Don Bateman, Trailblazer in Airline Security, Dies at 91

Don Bateman, Trailblazer in Airline Security, Dies at 91


Don Bateman, an engineer who invented a cockpit gadget that warns airplane pilots with colourful display shows and dire audible alerts like “Warning Terrain!” and “Pull Up!” when they’re in peril of crashing into mountains, buildings or water — an innovation that has doubtless saved 1000’s of lives — died on Could 21 at his residence in Bellevue, Wash. He was 91.

His daughter Katherine McCaslin stated the trigger was issues of Parkinson’s illness.

The bottom proximity warning system that Mr. Bateman started engaged on within the late Nineteen Sixties, and continued to enhance till he retired from Honeywell Worldwide in 2016, warns pilots towards unintentionally slamming into land or water due to poor visibility and dangerous climate, as soon as the most typical reason behind airline deaths.

That class of aircraft crash has practically been eradicated. In accordance with knowledge compiled by Boeing about industrial jets worldwide, there have been simply six such accidents from 2011 to 2020, killing 229 folks onboard, in contrast with 17 accidents from 2001 to 2010, which left 1,007 folks useless, and 27 accidents from 1991 to 2000, killing 2,237.

“Don Bateman and his group have in all probability saved extra lives by security system applied sciences than anybody else in aviation historical past,” Charley Pereira, a former senior aerospace engineer with the Nationwide Transportation Security Board, wrote in an e-mail, estimating the quantity within the 1000’s.

“He was very passionate,” Mr. Pereira added. “He was a typical engineer, with pocket protector and pencils and pens, however he taught me what it means to be a security engineer.”

Mr. Bateman was inducted within the Nationwide Inventors Corridor of Fame in 2005 and acquired the Nationwide Medal of Expertise and Innovation from Current Barack Obama in 2011 for growing and championing “flight-safety sensors, like floor proximity warning and wind-shear detection techniques, now utilized by greater than 55,000 aircrafts worldwide.”

Bob Champion, a former scientist at Honeywell who labored with Mr. Bateman, stated in a phone interview: “Don had a real ardour for saving lives. He was a peach, however behind closed doorways, after we have been hashing issues out, he may very well be a pit bull.”

Mr. Bateman was a pilot in his personal proper, flying a single-engine Cessna 182.

“He by no means misplaced his childlike marvel about flying,” Ms. McCaslin stated by cellphone. “He did quite a lot of his nice work from his 40s on. He began flying and working in his 40s and went on to do 50 marathons. And he had his final baby at 54.”

Charles Donald Bateman was born on March 8, 1932, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His father, George, repaired watches and owned a jewellery retailer. His mom, Gladys (Noel) Bateman, was a homemaker. They divorced after World Warfare II.

Don’s curiosity in airline security started when he was 9, when certainly one of his pals appeared outdoors their classroom window in Saskatoon and noticed particles and what seemed to be folks falling from the sky. Two army planes, with 10 males aboard, had collided in midair. Don and his good friend sneaked out of faculty early and rushed to the crash website.

“I had by no means seen blood earlier than from a human being,” he advised The Seattle Instances in 2012. “It was horrible.”

After graduating from the College of Saskatchewan in 1956 with a bachelor’s diploma in electrical and electronics engineering, Mr. Bateman labored as a tv restore technician and owned a TV restore store. He was employed by Boeing in 1958, then moved to United Management, an plane electronics firm two years later. The corporate’s aviation devices enterprise is now a part of Honeywell.

Mr. Bateman advised the Nationwide Science and Expertise Medals Basis in 2011 that within the late Nineteen Sixties there have been deadly accidents practically each month, throughout which a pilot would “fly into one thing, like a mountain, or go in brief on the runway.”

On the time, pilots used the altimeter, which measures altitude, terrain charts and visible cues to keep away from accidents. “However in poor visibility and clouds, these cues have been much less efficient,” Dr. Hassan Shahidi, president of the Flight Security Basis, stated in an interview.

Decided to do one thing, Mr. Bateman developed — and in 1974 patented — his first floor proximity warning system: a small field that built-in knowledge from inside the plane, together with the radar altimeter and airspeed indicator, and gave the pilot a 15-second warning of an approaching hazardous situation.

The gadget was in restricted use in 1971 when Alaska Airways Flight 1866 — a Boeing 727 jet that was utilizing an early model of the system — slammed right into a fog-covered mountain within the Chilkat vary in Alaska on its strategy to touchdown in Juneau, the capital. All 111 folks aboard died.

Two weeks later, Mr. Bateman adopted the identical path of Flight 1866 because the passenger in a small aircraft outfitted along with his gadget. The alarm sounded with seconds to spare, giving the pilot sufficient time to fly to security. However Mr. Bateman realized that it wasn’t sufficient time for the Alaska Airways pilot to have reacted.

“I used to be disenchanted,” he advised in 2016. “We wanted to do higher.”

He did. In 1974, the system had improved sufficient, offering earlier warnings, for the Federal Aviation Administration to mandate its set up into all home plane. The company acted after a TWA flight crashed right into a wooded slope in Virginia that 12 months, killing 92 folks, an incident that prompted a Congressional panel to criticize the company for delaying measures to enhance airline security.

Within the Nineteen Nineties, the system improved exponentially. Engineers working with Mr. Bateman added GPS and significant terrain knowledge, together with topographical maps of Jap Europe and China that had been charted by the Soviet Union way back to the Twenties; they’d been acquired in Russia at Mr. Bateman’s request.

“We knew, as engineers, that if we may get the terrain knowledge, we may do an terrible lot,” he advised The Seattle Instances.

Critically, the rechristened Enhanced Floor Proximity Warning System, or EGPWS, gave pilots a two-minute warning of obstacles forward. In 2000, nicely after many main industrial airways had already begun utilizing the system, the F.A.A. required that or not it’s put in in all registered turbine-powered airplanes with six or extra passenger seats.

Along with Ms. McCaslin, Mr. Bateman is survived by his spouse, Mary (Contreras) Bateman; one other daughter, Wendy Bastian; two sons, Greg and Patrick; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His marriage to Joan Berney led to divorce. A 3rd son, Dan, died in 1988.

In 2015, Mr. Bateman wrote in Hindsight journal, an airline security publication, about six latest, independently investigated incidents by which the warning system averted catastrophe.

In 2014, for instance, the crew of a Saab 2000 twin-engine turboprop misplaced management of the plane close to Sumburgh, Scotland, after failing to acknowledge that the autopilot was nonetheless on after a lightning strike. However, Mr. Bateman wrote, the crew “recovered from a excessive price of descent towards the ocean floor after EGPWS warnings occurred.”


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