Former Fairchild Aerospace executive Earl Robinson has returned to the regional aircraft ring by unveiling an ambitious $660 million plan to develop a family of 55-110-seat jets to compete in an overcrowded market.

Robinson is heading a start-up company called Alliance Aircraft and claims to have raised an initial $151 million in private venture capital. The company plans to lease an interim 9,300m² (100,000ft²) of facilities in Dover and the former Pease airbase, New Hampshire.

Alliance is to offer a family of four derivative regional jets based on a five-abreast cabin cross section. The aircraft will seat 55, 70, 90 and 110 passengers.

The aircraft will face strong competition from the 70-seat Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ)-700, due to enter service early next year, and either its proposed stretched CRJ-900 or new BRJ-X-90/110. Embraer's recently launched RJ-170 and -190 are due to enter service in 2002 and 2004 respectively, around the same time as the similarly sized Fairchild 728JET and 928JET aircraft.

Development will start with the two intermediate-sized baseline jets, with an initial flight pencilled in for 2002 and certification expected the following year. The company declines to release further details about the design other than that it is targeting around a 6% lower sales price than its rivals and a higher operating ceiling of up to 41,000ft (12,500m).

Company president Robinson has recruited a core team of around 20 personnel and plans to increase this to 100 by the end February and 600 within six months. Robinson was formerly Fairchild's senior vice-president product development until his departure in June 1998, after which he is believed to have acted as a consultant to Bombardier.

Alliance claims to have signed letters of intent with two unidentified customers, but gives no details of how its intends to raise the rest of its funding, other than that it expects a proportion to come from potential supplier partners.

Ground will be broken on a 37,160m² production facility at Pease in April.

Source: Flight International