Textron Aviation and NetJets signed an agreement on Monday at NBAA-BACE 2018 for an option for the fractional-share provider to purchase up 175 Citation Longitudes and 150 Citation Hemispheres. The agreement also makes NetJets the launch customer for the large-cabin, fly-by-wire Hemisphere.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 30 years since we purchased our first Citation SIIs back in 1984,” said NetJets chairman and CEO Adam Johnson. “That was the aircraft that launched the shared-ownership program.” Since then NetJets has bought more than 500 Citations, the most recent being its order for 100 Latitudes, 75 of which have already entered service. “The Citation Latitude has been the largest single fleet model that NetJets has had in its 53-year history,” he said.
NetJets and Textron Aviation have been working together on the Longitude for many months, according to Johnson. “It’s important when we talk about the order we’re making today for the Longitude how much time and effort [we’ve spent],” he said. “We flew this aircraft into Columbus many times,” showing it to NetJets operations, maintenance, and service team members and to current and prospective fractional shareowners. The Latitude’s speed and spacious and quiet cabin “are remarkable,” he added. “Once we take delivery of the Longitude, it will be the quietest aircraft in our worldwide fleet.”
The decision to be launch customer and sign the agreement to purchase 150 Hemispheres signals strong support for the Hemisphere program. Textron Aviation had placed the new large-cabin jet into suspension following development problems with the jet’s Safran Silvercrest engines. While the NetJets order doesn’t yet remove the Hemisphere from its suspended status, this will be the case once the Silvercrest’s issues with its compressor are resolved.
“It will be out of suspension effective the engine milestone in mid next year,” said Textron chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly. “We have been working for the last year with the Safran team in great detail and we’re very confident with where they are in the design process. We won't make an official date [for Hemisphere certification] until we’ve seen that. But we’re certainly confident enough that we’re going to continue our design development activity. We’re confident that we’re going to have a world-class powerplant. All of the teams at NetJets as well as our own, are [working] with our partner Safran to make sure we have a successful motor to drive this thing.”
Although the agreement is an option to purchase, Donnelly said “It’s more than an intent to purchase. NetJets is investing a great deal of effort and energy to participate in that process I just described in terms of design, so it’s a partnership at this phase.”
“Our intent is to take delivery of these aircraft,” added Johnson.
NetJets expects its first Longitude delivery in the fourth quarter of next year. Certification and first delivery of the Longitude is expected in this year’s fourth quarter. “We expect to announce firm orders starting in the next couple of weeks,” Johnson said. “Then for the remainder of this year several more orders, then all throughout 2019. We expect this plane to be in the fleet for up to 15 years.”