Donald Croom Beatty

1900-1980
Aviator, Explorer, Inventor

Print Version

Donald Croom Beatty was born in 1900 in Birmingham.

Beatty's aviation career began in 1916 when, in a self-built plane, he made his first solo flight at his grandfather's farm in Tarrant.

In the 1930's, while flying in the Andes of South America, Beatty set up the first system of voice communications, plane-to-ground, considered by many to be his greatest contribution to international aviation. He also developed the concept of seasonally varying flight altitudes and routes; reporting at five-minute intervals on grid-type, alphabetic-numerical coordinates, enabling ready location of downed planes; and he pioneered and surveyed many trans-Andean air routes. In World War II, Beatty directed operations of the Ferry Command under the code name "Consairway," ferrying bombers into all areas of the war zone. The effort developed from a one-man rescue mission to the world's most efficient, trans-oceanic airline. He pioneered development of barometric route selecting, a more efficient method of air navigation for long, over-water flights.

As owner of the frequency, Beatty built the first voice radio stations in Alabama, WIAG and WSY, which broadcast weather reports to aid in flight safety.

The D. C. Beatty Latin American Expedition (1931-32) among the headhunters in Ecuador and Peru earned him membership in the prestigious Explorers Club of New York, the Royal Geographical Society of London and the medal of the Smithson Society of the Smithsonian Institution, which honored him for "the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."

Beatty's documented inventiveness began with a patent for the refinement of a crystal radio. During his lifetime, he obtained many patents, most concerning electronic communication equipment. Among commonly used devices, he held the first patents on the telephone answering machine, the automatic dialer, and the "hands-free" telephone. Other patents include "GAALT", a solid state vario-amplifier instrumental in the development of pioneer space satellites that are now used on every continent.

Donald Croom Beatty died in Birmingham, July 12, 1980.

Donald Croom Beatty was inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame in 1992.