Don Bateman, who prevented planes from flying into mountains, dies at 91

Don Bateman, who prevented planes from flying into mountains, dies at 91

Don Bateman, a former Honeywell Worldwide engineer credited with saving hundreds of lives along with his invention of a cockpit warning system alerting pilots about potential lethal obstacles of their path over land and sea, died Might 21 at his dwelling in Bellevue, Wash. He was 91.

The trigger was issues from Parkinson’s illness, his daughter Katherine McCaslin mentioned.

Combining radio altimeter knowledge with GPS maps, Mr. Bateman’s warning system grew to become a sublime but easy resolution to the vexing drawback of managed flight into terrain (CFIT) — the aviation time period for when pilots crash after changing into disoriented at the hours of darkness, misreading devices or veering off flight paths.

Mr. Bateman’s system emits loud warnings, beginning with “CAUTION TERRAIN, CAUTION TERRAIN,” adopted by the extra dire “PULL UP, PULL UP.”

Earlier than Mr. Bateman’s invention was launched within the Seventies, such incidents had been the main reason for loss of life from flying. In nations which have mandated the expertise, together with the USA, these varieties of crashes have been nearly eradicated.

“It is accepted inside the trade that Don has in all probability saved extra lives than any single individual within the historical past of aviation,” Invoice Voss, then the chief govt of the Flight Security Basis, informed the Seattle Occasions in 2012.

President Barack Obama awarded Mr. Bateman the Nationwide Medal of Know-how and Innovation in 2011 “for growing and championing crucial flight-safety sensors now utilized by plane worldwide.”

Mr. Bateman first grew to become taken with CFITs whereas working for a predecessor firm to Honeywell within the Sixties.

Again then, there was about one such crash a month in the USA. Mr. Bateman’s resolution was referred to as the “floor proximity warning system.” It used radio altimeter knowledge to offer pilots audible warnings about 15 seconds earlier than catastrophe.

After 92 folks had been killed in 1974 on a TWA 727 that crashed into Mount Climate, Va., a Federal Aviation Authority investigation instructed {that a} floor proximity warning might need prevented the incident. The company ordered that each one air provider plane set up the system.

Whereas crashes into mountains and different obstacles dropped precipitously, the warning system was restricted in that it may solely measure what was taking place beneath the aircraft, not in entrance of it. The warning window was additionally small.

Working with a group of engineers, Mr. Bateman up to date the system with GPS knowledge, together with beforehand unseen maps of Europe and Asia made by Russian scientists that Honeywell acquired following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The up to date expertise was additionally able to issuing warnings two minutes earlier than a crash.

“Figuring out the place of the airplane, we may really undertaking the flight path that the airplane is on in the direction of that terrain,” Mr. Bateman mentioned in an interview with the Nationwide Science and Know-how Medals Basis. “We’d discover an accident and go fly it and see if we may duplicate the flight path and really get a warning and see if it was ample in time to drag up.”

In a 2015 article in HindSight, an aviation security journal, Mr. Bateman recounted a number of crashes the system prevented, together with a aircraft attempting to keep away from clouds on strategy to touchdown in Australia that “inadvertently entered right into a excessive charge of descent close to the bottom.” The system generated a number of warnings, and the pilots recovered earlier than crashing.

Mr. Bateman additionally described an incident during which a warning was not heeded on an illustration flight of a brand new jet in Indonesia.

“The pilot, unaware of the native terrain, ignored 38 seconds of [warnings],” Mr. Bateman wrote, and “switched the gear off, believing that there was a database error.”

The aircraft hit the aspect of a mountain.

Charles Donald Bateman was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on March 8, 1932. His father repaired watches, and his mom was a homemaker.

Donnie, as he was recognized rising up, first grew to become taken with plane security when he was 8. At school in the future, he regarded out the window and noticed two planes hit the bottom after colliding within the air.

He sneaked out of college with a pal to take a look at the particles — and located a horrifying tangle of our bodies amid the crash.

His instructor punished them for leaving early by ordering them to write down a report about what they noticed. “You certain can’t spell,” his instructor informed him, studying the account. “You’re going to be an engineer.”

Mr. Bateman studied electrical engineering on the College of Saskatchewan, graduating in 1956. He labored at Boeing for 2 years earlier than becoming a member of United Management, which finally merged into Honeywell. Mr. Bateman retired from the corporate in 2016.

His marriage to Joan Berney led to divorce. In 1981, he married Mary Contreras.

Along with his spouse, and their daughter Katherine, of Bellevue, Wash., survivors embody their son, Patrick Bateman of Seattle; two youngsters from his first marriage, Wendy Bastian of Sarasota, Fla., and Greg Bateman of Redmond, Wash.; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Mr. Bateman’s youngsters recall that their father, with out fail, would concern a warning once they landed collectively on flights at Seattle-Tacoma Worldwide Airport.

“Now we’re in the actual dangerous a part of our journey,” he’d say. “Stepping into the automobile and driving on the freeway.”


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