Dassault Mulls Single-Pilot Operations In Cruise

Falcon 6X
Credit: Dassault

PARIS—Dassault Aviation is studying reduced-crew operations in cruise flight for its Falcon business jets, in a bid to cut costs and free up room in the cabin, according to Innovation Director Bruno Stoufflet.

For long-haul flights, “we are working on single-pilot operations in cruise,” he said, speaking at a conference on autonomous aircraft and ships jointly organized by France’s Air and Space Academy and Navy Academy. The idea would be to avoid the presence on board of a third pilot for rotation during the flight. Such a move would make sense economically for the operator.

Moreover, a crew rest area would no longer be required. On the cabin floor plan of a high-end aircraft, a crew rest area can take a surface equivalent to a full galley. That space could be used for other amenities more attractive for Dassault’s customers.

Nevertheless, the second pilot would have to be able to sleep in good conditions. His or her seat, in the cockpit, would have to offer a great enough recline angle. Background noise would have to be compatible with sleep, too—possibly thanks to active cancellation.

For those phases when one pilot only is awake, a crew monitoring system would be needed, Stoufflet says. Overall, the aircraft would have to be designed to be operated by a single pilot. This is effectively the case already, except for some procedures that require actions by two crewmembers, such as a cockpit smoke emergency, he notes.

Dassault and Airbus—which is also interested in reduced-crew operations—are coordinating in their exchanges with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Stoufflet says.

Asked about Garmin’s Emergency Autoland system, slated to become standard on several small business aircraft next year, he described it as a “beautiful design.” But he warned against potential wrong usage, as an unscrupulous pilot may want to use it without an emergency. Dassault has implemented a similar functionality in its Neuron unmanned combat aircraft demonstrator.


Thierry Dubois

Thierry Dubois has specialized in aerospace journalism since 1997. An engineer in fluid dynamics from Toulouse-based Enseeiht, he covers the French commercial aviation, defense and space industries. His expertise extends to all things technology in Europe. Thierry is also the editor-in-chief of Aviation Week’s ShowNews.