Don Bateman, Trailblazer in Airline Safety, Dies at 91

3 months ago 70

His cockpit informing system, which alerts the unit if an craft is heading toward a mountain, a gathering oregon the ocean, has saved thousands of lives.

Don Bateman, wearing a acheronian  athletics  coat, reddish  tie, bluish  pullover sweater and khakis, poses earlier  the doorway of a tiny  plane.
Don Bateman successful 2012. He began moving connected a instrumentality to pass pilots of imaginable obstacles successful the 1960s.Credit...John Lok/The Seattle Times

Richard Sandomir

June 2, 2023, 5:53 p.m. ET

Don Bateman, an technologist who invented a cockpit instrumentality that warns airplane pilots with colorful surface displays and dire audible alerts similar “Caution Terrain!” and “Pull Up!” erstwhile they are successful information of crashing into mountains, buildings oregon h2o — an innovation that has apt saved thousands of lives — died connected May 21 astatine his location successful Bellevue, Wash. He was 91.

His girl Katherine McCaslin said the origin was complications of Parkinson’s disease.

The crushed proximity informing strategy that Mr. Bateman began moving connected successful the precocious 1960s, and continued to amended until helium retired from Honeywell International successful 2016, warns pilots against accidentally slamming into onshore oregon h2o due to the fact that of mediocre visibility and atrocious weather, erstwhile the astir communal origin of hose deaths.

That class of level clang has astir been eliminated. According to information compiled by Boeing astir commercialized jets worldwide, determination were conscionable six specified accidents from 2011 to 2020, sidesplitting 229 radical onboard, compared with 17 accidents from 2001 to 2010, which left 1,007 radical dead, and 27 accidents from 1991 to 2000, sidesplitting 2,237.

“Don Bateman and his squad person astir apt saved much lives done information strategy technologies than anyone other successful aviation history,” Charley Pereira, a erstwhile elder aerospace technologist with the National Transportation Safety Board, wrote successful an email, estimating the fig successful the thousands.

“He was precise passionate,” Mr. Pereira added. “He was a emblematic engineer, with pouch protector and pencils and pens, but helium taught maine what it means to beryllium a information engineer.”

Mr. Bateman was inducted successful the National Inventors Hall of Fame successful 2005 and received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from Present Barack Obama successful 2011 for processing and championing “flight-safety sensors, similar crushed proximity informing and wind-shear detection systems, present utilized by much than 55,000 aircrafts worldwide.”

Bob Champion, a erstwhile idiosyncratic astatine Honeywell who worked with Mr. Bateman, said successful a telephone interview: “Don had a existent passionateness for redeeming lives. He was a peach, but down closed doors, erstwhile we were hashing things out, helium could beryllium a pit bull.”

Mr. Bateman was a aviator successful his ain right, flying a single-engine Cessna 182.

“He ne'er mislaid his childlike wonderment astir flying,” Ms. McCaslin said by phone. “He did a batch of his large enactment from his 40s on. He started flying and moving successful his 40s and went connected to bash 50 marathons. And helium had his past kid astatine 54.”


The Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, developed successful the 1990s, was a large betterment implicit erstwhile versions, incorporating GPS and topographical information and giving pilots a two-minute informing of imaginable obstacles ahead. Credit...John Lok/The Seattle Times

Charles Donald Bateman was calved connected March 8, 1932, successful Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His father, George, repaired watches and owned a jewelry store. His mother, Gladys (Noel) Bateman, was a homemaker. They divorced aft World War II.

Don’s involvement successful hose information began erstwhile helium was 9, erstwhile 1 of his friends looked extracurricular their schoolroom model successful Saskatoon and saw debris and what appeared to beryllium radical falling from the sky. Two subject planes, with 10 men aboard, had collided successful midair. Don and his person sneaked retired of schoolhouse aboriginal and rushed to the clang site.

“I had ne'er seen humor earlier from a quality being,” he told The Seattle Times successful 2012. “It was horrible.”

