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Why does every plane have two pilots?

It sounds like the start of a joke. But these are the thoughts of Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of low-cost airline Ryanair.

Last modified: 8 Sep 2010 09:20
Photo by Getty Images

It sounds like the start of a joke. But these are the thoughts of Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of low-cost airline Ryanair.

O’Leary would like to fly short hop routes with only one pilot.

Let the bloody computer fly it,

he tells Bloomberg Businessweek. If the pilot was to have a heart attack then the flight attendant should land the plane, he says.

O’Leary tells the Financial Times that trains only have one driver.

In 25 years with over about 10 million flights, we’ve had one pilot who suffered a heart attack in flight and he landed the plane.  

If you haven’t met O’Leary you must think he’s one wing short of a plane. He’s not a shrinking violet and he knows how to court headlines but ignore the man at your peril. O’Leary has taken a little unknown Irish airline to become Europe’s third biggest airline by passenger numbers.

His airline is worth $7.36 billion – almost twice as much as British Airways – and is hot on the heels of the biggest European airline Lufthansa. While Ryanair has been reporting profits over the last decade – with one exception – global airlines have been racking up losses of $50 billion.

Remember Ryanair was the first airline that charged for baggage – other airlines followed.

So just what else is O’Leary thinking about? Making you stand on airplanes, making you pay one euro to use the toilet, and getting you to load your own luggage onto planes.