In 15 years of EBACE, there has been no more unusual launch of a new business aircraft than the announcement of the Chongqing Commercial Aircraft Corporation (CCAC) StarLiner 100.

To say that CCAC is a new company would be an understatement, for it was formed only two weeks ago as a joint venture between Mei Li Xing Hang Industrial Corporation (MLXH), based in Chongqing, China, and Alliance Aircraft Corporation of Reading, Pennsylvania. Alliance and the SL100 are the brainchildren of Earl Robinson, who also becomes CEO and president of CCAC.

Robinson, who has a pedigree in airliner development going back beyond the ill-starred Fairchild Dornier 728 and 928, says that CCAC has secured $81 million in Chinese funding to launch the StarLiner on its route through development to certification and production. Chinese banks have pledged a further $800 million. But this, it appears, is to finance aircraft sales and support activity prior to initial deliveries.

Alliance contributes $11 million of intellectual property in the form of work already completed on the SL100, going back before 2004 when there were previous attempts to launch the program. Given the vagaries of airliner development, it remains to be seen whether enough gold has been laid down to completely pave the road into service. But Robinson is "happy we will get through to [FAA, European Aviation Safety Agency and Chinese] certification."

StarLiner will be built in China from 2019 onward, initially as a $20 million (at 2015 prices), 50-seat airliner capable of Mach 0.8 cruise and a range of 2,000 nm. By the following year, it will be available as a business jet with additional fuel for at least twice the range.

Full fly-by-wire control, an efficient wing and all-composite construction mean the 50,000-lb. (22,700-kg) class SL100 "can compete with turboprops quite well," says Robinson, defying the conventional wisdom in the airliner industry. This will be achieved on the power of two 9,000-lb.-thrust turbofans or geared fans of type yet to be decided.

Whichever powerplant is chosen, the far-reaching promise is that the StarLiner will deliver 20% economies over the first-generation ERJs, CRJs and ATRs it is intended to replace. “Our studies show a market for at least 600 aircraft among regional carriers around the world in the next 15 years,” Robinson says.

Is there any risk that this super-ambitious venture will displease the Chinese government, which does not like rivals to state-sponsored programs? "No," Robinson declares. "Seating capacity is well below the COMAC ARJ21; we don't compete."

And as for the choice of EBACE for the launch, this is just the start of the bizjet's promotion. CCAC will be at Paris next month, rubbing shoulders with all the “big names” and disclosing further details of the airliner version.