Eject co-pilots to save cash, says Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary turned his focus on the cockpit today as part of his ongoing drive to save costs at the budget airline.

He said he intends to write to aviation authorities for permission to use only one pilot per flight because he believes co-pilots are unnecessary in modern jets, the Financial Times reported today.

Mr O'Leary, who has previously considered standing tickets on flights as well as charging for the use of toilets, conceded that two pilots would be needed on long-haul flights, but said on shorter trips flight attendants could do the job.

In an interview, he said the second pilot was only there to "make sure the first fella doesn't fall asleep and knock over one of the computer controls".

He backed up his comments by adding that trains were allowed to have one driver even though this could conceivably cause a crash in the event of a heart attack.

But he added: "It could save the entire industry a fortune. 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."

But industry experts have hit out at the proposal as "unwise".

A spokesman for the British Airline Pilots' Association said: "This is just a bid for publicity. His suggestion is unsafe and his passengers would be horrified."

Mr O'Leary frequently courts controversy with his attempts to cut costs at Ryanair, which charges for baggage check-in.

This year, he raised the baggage charge for the summer holiday season and, following the volcano ash cloud crisis, initially capped the level of compensation to passengers.

He later bowed to EU pressure and agreed to pay out costs to customers affected by the eruption.

Mr O'Leary also announced that he is in the market for a potential 300 new aircraft.

His comments come as the Dublin-based airline prepares to pay its first dividend next month of 500 million euros (£414 million) - after the airline pulled out of a deal to buy 200 Boeing jets late last year.