Understanding Single Pilot Operations (SPO) Certification Requirements (2013)

Title: Understanding Single Pilot Operations (SPO) Certification Requirements (2013)
Author(s): Jennifer Wilson, Greg Harron, Beth Lyall, Bob Hoffa, & Emily Jones

The primary objective of the research described in this final report was to provide a foundation for exploring the possibility of obtaining FAA approval for single pilot operations in categories of operations that are now only approved for two pilot crews. Much of the operations approved under 14 CFR Part 135 allow for single pilot operations (SPO). However, Part 121 (air carrier) operations are not certified for single pilot operations (SPO). NASA is exploring options for flight deck designs that will enable single pilots to operate as safely as two-person crews. The emphasis is on single-pilot, flying in IFR conditions with paying passengers. Such designs will require new design philosophies, training, procedures, checklists, and requirements for ground support. A major hurdle will be certifying such designs and their associated procedures with the FAA.

Because SPO represents a significant change in operations for Part 121 and Part 125 operations, it is likely that the certification process will enter uncharted territory. To meet and overcome any challenges effectively and efficiently, it is best that these certification issues be addressed early on in the design and research process. The aviation industry already has extensive experience with successfully obtaining approval for design meant for single pilot operations under Part 135 operations. The design strategies and challenges from those experiences can be applied as lessons in approaching NASA SPO design philosophies and evaluations when exploring the potential for SPO in higher-level operations such as those covered in Parts 121 and 125.

Therefore, this research draws upon that experience and other sources of information to provide a foundation of information to effectively allow the important research questions to be identified and answered as well as to allow the identification of design constraints that must be adhered to, and challenges that must be met, in maximizing the potential for single pilot operations to be certified under nearly all Part 135, Part 121, and 125 operations.

The research presented in this report is intended to provide a foundation to specifically explore certification issues and other regulatory challenges.

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