Don Bateman was an engineer who invented a cockpit device that would warn pilots with color screen displays and dire audible alarms such as “Beware the terrain!” and “Pull up!” He died on May 21 at his home in Bellevue, Washington, at the age of 91.
His daughter, Catherine McCaslin, said the cause of death was a complication of Parkinson’s disease.
The Ground Proximity Warning system, which Mr. Bateman began working on in the late 1960s and continued to improve until his retirement from Honeywell International in 2016, warns pilots not to accidentally hit land or water due to poor visibility and bad weather , which was once the most common cause of airline fatalities.
These types of plane crashes have all but been eliminated. There were just six such accidents between 2011 and 2020, killing 229 people on board, compared with 17 accidents between 2001 and 2010, killing 1,007 people, according to data compiled by Boeing Co. Between 1991 and 2000 there were 27 accidents, killing 2,237 people.
“Don Bateman and his team have probably saved more lives through safety systems technology than anyone else in the history of aviation,” Charlie Pereira, a former senior aerospace engineer at the National Transportation Safety Board, wrote in an email , and is estimated to be in the thousands.
“He was very enthusiastic,” Mr Pereira added. “He was a typical engineer with pocket protectors and pencils and pens, but he taught me what it means to be a security engineer.”
mr bateman inducted National Inventors Hall of Fame 2005 and Received the National Medal of Technology Innovated by current Barack Obama in 2011 for the development and advocacy of “flight safety sensors, such as ground proximity warning and windshear detection systems, now used on more than 55,000 aircraft worldwide.”
Bob Champion, a former Honeywell scientist who worked with Mr. Bateman, said in a telephone interview: “Don was passionate about saving lives. He was a peach, but behind closed doors, when we discussed things , he could be a pit bull.”
Mr. Bateman, himself a pilot, flew a single-engine Cessna 182.
“He never lost his childlike curiosity about flying,” Ms. McCaslin said by phone. “He’s done a lot of great work since he was in his 40s. He started flying and running in his 40s and he ran 50 marathons. He had his last child at 54.”
Charles Donald Bateman was born March 8, 1932 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His father, George, repaired watches and owned a jewelry store. His mother, Gladys (Noel) Bateman, was a homemaker. They divorced after World War II.
Don’s interest in aviation safety began when he was 9 years old when a friend looked out his classroom window in Saskatoon and saw debris and what appeared to be someone falling from the sky. Two military planes with 10 people on board collided in mid-air. Don and his friends slipped out of school early and rushed to the scene of the accident.
“I’ve never seen human blood before,” He told The Seattle Times in 2012“That’s too bad.”
After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a BS in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 1956, Mr. Bateman worked as a television repair technician and owned a television repair shop. He was hired by Boeing in 1958 and moved two years later to United Control, an aircraft electronics company. The company’s aviation instrumentation business is now part of Honeywell.
mr bateman Tell the National Medal of Science and Technology Foundation In 2011, in the late 1960s, there were almost monthly fatal accidents during which a pilot would “fly into something, say a mountain, or short out on the runway”.
At the time, pilots used altimeters to measure altitude, topographic maps and visual cues to avoid accidents. “But in low visibility and cloud cover, those cues are less effective,” Dr. Hassan Shahidi, president of the Flight Safety Foundation, said in an interview.
Determined to do something about it, Mr. Bateman developed and patented his first ground proximity warning system in 1974: a small box that integrated data from inside the aircraft, including a radar altimeter and an airspeed indicator, And issued a 15-second warning to the pilot to approach a dangerous situation.
The device was of limited use in 1971, when Alaska Airlines Flight 1866 — a Boeing 727 jet using an earlier version of the system — crashed into the sky in Alaska’s Chilkat Mountains as it was preparing to land in Juneau. A misty mountain. capital. All 111 people on board were killed.
Two weeks later, Mr. Bateman was traveling in a small plane with his device on the same route as the passengers of Flight 1866. The alarm sounded within seconds, giving the pilot plenty of time to fly to safety. But Mr. Bateman realized that the Alaska Airlines pilots had not had enough time to react.
“I am disappointed,” he told Bloomberg in 2016. “We need to do better.”
He did it. In 1974, the system improved enough to provide earlier warnings that the Federal Aviation Administration made it mandatory on all domestic aircraft. The agency took action that year when a TWA flight crashed on a wooded slope in Virginia, killing 92 people, an incident that prompted a congressional panel to criticize the agency for delaying measures to improve airline safety.
During the 1990s, the system improved exponentially. Engineers working with Mr. Bateman added GPS and key topographic data, including topographic maps of Eastern Europe and China that had been drawn by the Soviet Union as far back as the 1920s; they were acquired in Russia at Mr. Bateman’s request.
“As engineers, we know that if we have access to terrain data, we can do a lot of things,” he told The Seattle Times.
Crucially, The renamed Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, or EGPWS, which gives pilots a two-minute warning of obstacles ahead. In 2000, long after many major commercial airlines had already begun using the system, the FAA required it to be installed on all registered turbine-powered aircraft with six or more passenger seats.
In addition to Ms. McCaslin, Mr. Bateman is survived by his wife, Mary (Contreras) Bateman; another daughter, Wendy Bastian; two sons, Greg and Patrick; eight grandchildren; and two great grandson. His marriage to Joan Burney ended in divorce. A third son, Dan, died in 1988.
In 2015, Mr. Bateman was in Hindsight Magazine, An airline safety publication about six recent independently investigated incidents in which the warning system averted disaster.
For example, in 2014, the crew of a Saab 2000 twin-engine turboprop lost control of the plane near Sumburgh, Scotland, because they didn’t realize the autopilot was still active after a lightning strike. But, Mr. Bateman wrote, the crew “recovered from a high-speed descent following the EGPWS warning.”