GPWS Pioneer Bateman To Retire

 - May 10, 2016, 11:35 AM
Don Bateman

Don Bateman, who is credited with developing one of the most important safety technologies in aircraft today, is retiring after a more than 57-year career with Honeywell and its predecessor companies. A corporate fellow and chief engineer-technologist for flight safety systems and technology at Honeywell Aerospace’s facility in Redmond, Wash., Bateman was the developer of the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) and later the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), both of which have helped reduce the controlled flight into terrain accident rate from one in every three million flights to less than one in every 20 million flights.

Revered by his colleagues as a “living legend for aircraft safety,” Bateman “is credited by many in the industry for saving more lives than any other individual in the history of aviation,” Honeywell noted in a recent blog. The Canadian-born engineer graduated from the University of Saskatchewan before joining a division of Sundstrand in 1958 that ultimately become a Honeywell company.

Over the next half century, Bateman developed nearly 50 U.S. patents and close to another 250 international patents. His work has extended to innovations in head-up display systems, speed control/autothrottle systems, stall warning systems, angle-of-attack systems, automatic flight control systems and weight-and-balance systems, among numerous others. He oversaw the creation of Honeywell’s SmartRunway and SmartLanding functions. GPWS and EGPWS are installed in more than 55,000 aircraft.

Honeywell honored Bateman in 2003 with its Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award, one of numerous accolades for his work. In 2011 President Barack Obama presented him with the U.S. Presidential Medal of Technology and Innovation. He is also in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, is an Aviation Path Finder in the Museum of Flight and is a Royal Aeronautical Society Fellow.

In the recent blog, Bob Witwer, Honeywell v-p of advanced technology, said of his employee: “Don Bateman has dedicated his professional life to improving aircraft safety. He has spent half a century conceiving, designing and fielding new functions to reduce the risk of accidents and improve situational awareness for pilots.”


I first heard of Don Bateman, and met him in person, in about 1994. Over the ensuing years, and till my (temporary?) departure from the airline world in April 2010, I have had many occasions to interact with him. Each such encounter had a profound impact on me. I could hardly believe that a man with an international reputation would accommodate me without in any way being patronising. He invariably made me feel that I really mattered to him -- that it was worth his while holding discussions with me. And as a bonus, my technical repertoire was always enhanced by each of our encounters.

Truly, he was, and has remained, an inspiration to me. Though the technical achievements are what would most readily come to mind when the name of 'Don Batement' is mentioned, it is the impalpable but very real inspiration he imparted to those who worked with him, whether as aviation partner or as airline customer, that would (I believe) prove to be his lasting legacy to the aviation community.


J. T. Joseph
(formerly of Singapore Airlines, Technical Services.)