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Rockwell has discussed middle-market aircraft

Updated on 19 May: Rockwell Collins says COO Lieberherr was referring to internal discussions at Rockwell Collins about a middle-of-the-market aircraft. He was not referring to discussions with Boeing, Rockwell says.

Rockwell Collins' cabin interior unit has had preliminary discussions with Boeing about the airframer's middle-of-the-market aircraft concept, a Rockwell Collins executive tells FlightGlobal.

Werner Lieberherr, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Rockwell Collins' interior systems division, confirms early conversations have occurred.

He also clarifies, however, that discussions between the companies have been limited because the project remains in early stages of evaluation by Boeing, and specifications remain uncertain. More "discussions will start soon", Lieberherr says.

The middle-of-the-market concept remains just that – an idea that Boeing executives have been shopping to airlines to gauge interest.

The concept calls for an aircraft that would replace ageing Boeing 757s and 767s, giving the airframer a product that would sit between its 737 Max 9 and 787-8. The 737 Max 9 can carry up to 220 passengers and has about 3,500nm (6,482km) in range, while the 787-8 can carry about 300 passengers and has a 7,355nm range.

Reports about the new aircraft's capacity and range vary, but roughly indicate the aircraft will seat 200 to 270 passengers and have a range between 4,500-6,000nm.

Boeing has said it intends to introduce the new aircraft around 2025.

Rockwell Collins acquired its interiors business with the 13 April purchase of B/E Aerospace for $6.6 billion in cash and stock, plus $2 billion in assumed debt.

Rockwell Collins chief executive Kelly Ortberg expresses optimism it will fare well in Boeing's future programmes, though he declines to address specifically the middle-market concept.

"We can hold our own in the market", or "gain a little" market share, he says.

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