The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Sir James Martin Award

Awarded to an individual, a group, team or organisation, which has made an outstanding, original and practical contribution leading to the safer operation of aircraft or the survival of aircrew or passengers.


2018 awarded to:  Dr Donough Wilson


James Martin WilsonDr Donough Wilson is innovation lead for advanced artificial intelligence focused military and civil future cockpits, and augmented intelligence cyber-physicalflight control, mission management and combat management systems, at aviation and defence innovation consultants, VIVID/futureVision.

As an instrument rated commercially licenced flight instructor of over 30 years and 3000+ hours experience; a specialist in aviation human factors; a very experienced CGI digital visual information designer; and a pioneer in shared-intelligence human / machine flight control interfaces, Dr Wilson’s contributions to the future of global aviation safety and cockpit design have been significant.

He was the first to propose (at RAeS/CEAS conference) the protocols for the autonomous satellite tracking and download of aircraft black-box flight data and cockpit voice recorder data to the computers of aviation authorities and accident investigators, triggered when an airliner diverges from its assigned track and altitude by a specific exceedance of allowable pilot error (having first unsuccessfully alerted the crew to the divergence) – a proposal which gained significant traction following the loss of Air France flight A447 and Malaysian Airlines MH370, and which has now gone into development. His revolutionary design for the defence system protecting ultra-low flying military aircraft against high-powered asymmetric pulse energy and laser energy attack was the preferred choice for onward development.

Dr. Wilson’s passion is aviation safety. In a research and development programme spanning, to date, over eighteen years, he was the first to challenge long held aviation legacy conventions when defining the five intrinsically linked factors inherent to all controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and loss of control (LoC) aviation disasters. This work, which continues, highlights and addresses the causal issues underpinning the frailty of human decision making when in unnatural and alien environments such as a violent, turbulent, tropical thunderstorm in IMC at night. This work explains the root physiological human factors causes of ‘pilot error’ and why accidents happen – with two key outcomes being that cognitive failure (and the associated bewilderment), are factors in all fatal CFIT and LoC incidents; and that they are not a reflection of an individual’s weakness or failing. Cognitive degradation is a natural consequence of human evolution; a factor of a relict defence mechanism passed on to us genetically from our earliest human ancestors – and over which no pilot has any control, because no amount of training can overcome 5+ million years of human evolution. The consequences of this is that, when certain events conspire, every human, including every pilot, could be susceptible to the physiological factors causing CFIT oDonough Wilsonr LoC.

In defining a solution, Dr. Wilson argues that the design of flight control instruments have long been based on the [erroneous] assumption that the pilot is always capable of lucid thought and the ability to extract and mentally process information – no matter what the meteorological extremes encountered. He also argues that some glass-cockpit flight control instruments are too closely allied to the mechanical instruments they’ve replaced – being mainly digital replications of mechanical instrument forms, and as such, retaining inherent issues of the mechanical originals: issues known to have been factors in fatal loss of control and control reversal accidents.

Addressing these issues, Dr. Wilson was the first to propose that the process of military and commercial aviation (and much corporate aviation), is ‘narrative’ based. There being a strict linear sequence – a narrative – of distinct individual phases, each of which has individual control and information needs, even in diversion and emergency scenarios. He was the first to propose completely new visually integrated variable intensity pilot / aircraft interface displays; highly intuitive congruent displays which require no pilot calculations, mental interpretation, or any extensive training to operate, and which enable two-way joint control and communication between human and machine. In the latest development of this work, he is the first to propose the integration of aircraft-wide cyber-physical systems and embedded artificial intelligence (AI), enabling the aircraft itself to monitor adherence to the required 3D trajectory, so that the aircraft itself becomes part of the flight management and control team, with an interest (albeit artificial) in its own survival and the safe outcome of the flight – whatever meteorological extremes are encountered. The core objective of this is not to take the pilot out of the process of flight, but to take pilot-error out of the process of flight.

Dr. Wilson is the leading innovator and advocate for future ‘shared intelligence’ digital cockpits where pilot, cyber-physical technology, and AI work as a team to ensure optimum 3D flight, mission delivery, and approach accuracy; optimum fuel economy; minimum environmental impact; and above all, absolute flight safety. He continues to present extensively at aviation industry conferences on new game-changing thinking to develop next-generation aircraft which provide absolute passenger safety and eliminate any potential for CFIT or LoC.

For his outstanding practical contribution leading to the safer operation of aircraft, Dr Donough Wilson is awarded the Sir James Martin Award.


Previous Winners:

1968/69 Lieutenant Commander Tarver

1969/70 Flight Lieutenant R C Shuster

1971  Not Awarded

1971/72 Group Captain J K Mason

1973  Not Awarded

1973/74 Colonel W P Schane

1975  Not Awarded

1975/76 Group Captain A J Barwood

1976/77 E L Ripley Esq

1977/78 Flight Sergeant D J Jones

1978/79 D Johnson Esq

1979/80 Lieutenant Commander D R Taylor MBE

1980/81 Master Air Loadmaster David Bullock G C (posthumously)

1981/82 Geoffrey Harrison Esq

1983  Not Awarded

1983/84 Clifford Gaskell Esq

1985  Not Awarded

1985/86 Wing Commander R McCluskey AFC RAF

1987  Not Awarded

1987/88 Air Vice-Marshal P H Howard

1989  Not Awarded

1989/90 Lieutenant Commander Paul Barton RN

1991 - 1992  Not Awarded

1992/93 John W Chappelow Esq

1994  Not Awarded

1994/95 Flight Lieutenant Kevin A Brooks

1995/96 Lieutenant Commander Paul Haywood RN

1997  Not Awarded

1997/98 Major J Norman Ryan MC

1998/99 Dr Christopher Brooks, OMM,OstJ,CD,MBChB,DavMed,FFOM

1999/2000 Air Accidents Investigation Branch Lockerbie Team

2000/01 Chief Petty Officer Terrence Allison

2001/02 Lieutenant Commander Clive Rawson RN

2003  Not Awarded

2003/04 Squadron Leader Jonathan James Harrison RAF

2004/05 Professor Helen Christine Muir OBE MA PhD CPsychol FRAeS

2005/06 John Freeman

2006/07 Captain John Cox

2008  Not Awarded

2008/09 Flight Lieutenant Emily Rickards RAF

2009/10 David Cockburn

2010/11  Captain Linc Alexander

2011/12 Major K E Bryan AAC

2013  Not Awarded

2013/14  Captain James Cunningham AAC

2014/15 Captain Mark Chesney

2016 The Performance Based Navigation (PBN) Research Project Team

2017  SkyDemon

2018  Dr Donough Wilson