NetJets has made a firm order for 50 Embraer Phenom 300 light jets and taken 75 options on the type, in a deal that marks its return to expansion after the global downturn wrought havoc with the fractional ownership industry.

And deliveries of the aircraft - scheduled to begin in 2013 - could be a boon to furloughed business aviation pilots.

"NetJets is making an investment in the future, and we continue to be guided by our vision to maintain our leadership position by delivering extraordinary safety and service to our owners," says David Sokol, NetJets' chairman and chief executive.

The Berkshire Hathaway-owned company was believed to have been a customer for the re-engined Hawker 450XP light jet, a project launched by Hawker Beechcraft in 2008 but shelved in 2009 as the global recession shrunk backlogs.

Embraer's Phenom 100 and 300 backlog runs to about 600 units, with the former model accounting for two-thirds of the total. The NetJets order is the second largest for the new type, and could be worth more than $1 billion. Flight Options purchased 100 Phenom 300s in December 2007.

The order also serves as the launch of the Phenom 300 Platinum Edition, a "high-performance aircraft that is ideally suited to our owners' needs for reliability, range, interior comfort and operating efficiency", says Sokol.

In addition to developing the Platinum Edition with NetJets, Embraer says it will provide comprehensive maintenance support covering "a broad scope of logistics, material and maintenance services for the new fleet both in North American and European markets".

Source: Flight International