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In Memoriam - Malcolm Braithwaite

September 13, 2018

In Memoriam - Malcolm Braithwaite

AsMA was saddened to learn of the death of Col. Malcolm Braithwaite, OBE, in September.

   He was the recipient of the 2004 Kent K. Gillingham Award from the Aerospace Medical Association for his research and influence regarding the dangers of spatial disorientation. He was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1972 as a medical student. He received his medical degree in 1975 from Birmingham University and then served for 5 years as a Regimental Medical Officer and family practitioner in the Far East and Germany. He transferred to Army Aviation Medicine in 1981 and following military helicopter pilot training, completed his specialist training in 1989.
   While on active duty as a military pilot, Col. Braithwaite became interested in the reasons behind helicopter mishaps blamed on pilot spatial disorientation. He accepted a position as the U.K. Exchange Research Flight Surgeon at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory (USAARL) in Ft. Rucker, AL, from 1995–1997, where he was the Spatial Disorientation Principal Investigator and was the team leader for that activity. While in that post, he developed a standardized in-flight demo of spatial disorientation that is still used today by both U.S. and U.K. aircrews and has been accepted by Turkish and Canadian forces. He was the co-inventor and developer of a new type of cockpit flight instrument display that has been successfully assessed in the UH-60 helicopter and simulator.
   In 1998, Col. Braithwaite proposed a new project group on spatial disorientation to the five-nation ASCC Working Party 61. His proposal was accepted, and representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand met to develop aircrew standards related to spatial disorientation training and interoperability issues that have helped reduce the number of mishaps in both fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. In addition, his professional responsibilities included advising commanders and military staff on many aviation medicine operational matters.
   Col Braithwaite was a research medical officer at the Royal Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine, Farnborough, UK. He also contributed to the work of the U.S. Triservice Working Group on Situational Awareness and Spatial Disorientation. He taught the Diploma in Aviation Medicine course, the U.K. Operational Aviation Medicine course, and was a frequent presenter at national and international medical and technical meetings. He had over 15 presentations at the annual Aerospace Medical Association meetings since 1995 and 6 articles in Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, as well as contributing to a new textbook entitled Spatial Disorientation in Aviation.
   Col. Braithwaite was an examiner for the Diploma in Aviation Medicine of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians. He was a past president of the International Association of Military Fight Surgeon Pilots, which attained constituency status within AsMA during his tenure. In 1998, he was appointed as the Consultant Advisor in Aviation Medicine to the Director General Army Medical Services.