Would-be US regional-jet manufacturer Alliance Aircraft is seeking clarification from Chinese partner Harbin Aircraft on the future status of the planned SL100 Starliner.

Meanwhile Harbin's parent, Aviation Industries of China II (AVIC II) continues collaboration talks with other foreign manufacturers on developing rival 30- to 50-seat products.

In June, Alliance signed an agreement for Harbin to participate in creating a new family of small regional jets, which would include Chinese manufacture of the 35-seat SL100-30 version for local and worldwide markets. Alliance plans two other models, the 40- and 50-seat SL100-40 and -50. According to Alliance, Harbin in return will underwrite an undisclosed proportion of the $325 million needed to develop and certificate the three planned versions, and has already dispatched engineers to its Martinsburg, West Virginia, facility.

Recent AVIC II statements, however, indicate that the state-run conglomerate has yet to select an official partner to develop a new small regional jet family. Fairchild Dornier says that it is still pursuing talks with AVIC II to make the 528JET locally, while collaborative proposals have been submitted by competitors Bombardier and Embraer (Flight International, 15-21 January).

"We've a meeting coming up in the near future with Harbin, and we intend to seek clarification on the way forward," says Alliance founder and chief executive Earl Robinson. "As far as we are concerned, we have an agreement with them and will press on," he adds. He concedes, however, that the deal with Harbin is not exclusive, and would not prevent other members of the AVIC II consortium pursuing rival programmes.

Alliance has set itself an ambitious schedule, aiming to fly the first member of its SL100 family by August 2002, and certificate by November 2004. The company says it has lined up a series of partners, including Pratt & Whitney Canada, with PW308 engines, and Rockwell Collins with ProLine 21 avionics.

Source: Flight International