Collins Aerospace is one of the major employers on the Space Coast in the burgeoning commercial technology, design and manufacturing sector.
The company has a storied history; founded as Collins Radio Company in 1933, it was the principle supplier of radio and navigation equipment used during World War II. This legacy continued as the company provided radio and satellite communication equipment for the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions before being acquired by the equally renowned Rockwell International.
In the 1980s, Rockwell was the largest U.S. defense and NASA contractor, which included building the space shuttle orbiter.
Recently, Rockwell Collins was acquired by United Technologies Corp., which is No. 51 on the Fortune 500, and became Collins Aerospace. With some 1,800 employees in Melbourne and over 45 years in the area, the company’s name is synonymous with avionics, which is a major reason why our local aerospace sector is the envy of the world. Avionics are what you would see if you glimpse into the cockpit of a commercial or executive aircraft, along with the plane’s communication and radar systems.
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Todd Twachtmann, who has spent most of his career with what was the Collins division of Rockwell International, now leads Collins Aerospace’s considerable presence here. Though he has been coming to the facility since the early 90s, this mechanical engineer/executive moved to the area as site leader five and a half years ago.
“I’ve been very familiar with the facility for a long time, but moved to Florida in 2013,” Twachtmann said.
“Our work force is divided between about 400 in engineering, about 1300
in manufacturing and approximately 100 in program management, customer service, HR, etc.” In an economy where high tech manufacturing jobs are at a premium, Collins’ impact on the area cannot be overstated.
Back in 1974 when the Apollo program was going the way of the space shuttle, the company opened a facility in Melbourne to take advantage of the engineering and technician talent that existed here. With a focus on the commercial aviation industry, which is not dependent on defense or space appropriations, the company has expanded to what it is today.
Made in Brevard
The facility manufactures 42 product lines that are exclusively focused on commercial avionics, making Collins a leading player in this industry sector. Radio and communication technologies pilots use to talk to ground control, the displays and instruments they consult, the auto pilot they engage to fly the aircraft, GPS systems, many of the control panels a flight crew uses, along with airborne weather radar systems and more are all manufactured here in Brevard.
One very special milestone of Collins and the area’s aerospace industry happened just a few years ago.
“For the first time in our long history here on the Space Coast, we were able to deliver our products to a plant building air craft that was not only (A) in Florida, not only (B) in Brevard, but (C) right here in Melbourne, at Embraer,” Twachtmann said with obvious pride.
Twachtmann has an internal and external role of interfacing with clients and suppliers, managing and trouble shooting major projects, all the while being the liaison with the company’s headquarters. He also represents Collins locally on the board of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, while others throughout the organization serve on various boards and are involved with numerous charities.
His leadership style has been shaped by key mentors throughout his career, particularly by those who led by example, rather than some abstract leadership ethos. “Transparency and predictability engenders trust in the people who are following you,” he said. “Good news or bad, I am going to share it with them. Also, they can depend on how you will react, by handling problems or challenges based on principles and philosophies and by decisions based on logic and data — they know they can trust you.”