Business

Norwegian Air honors Rockwell Collins founder

Airline features Arthur Collins as 'tail fin hero' on jets

Arthur Collins, the founder of what became Rockwell Collins, will be featured as a “tail fin hero” on Norwegian Air’s Boeing 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner aircraft throughout 2018. (Norwegian Air)
Arthur Collins, the founder of what became Rockwell Collins, will be featured as a “tail fin hero” on Norwegian Air’s Boeing 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner aircraft throughout 2018. (Norwegian Air)

The founder of Collins Radio Co., predecessor of Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, has been named a Norwegian Airlines “tail fin hero” in recognition of his pioneering innovations in avionics and communications.

The image of Arthur Collins, who died in 1987, joins more than 80 other individuals depicted on Norwegian aircraft since the airline began operations in 2002. Collins will be featured on the airline’s Boeing 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner aircraft throughout 2018.

Thomas Ramdahl, chief commercial officer at Norwegian, said in a news release that the tail fin hero program was created to honor individuals who have pushed boundaries, made a difference and inspired others.

“Through our partnership with Rockwell Collins, we learned of Arthur Collins’ story, whose innovative spirit reflects those characteristics, making him a perfect tail fin hero and part of the Norwegian family,” Ramdahl said.

Rockwell supplies avionics and communications equipment for many models of Boeing commercial aircraft. It also provides equipment purchased by airlines for their fleet of aircraft.

Michael Collins said many aspects of his father’s work and accomplishments are not that well known in Cedar Rapids and the industry.

“He had Kineplex, a high speed data network, operating in the mid-1950s,” Collins said in a phone interview earlier this week. “The modem, as a device, was invented by Collins Radio on the West Coast.”

Michael, vice president of the Arthur A. Collins Legacy Association, said he was approached by Norwegian Air for permission tor recognize his father on its aircraft.

“I was contacted through David Yeoman at Rockwell Collins,” Collins said. “Working with another person on our board, we put together a lot of photos and materials that we sent to Norwegian Air at its headquarters in Dublin, Ireland,” Michael said.

Arthur Collins, a licensed ham radio operator when he was 14, was communicating with other operators around the world using a transmitter he had designed and constructed. Throughout the summer of 1925, he was able to communicate for 22 days with the MacMillan scientific expedition to Greenland, a task that the U.S. Navy was not able to accomplish.

After each broadcast in Morse code, Collins took the translated messages from the expedition of each day’s scientific findings down to the Western Union telegraph office in Cedar Rapids for relay to Washington, D.C.

By the end of 1931, he had set up a shop in the basement of his home at 1720 Sixth Ave. SE.

Collins began producing transmitters to order, a hobby that he turned into a business in 1931. With orders continuing to grow, the future Collins Radio Co. was forced to move into larger space at 2920 First Ave. NE.

On Sept. 22, 1933, with eight employees and $29,000 in capital, Collins Radio was incorporated.

After facing financial difficulties, the company was sold to Rockwell International in 1973 and renamed Rockwell Collins.

Rockwell shareholders recently approved the $23 billion purchase of the company by United Technologies Corp. If the acquisition is completed later this year, Rockwell and UTC Aerospace Systems is expected to be integrated to form Collins Aerospace Systems.

The executive offices of Collins Aerospace Systems is anticipated to be located in Palm Beach County, Fla. Manufacturing and research operations likely would continue in Cedar Rapids and other locations.

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