entry into service of the A350F. The aircraft will have a common cockpit with other members of the A350 family.
EASA will also consider the longer term idea of end-to-end single-pilot operations, a more complex scenario that would require increased pilot support from automation or ground services.