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In Remembrance Robert “Bob” Saffell

September 12, 2018
Home / News / In Remembrance Robert “Bob” Saffell
Bob (3rd from left) receives recognition for his hard work with his peers

Friends and colleagues are saddened by the news of the passing of Bob Saffell, retired from Rockwell Collins. Bob was well liked and respected, dedicated to share his experience and expertise in several RTCA Committees addressing surveillance (Special Committees 186, 209) and new technologies such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems.


Bob was born in 1948 and entered the US Navy in 1968. He went on to serve aboard the USS Coral Sea and USS Oriskany aircraft carriers as what would today be called an Aviation Electronics Technician (AT).


After the Navy entered college and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1978 and was recognized for scholarly excellence as a member of Eta Kappa Nu and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor societies. He later completed an Executive Master of Business Administration degree in 1990 at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida.


Bob worked for 33 years for Rockwell Collins, first in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and then in Melbourne, Florida, and has been described by his employer as “the father of the transponder, and a legend in that.” He designed and was heavily involved with ongoing engineering management of the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) Enhanced Surveillance System, which was patented under his name in 2006 and has become the industry standard requirement for all aircraft operating in commercial airspace across the world. Honors he received during his career include the Volare Award for Significant Individual Outstanding Achievement in Airline Avionics Manufacturing and myriad awards from the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for technical leadership and development of operating standards for MODE S Transponders and Universal Access Transceivers (UAT). These standards determine the rules and requirements for airborne and ground systems used to track aircraft, globally, and his intellectual property includes multiple publications, disclosures and trade secret algorithms which keep aircraft from colliding in the skies. Bob retired from Rockwell Collins in 2014, but after “flunking retirement” he returned to work as a contractor and continued serving on the RTCA Combined Surveillance Committee, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Aviation Surveillance Panel Technical Subgroup, and multiple EUROCAE and ARINC committees which implement standards and systems architecture for aviation transponders, until his death.

Bob is survived by his children Steffanie Kolbus, Stacy (Jeff) Smith, and Jason (Ashley) Saffell; his grandchildren Blake, Nadia, Adrianna, Naomi, Sophia, Charlotte, and Carolyn


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