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Why airplanes might soon have just one pilot

(CNN) — If you boarded a passenger plane in 1950 and peeked into the cockpit, you would have seen five people in there (almost certainly men): two pilots, a radio operator, a navigator and a flight engineer.

Over the years, technical advances in radio communications, navigation systems and on-board monitoring equipment gradually removed the need for the last three, making it possible to safely fly a passenger plane with just two pilots. That has been the norm in commercial aviation for about 30 years.

Soon, however, things could streamline further, and one of the two remaining pilots -- technically the first officer -- could soon go, leaving behind only the captain. Many smaller and military aircraft are already manned by a single pilot, but for commercial aviation this would mean venturing into a brave new world.

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