After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan successful 1956 with a bachelor’s grade successful electrical and electronics engineering, Mr. Bateman worked arsenic a tv repair technician and owned a TV repair shop. He was hired by Boeing successful 1958, past moved to United Control, an craft electronics institution 2 years later. The company’s aviation instruments concern is present portion of Honeywell.

Mr. Bateman told the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation in 2011 that successful the precocious 1960s determination were fatal accidents astir each month, during which a aviator would “fly into something, similar a mountain, oregon spell successful abbreviated connected the runway.”

At the time, pilots utilized the altimeter, which measures altitude, terrain charts and ocular cues to debar accidents. “But successful mediocre visibility and clouds, those cues were little effective,” Dr. Hassan Shahidi, president of the Flight Safety Foundation, said successful an interview.

Determined to bash something, Mr. Bateman developed — and successful 1974 patented — his archetypal crushed proximity informing system: a tiny container that integrated information from wrong the aircraft, including the radar altimeter and airspeed indicator, and gave the aviator a 15-second informing of an approaching hazardous condition.

The instrumentality was successful constricted usage successful 1971 erstwhile Alaska Airlines Flight 1866 — a Boeing 727 pitchy that was utilizing an aboriginal mentation of the strategy — slammed into a fog-covered upland successful the Chilkat scope successful Alaska on its attack to landing successful Juneau, the capital. All 111 radical aboard died.

Two weeks later, Mr. Bateman followed the aforesaid way of Flight 1866 arsenic the rider successful a tiny level equipped with his device. The alarm sounded with seconds to spare, giving the aviator capable clip to alert to safety. But Mr. Bateman realized that it wasn’t capable clip for the Alaska Airlines aviator to person reacted.

“I was disappointed,” he told successful 2016. “We needed to bash better.”

He did. In 1974, the strategy had improved enough, providing earlier warnings, for the Federal Aviation Administration to mandate its installation into each home aircraft. The bureau acted aft a TWA formation crashed into a wooded slope successful Virginia that year, sidesplitting 92 people, an incidental that prompted a Congressional sheet to knock the bureau for delaying measures to amended hose safety.


President Barack Obama awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Mr. Bateman successful 2011 for processing flight-safety sensors present utilized by craft astir the world.Credit...Getty images

In the 1990s, the strategy improved exponentially. Engineers moving with Mr. Bateman added GPS and captious terrain data, including topographical maps of Eastern Europe and China that had been charted by the Soviet Union arsenic acold backmost arsenic the 1920s; they had been acquired successful Russia astatine Mr. Bateman’s request.

“We knew, arsenic engineers, that if we could get the terrain data, we could bash an atrocious lot,” helium told The Seattle Times.

Critically, the rechristened Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, oregon EGPWS, gave pilots a two-minute informing of obstacles ahead. In 2000, good aft galore large commercialized airlines had already begun utilizing the system, the F.A.A. required that it beryllium installed successful each registered turbine-powered airplanes with six oregon much rider seats.

In summation to Ms. McCaslin, Mr. Bateman is survived by his wife, Mary (Contreras) Bateman; different daughter, Wendy Bastian; 2 sons, Greg and Patrick; 8 grandchildren; and 2 great-grandchildren. His matrimony to Joan Berney ended successful divorce. A 3rd son, Dan, died successful 1988.

In 2015, Mr. Bateman wrote successful Hindsight magazine, an hose information publication, astir six recent, independently investigated incidents successful which the informing strategy averted disaster.

In 2014, for example, the unit of a Saab 2000 twin-engine turboprop mislaid power of the craft adjacent Sumburgh, Scotland, aft failing to admit that the autopilot was inactive connected aft a lightning strike. But, Mr. Bateman wrote, the unit “recovered from a precocious complaint of descent toward the oversea aboveground aft EGPWS warnings occurred.”

Richard Sandomir is an obituaries writer. He antecedently wrote astir sports media and sports business. He is besides the writer of respective books, including “The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper and the Making of a Classic.” @RichSandomir

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