Now that it's gotten a hold on 737 Max crisis, Boeing can turn its attention to a new aircraft, likely to be a mid-range one with a 200-250 seat capacity. Image Credit: AFP

London: Jet engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings said it's holding discussions with Boeing Co. about a new aircraft programme, confirming reports dating back to last year linking the UK company to a potential mid-range jetliner.

The dialogue is different than it was several years ago, when Rolls-Royce ultimately pulled out of the running to supply Boeing's then-planned mid-range plane, Rolls CEO Warren East said at the company's annual meeting. At the time, the UK company decided its UltraFan engine in development wouldn't be ready in time for a plane targeted for the middle of this decade.

Boeing ultimately put the plans on hold as it was forced to focus on resolving the crisis that followed two crashes of its 737 Max narrow-body. Bloomberg reported last year that Rolls had expressed interest in a new, midrange jetliner if the US planemaker decides to go ahead with one.

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An 'open mind'

Rolls has also said it's talked with Boeing rival Airbus SE about a possible new programme. East said the UltraFan programme is more advanced now. The company is keeping an open mind, he said, adding that the engine might not be suitable for a smaller design.

Boeing reached out to suppliers about a new single-aisle airplane that would seat between 200 and 250 travelers, the Wall Street Journal reported last year. That would put Boeing's new programme, should it go forward, up against the A321 variant of Airbus's popular A320-series single-aisle jets. Airbus said this week that the larger version now accounts for more than half its backlog in the family.