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

Don Bateman, a former Honeywell Worldwide engineer credited with saving 1000’s 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 Could 21 at his residence in Bellevue, Wash. He was 91.

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

Combining radio altimeter information with GPS maps, Mr. Bateman’s warning system turned a sublime but easy resolution to the vexing drawback of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) — the aviation time period for when pilots crash after turning into disoriented at nighttime, 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 Nineteen Seventies, such incidents have been the main reason for dying from flying. In nations which have mandated the know-how, together with the US, these varieties of crashes have been nearly eradicated.

“It is accepted throughout the trade that Don has in all probability saved extra lives than any single particular person within the historical past of aviation,” Invoice Voss, then the chief government of the Flight Security Basis, advised the Seattle Instances in 2012.

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

Mr. Bateman first turned excited about CFITs whereas working for a predecessor firm to Honeywell within the Sixties.

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

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

Whereas crashes into mountains and different obstacles dropped precipitously, the warning system was restricted in that it might solely measure what was occurring beneath the airplane, 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 information, 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 know-how was additionally able to issuing warnings two minutes earlier than a crash.

“Realizing the place of the airplane, we might really challenge the flight path that the airplane is on in direction of that terrain,” Mr. Bateman stated 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 might duplicate the flight path and really get a warning and see if it was satisfactory in time to tug up.”

In a 2015 article in HindSight, an aviation security journal, Mr. Bateman recounted a number of crashes the system prevented, together with a airplane attempting to keep away from clouds on method 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 by 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 tools off, believing that there was a database error.”

The airplane hit the facet 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 turned excited about plane security when he was 8. In class sooner or later, he seemed 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 positive can’t spell,” his instructor advised 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 ultimately 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 situation a warning after 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. “Entering into the automotive and driving on the freeway.”

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