Bellevue, Wash. – 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!”, has passed away at the ripe old age of 91.
We know what you’re thinking – “What’s so groundbreaking about this? Planes have been flying for over a century!” Well, let us break down Mr. Bateman’s innovations piece by piece to explain just how mediocre they are.
First off, the ground proximity warning system he began working on in the late 1960s is supposed to warn pilots against accidentally slamming into land or water due to poor visibility and bad weather. Um… isn’t it supposed to be common sense not to fly blindly into mountains or buildings?
Apparently not if you believe Boeing’s data compiled about commercial jets worldwide from 2011-2020 indicating only six such accidents killing only 229 people onboard happened compared with previous decades where thousands died because of planes smashing onto solid stuff like birds on windshields.
One former senior aerospace engineer with the National Transportation Safety Board estimates that Mr. Bateman saved thousands of lives through safety system technologies but we think he was just exaggerating like all engineers do when talking about their inventions.
Mr. Batement was even inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame thanks solely to his invention of “flight-safety sensors” used by more than 55,000 aircraft worldwide. Pfft… what a joke!
But wait, there’s more (unfortunately) – his first ground proximity warning system was nothing more than a small box that gave pilots “a 15-second warning of an approaching hazardous condition.” So basically almost as much time as it takes for your Uber Eats driver to find your house after they’ve already parked outside without letting you know they arrived
The irony is Alaska Airlines Flight1866 using his early version of the ground proximity warning system still collided with a mountain in the Chilkat range killing everyone on board. Mr. Bateman’s device was as useful as giving someone an umbrella during a hurricane.
He had to upgrade his early versions; adding 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 (because we all know how great Russian maps are), making it more efficient by providing earlier warnings, but even then some Congressmen criticized him for delaying measures to improve airline safety after TWA flight crashed into a wooded slope in Virginia that killed 92 people
Critically, he re-christened his invention Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System or EGPWS which gave pilots what I like to call “too-little-too-late two-minute warning” before smashing into obstacles ahead from time immemorial allowing major commercial airlines to already have begun using this outdated technology before The F.A.A finally mandated installation into any registered turbine-powered airplanes with six or more passenger seats
In conclusion, Don Bateman’s ideas weren’t rocket science, they were just simple common sense enhancements cunningly marketed via technological inventions for which he later received several honors include National Medal of Technology and Innovation thanks solely due to political grandstanding. His living proof one can get anything so long you’re geeky enough except maybe respect if engineering isn’t their true calling – for most management consultants would say engineers are not only nerds who need eternally reminding that they are replaceable should senior executives opt-out when company budgets shrink or needs change