Alliance Aircraft announced at the show a deal with Chinese airframe manufacturer Harbin Aviation Industries Group for production of its proposed StarLiner 100 35-seat regional jets, but is still cagey about any sales of the aircraft.

Earl Robinson, president and chief executive of Alliance who signed the contract here at the show, is likely to face continued scepticism over the venture. He claims to have 70-plus confirmed orders with options on more than 250 aircraft but is keeping the name of buyers under wraps. Harbin, part of AVIC II, becomes a risk-sharing partner in the deal and what Robinson described as "the unique position of being both a supplier and customer." The SL 100-35 is part of a larger family including 44-seat and 55-seat aircraft that Alliance says will be developed in parallel. Alliance has ambitious plans to achieve first flight in late summer 2003 and certification and first deliveries during 2004.

Harbin will manufacture all SL 100-35s including those destined for markets outside China. Alliance will make all 44- and 55-seat aircraft in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Harbin will have exclusive rights to market and sell the aircraft in China.

Robinson believes the regional jet market is worth $75 billion over the next 20 years and that the Asian market is a major area of growth. Harbin president Mr Cui is upbeat about the aircraft's potential. Signing the contract here he said: "Harbin has conducted extensive research into the regional jet industry and has identified and selected the Starliner 100 as the best to fit for the needs of China and the world market. That selection was based on compatibility between the two management teams."

Harbin will send managers and engineers to Martinsburg for training.

Alliance also announced most of the contractors who will be sharing more than 50% of the risk on the StarLiner project. The engine manufacturer has not been confirmed. Two parties are still bidding and a decision is expected in July.

Source: Flight Daily News