INTERVIEW: Collins Aerospace president Stephen Timm: Safety First

Collins Aerospace president Stephen Timm
Credit: Collins Aerospace

Stephen Timm took over as president of Collins Aerospace in February. The company was created in 2018 by bringing together UTC Aerospace Systems and Rockwell Collins. Timm shares some insights with ATW on how the company is navigating the pandemic. 

Have Collins’ goals/projections changed for 2020 in light of COVID-19? The short answer is ‘yes.’ Approximately 75% of our business is tied to commercial aviation, which as we all know has been severely impacted by COVID-19. Going into 2020, I don’t think anyone envisioned the challenges we’re experiencing right now, so we’ve had to quickly adapt. This means realigning our business with the level of business we’re seeing from our customers, as well as looking at what we can do as a company to help restore confidence in air travel so we can help get the economy going again.

What are some specific challenges Collins Aerospace has faced as a result of the pandemic? Early on, our biggest concern was—and still is—addressing the impact to our employees, especially when it comes to their health and well-being. We have quickly established social distancing in our factories around the world with enhanced cleaning to ensure a safe environment and for continued operations.

Half of our employees are working in our sites around the world and we’re committed to ensuring they are working in a safe environment. This includes mandatory face coverings, enhancing sanitation efforts, and reconfiguring our operations to enable social distancing.

Additionally, almost half of our workforce is working from home, which we enabled by increasing network bandwidth and giving our teams the resources they need to stay connected in a remote environment.

Right now, our focus is understanding what to expect in terms of recovery. We have teams across our organization focused on this right now. We know the aviation industry is going to look very different when this health crisis is contained—and we will continue to stay in constant contact with our customers to make sure we are providing them with the solutions and guidance they need in order to get our industry back on its feet.

Nothing comes before the safety and overall well-being of our people. In addition, we’ve transitioned some of our manufacturing operations to produce personal protective equipment for both healthcare workers, as well as our own employees. Everything from face shields to hospital scrubs to face coverings. I’m incredibly proud and grateful for our employees’ efforts and ingenuity in this fight against COVID-19.

What about customer initiatives? To address the challenge of helping the industry recover, we’ve established a cross-functional task force within Collins Aerospace to look at what we can do to get people more confident about returning to flight. We’re spending a lot of time talking to our customers and industry partners about what it’s going to take to make this happen. Right now, we’re focused on exploring ready-now solutions that can be quickly deployed—everything from contactless passenger processing systems in the airports, to onboard interiors solutions that help address social distancing and increased sanitation measures.

Is Collins considering creating new cabin interior product lines, or redesign existing product or services as a result of the pandemic? How is it driving innovation? We are, but we’re actually more focused right now on building upon some of our current technologies and systems that can help the industry recover versus creating brand new products, which take time to develop and certify in order to bring to market. Because airlines are facing perhaps their biggest financial crisis ever, we need to be vigilant of that when we are working with our customers on solutions that will restore passenger confidence in the travel experience, and protect frontline airport and airline employees every step of the way.

For example, it’s entirely possible with our existing technology to have a contactless journey through the airport with self-service solutions from check-in, to baggage drops, to security checkpoints and self-boarding gates. All of these systems enable a touch-free and secure experience while supporting necessary social distancing.

We’re also seeing increased interest in the use of biometrics. By using facial recognition technology, passengers won’t have to present any documents or even touch any airport system in order to check-in, print a bag tag, drop off their bag, pass through pre-security, and board an aircraft.

On the aircraft, products like our air filtration systems play a key role in maintaining a safe environment. We’re also looking at a touchless experience onboard and new sanitation measures that we can enable with existing products.

Collins has the unique ability to integrate our systems and others and bring these ideas to life, which will ultimately help restore the public’s confidence in air travel. These are all meaningful solutions that we believe, will enable the industry to recover and make a positive lasting, impact on air travel.

Linda Blachly

Linda Blachly is Senior Associate Editor for Air Transport World and Aviation Week. She joined the company in July 2010 and is responsible for producing features for Air Transport World’s monthly magazine and engaging content for the She is based in the Washington DC office.