“You can always find examples where having a pilot in the loop will be the determining factor.”
Those are the words of Fabrice Bregier, the chief executive officer of Airbus’ commercial airliner unit, as quoted in a story by Bloomberg and other media outlets. Bregier was speaking to reporters at a briefing in Paris over the weekend.
In the aftermath of the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 last month, some in the airline industry have publicly questioned whether having more automation in the cockpit would have prevented what happened. Prosecutors allege that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately locked the captain out of the flight deck after he got up to use the restroom, and that Lubitz then intentionally descended the plane and slammed it into the side of the French Alps, killing all 150 on board.
Bregier said the role of pilots is critical.
“Having pilots in the loop will still have a critical role in assuring aircraft security,” Bregier said.
German air traffic control monitors Deutsche Flugsicherung has already said it was developing an automatic protocol in which ground control could take over the controls of an aircraft in an emergency. Bregier said the industry, while improving technology to the point where accidents have been cut in half, should nonetheless avoid being so hasty to develop a fully automated, pilot-less commercial plane.
“To say that we’ll leave two people in the cockpit is a measure of good sense,” Bregier said. “Will that be sufficient? It’s not for me to decide. But I think we shouldn’t swing from one extreme to the other in saying we need to protect passengers from the pilots.”