Washington: In the era of automation, a new study by the US space agency is looking into whether single pilots can fly large commercial jets so that the shortage of trained airline pilots can be resolved.
The study by NASA and Rockwell Collins Inc. - a major defence contractor specialising in avionics for jet aircraft - will focus if co-pilots can assist pilots from the ground, the Wall Street Journal reported.
All large commercial jets now fly with at least two pilots in the cockpit.
The study will include simulations, determining where technology is needed and even undertake live flight trials.
The team will analyse changes in technology and operations that could make the concept feasible by at least 2030.
The topic of reducing the size of cockpit crews for big cargo or passenger planes has been discussed for several years.
The NASA initiative is significant because it raises the concept's profile, and signals that NASA officials are convinced the general notion is not too far-fetched to merit further research.
The researchers will study if co-pilots on the ground could be assigned to assist solo pilots on multiple flights, virtually co-piloting during the busiest times through crowded airspace, approach-and-landing manoeuvers, or if something goes wrong.
NASA awarded the $4 million, four-year contract to Rockwell earlier this year for the study.