Arthur David Beaty (28 March 1919 – 4 December 1999) was a British writer, pilot and psychologist notable as a pioneer in the field of Human Factors, now an integral branch of aviation medicine, which he argued played a central role in aviation accidents attributed to pilot error.
Beaty was born in Hatton, Ceylon on 28 March 1919, the son of a Methodist minister, and was educated at the prestigious Kingswood School followed by Merton College, University of Oxford where he read History and edited Cherwell, a student newspaper. Whilst at Oxford the Second World War broke out prompting him to volunteer for pilot training with Oxford University Air Squadron.
Beaty was initially rejected by the RAF pilot selection panel. Thanks largely to the support of his university tutors, he eventually passed selection and completed flying training, receiving a pilot grading of 'exceptional'.
Following flying training, Beaty joined RAF Coastal Command flying the Consolidated Liberator. He completed four tours with 206 Squadron and won two Distinguished Flying Crosses. During an attack on a U-boat in the Baltic his aircraft was badly damaged, with a number of the control surfaces, including the rudder, being shot away. Beaty brought the aircraft back to base for a successful landing. Upon inspection, over 600 holes were counted in the aircraft.
After the war, Beaty was offered a regular commission with the RAF. However, he turned down the opportunity and joined BOAC where he was posted to the carrier's flagship route across the North Atlantic. His flying career with BOAC was short-lived after he took up writing on a full-time basis.
Already an accomplished novelist, Beaty turned his attention to identifying the possible causes behind aviation accidents attributed to 'pilot error', enrolling at University College London to read psychology. Having completed the degree course in a single year, rather than the traditional three years, Beaty became a civil servant in 1967 before publishing his first non-fiction work, 'The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents' in 1969. This was followed by 'The Water Jump: The Story of Transatlantic Flight' (1976), 'The Complete Skytraveller' (1979) and 'Strange Encounters: Mysteries of the Air' (1982), before he returned to the subject of his first non-fiction book in 'The Naked Pilot - The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents' (1991). Finally 'Light Perpetual: Aviators' Memorial Windows' appeared in 1995.
His first book was met with considerable resistance, not least from a number of aviators, because it portrayed pilots as ordinary human beings, susceptible to errors and mistakes. However, Beaty's work resulted in further interest in the subject, which has now become an accepted part of flying training and is a compulsory module on many private and professional flying courses.
In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock bought the rights to Beaty's novel Village of Stars but never produced the film. Another novel of Beaty's was produced as the film Cone of Silence (1960) starring George Sanders.
Beaty died on 4 December 1999 in Slindon, West Sussex. His wife, Betty Campbell Beaty, wrote his biography Winged Life in 2001.
Betty Beaty's Books on Amazon: Betty Beaty