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Avionics, Comms Markets Large Enough For OEMs, Ortberg Says

Focus on ‘core’ systems seen as little threat to Rockwell Collins, competitors.

Boeing’s foray into avionics is not phasing Rockwell Collins President and CEO Kelly Ortberg, who maintains that there is plenty of room for OEMs to boost their presence the electronic aircraft hardware business.

"I don't see a fundamental issue with our relationship long-term with Boeing with what they're doing,” Ortberg said at the recent Jefferies Industrials Conference. "In fact, there are probably opportunities for us to maybe support them in different ways than we have in the past.”

Boeing, on the heels of standing up a dedicated aftermarket services business, late last month revealed that it is investing in an avionics and electronics unit. An internal memo announcing the move said the unit will focus on “core avionics,” including navigation, flight controls and information systems.

"Avionics is a big word," Ortberg said. "We specialize in the cockpit avionics, the display systems, both head-up, head-down displays, all the sensors on the airplane [and] communications systems.”

While there would be some overlap, Ortberg sees Boeing’s strategy as getting deeper into "core avionics processing," leaving room for collaboration.

"We do the network work for them as an example, but we don't do the core computing work for them," Ortberg said. "They tend to want to do that themselves, and we find a way to work together successfully."

Bigger-picture, Boeing and the other OEMs set an aircraft’s "architecture, and the supply chain supports them in how they want to implement," he explained, noting that each manufacturer takes a different approach. "Those are things that they like to distinguish themselves in their competitive environment."

Rockwell Collins, like other suppliers, must "figure out how do we participate with them successfully and bring some of our talents forward," Ortberg said.

In the avionics and navigation arenas, OEMs typically look to the supply chain, he continued. "But the core architecture, the processing elements of an aircraft, the fly-by-wire systems of the aircraft, all the OEMs look at some level of vertical control of those things because they have a lot of intellectual property associated with those systems.”

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