In “Hashing Things Out” to Save Lives Bateman “Could Be a Pit Bull”

(p. 20) Don Bateman, an engineer who invented a cockpit device that warns airplane pilots with colorful screen displays and dire audible alerts like “Caution Terrain!” and “Pull Up!” when they are in danger of crashing into mountains, buildings or water — an innovation that has likely saved thousands of lives — died on May 21 [2023] at his home in Bellevue, Wash.

. . .

Bob Champion, a former scientist at Honeywell who worked with Mr. Bateman, said in a telephone interview: “Don had a true passion for saving lives. He was a peach, but behind closed doors, when we were hashing things out, he could be a pit bull.”

. . .

“He never lost his childlike wonder about flying,” Ms. McCaslin said by phone. “He did a lot of his great work from his 40s on.”

. . .

Mr. Bateman told the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation in 2011 that in the late 1960s there were fatal accidents nearly every month, during which a pilot would “fly into something, like a mountain, or go in short on the runway.”

. . .

Determined to do something, Mr. Bateman developed — and in 1974 patented — his first ground proximity warning system: a small box that integrated data from within the aircraft, including the radar altimeter and airspeed indicator, and gave the pilot a 15-second warning of an approaching hazardous condition.

. . .

In the 1990s, the system improved exponentially. Engineers working with Mr. Bateman added GPS and critical terrain data, including topographical maps of Eastern Europe and China that had been charted by the Soviet Union as far back as the 1920s; they had been acquired in Russia at Mr. Bateman’s request.

“We knew, as engineers, that if we could get the terrain data, we could do an awful lot,” he told The Seattle Times.

For the full obituary, see:

Richard Sandomir. “Don Bateman, 91, Engineer And Pioneer Who Invented A Cockpit Warning System.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, June 4, 2023): 20.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated June 8, 2023, and has the title “Don Bateman, Who Kept Airplanes From Crashing, Dies at 91.”)

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