HALA! Organized a workshop on reduced crew operations at WATMC 2015

HALA¡ Research Network (Towards higher levels of automation in the future ATM System) addresses the challenges that impose automation to the whole aviation system. HALA! Is looking into future scenarios of the ATM and air transport system. For that purpose it organised a workshop on “reduced-crew operations” within the WATM congress 2015. HALA’s aimed to examine and discuss the idea of operations with reduced crew taking into account its technical, social and legal aspects

The workshop took place during the 3th World ATM Congress held in Madrid in March 2015. It took the form of presentations from the panellists and a discussion and debate with attendees afterwards..

Six (6) experts from academia, research centres and the industry from different countries in Europe were invited as main speakers and panellists for the discussions.

A total of 40 persons attended the conference. Participating audience included several students from UPM and several other World ATM congress participants. It was an interactive forum where experts served as panel in a forum to discuss challenges faced by the industry associated to automation and reduction of workload. Speakers at the Workshop included:


  1. Francisco Sáez - Head Professor of Air Navigation and ATM, UPM 
  2. Alberto Pasquini - Director, Deep Blue
  3. Philippe Palanque - Head of ICS research team, IRIT/University of Toulouse
  4. José Neves – Director GMV Portugal 
  5. Giuseppe Contissa – Law professor European University Institute (EUI)
  6. Alfonso Sánchez – Retired A330 Captain Air Europa


The speakers presented the views, knowledge and results obtained during their R&D activities in the issue as well as areas of concern of different stakeholders related to reducing the number of crew at the cockpit.


1.1 Presentation

After the introduction from Nicolás Suarez, Professor Saez Nieto presented HALA¡, its activity and the view the research network has on automation on ATM. His presentation was followed by Alberto Pasquini’s one, who presented the ongoing research on reduced-crew operations and on reduced pilot workload (ACROSS project, NASA activity, etc..). He mentioned as well areas that are still to be discussed and addressed by those projects such as safety, legal and managerial, certification, acceptability and security. He indicated that this has not to be seen only as reducing pilot but also as reallocation of tasks and assignment of different roles for humans.

Professor Philippe Palanque took the floor afterwards. His presentation dealt with the relation between automation and collaboration in cockpit operations. He presented collaboration as a way to allocate functions between human and machine. Reduced-crew operations implies new actors, tasks, rules, interfaces, which will conduct to new collaboration process between human and machines and a new distribution of tasks between humans involved in the flight operation.

José Neves presented future technological developments needed for paving the road to single pilot operations. These developments are needed in areas related to crew monitoring, display and controls, communications, automation, electronic pilot or crosschecking among others. He mentioned as well considerations that should be taken into account when developing this new technology in order to deliver benefits in terms of safety, pilot performance, identification of threats, crew acceptability, legal implications, etc.. 

Professor Contissa spoke about legal issues and liability related to higher automated systems where the activity and task are shared between the human and the machine. He introduced issues as: who is responsible in case of failure? Who is considered the “pilot-in-command” with reduced-crew: pilot/technology/ground operator?

Finally Alfonso Sánchez presented his view as pilot and the effect that reducing crew on the cockpit would have both in terms of safety and on passenger’s willingness to flight. He finalised his presentation by giving some examples where the collaboration between both pilots on board prevented some accidents. 


1.2 Discussion

After the presentations, the floor was opened to attendees to the seminar. Some questions were raised to the speakers. The main concern for the public was on issues related to automation, safety, liability and the technology and other enablers which would allow this type of operations. 

Given the large degree of automation existing in the cockpit the concern lies on whether automation could substitute pilots or complement their activities and how it could assist pilots on their work (human-machine collaboration). Especially the concern resides in cases of difficult and non-linear situations and whether automation in the cockpit could assist the pilot to take complex decisions in stress situations. Speakers commented that ironically automation is not useful in such situations. Pilot should be trained well enough to face these situations without assistance from automation. 

Also there were some comments on the legal implications of automation in terms of liability and responsibility of actions. If cockpit is further automated and crew reduced, who will be blamed in case of injury? If one pilot means half machine/half human how liability could be traced?.

Related to automation, the audience also discussed about tasks in the cockpit that cannot be automated. The most demanding tasks in terms of workload and attention are take-off and some checking procedures. These actions have to be executed by two pilots in order to guarantee the safety of the operation, and it could not be delegated to a machine or assistance on the ground.
Besides it was added that in some emergency situations both pilots are needed. This inferred that the minimum pilot number for a secure flight would be two.

Then the discussion went into technological issues. It was mentioned that new technological developments are still needed to allow for reducing crew in the cockpit. But the question is when will it be available and how long could take the pilot to get familiar with it and get trained in that new technology. Speakers added that it is hard to estimate the time required since lot of time is needed to get a good feedback from all end-users which is an essential part of the process.

Besides they mentioned that another problem related with technology is that it requires qualified people for its uses, but at the same time to train this people is a long process. Moreover, training is important to deal with automation.

Again, legal implications related to technology were mentioned. If this new technology is applied and there is an accident the company could became bankrupt so nobody is willing to that. There are too much legal issues to take into account before opening the door for these operations.

To finalise the discussion it was added that there would be too much problems with the ground control.

In summary, as final conclusion from the workshop could be inferred that reduced-crew operations was seen as a possible aircraft operation in the future, taking into account that the technology is coming and some technological enablers are being developed. Nevertheless it is a topic that raises large concerns in the society as a whole and in the sector in particular, especially in some communities such as those of the pilots, ATC, airlines. 

There was no doubt that this is a hot topic allowing for long and interesting discussions, and whose importance will probably increase in the near future, especially due to the technology advances in the sector and the social and legal consequences it could have. Some international studies and research projects are investigating the subject, although a larger attention from some EU institutions on the topic would be desirable. 

Although the way is paved, the road is still long until all those different issues, beyond technology, are addressed. The topic remained open for further debates and collaboration was called for developing this area of work among all industry stakeholders. 


10:00 Welcome address Nicolás Suarez 
CRIDA and member HALA! SESAR Research Network (Towards Higher Levels of Automation in ATM)
10:00 - 10:10 Short introduction from HALA about increase of automation in the aviation sector Francisco Saez Nieto 
UPM and Coordinator of HALA! SESAR Research Network (Towards Higher Levels of Automation in ATM)
10:10 - 10:20 Implications of automation in cockpit operations: the road towards reduced-crew operations Philippe Palanque 
IRIT- Université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier
10:20 - 10:35 Ongoing research on reduced-crew operations Alberto Pasquini
Deep Blue
10:35 - 10:55 Technical open issues and main perspectives José Neves
GMV Portugal 
10:55 - 11:15 Legal open issues and main perspectives Prof. Giuseppe Contissa
European University Institute (EUI)
11:15 - 11:30 Collaboration work in the cockpit on reduced-crew operations. Pilot vision Alfonso Sánchez
Retired A 330 Captain Air Europa
11:30 - 12:00 Open discussion with the audience.   

Chaired by Nicolás Suárez CRIDA