ORLANDO-Textron Aviation kicked off the National Business Aviation Association Conference & Exhibition with the announcement of an option for the Citation Hemisphere business jet from fractional ownership company NetJets, bringing life to the program, which had been suspended by Textron Aviation. 

Once firmed, the order will be the launch order for the aircraft. 

“The Hemisphere is one of the planes I’m most excited about,” Adam Johnson, NetJets chairman and CEO, said at a press briefing in Orlando, Florida. “I think it’s going to be a game changer.”

During the briefing, Johnson and Textron CEO Scott Donnelly signed an agreement for options for up to 150 Citation Hemispheres and up to 175 super-midsize Citation Longitude super mid-size business jets.

Over the next two weeks, the companies will announce a firm order for the aircraft. NetJets will begin taking delivery of the Longitude late next year. The letter-of-intent for the Longitude and Hemisphere will span 10-15 years, Johnson said. 

The two companies have been quietly working together on the design, maintenance and service aspects of the Hemisphere, Johnson said. NetJets is looking at all the new interiors and new technology in it design.

Textron’s relationship with NetJets spans more than 30 years. Since 1984, NetJets has taken delivery of nearly 500 Cessna Citation jets.  The agreement could increase the fleet to more than 800 aircraft in the next 10-15 years, Textron Aviation says. 

 “We are proud to expand our relationship with NetJets once again through this significant milestone for the Citation Longitude and Citation Hemisphere,” said Scott Donnelly, chairman, president and CEO of Textron, Textron Aviation’s parent company. 

NetJets seeks products that will deliver “an exceptional travel experience,” said Johnson said. “As we anticipate placing these orders, we look back to the first order we placed for the Citation Latitude back in 2015. We just placed an order for our 100th Latitude and, just as we did then, NetJets takes entering into this fleet agreement seriously, and we look forward to the day we can say we took delivery of our 175th Citation Longitude.”

Program delays have delayed the Hemisphere project at Textron Aviation spurred by ongoing problems on the aircraft’s Snecma Silvercrest engine.

Textron Aviation officials have been working with Safran throughout the past year. In early September, Brad Thress, the company’s senior vice president of engineering, and Scott Ernest, then Textron Aviation president and CEO, met with Snecma officials. 

The Silvercrest program is progressing toward testing a new axial high-pressure compressor in June 2019, which is hoped will meet the Hemisphere’s performance requirements.

Performance issues with the 12,000-lb.-thrust-class Silvercrest, Safran’s first purpose-built business jet engine, caused Dassault to cancel the Falcon 5X program late last year and Textron to suspend Hemisphere development in April.

Dassault then launched the Falcon 6X with a slightly larger fuselage and Pratt & Whitney Canada engines. Textron Aviation officials have said that without the Silvercrest engine, there will be no Hemisphere.

Assembly of the first compressor is planned for early 2019.