NOVATO -- Aircraft and engine lessor Willis Lease Finance Corp. (Nasdaq: WLFC) today said it signed a memorandum of understanding with an Italian-Russian aviation joint venture to spend an estimated $300 million on six jets tailored to regional airlines with an option to purchase four more.

The agreement with SuperJet International calls for the first of the 98-seat Sukhoi SuperJet 100 aircraft to be delivered two years from now.

"In addition to the strong potential we see for developing new regional markets throughout the world, we believe the transaction is a strategic one for us," said Charles Willis, president and chief executive officer.

SuperJet International is a joint venture between aircraft manufacturers Alenia Aeronautica of Italy and Sukhoi Holding of Russia. Willis Lease Finance is the first U.S. company to join the venture, according to Mr. Willis.

Also involved in bringing the jet to market in mid-2008 was international aircraft engine builder PowerJet, itself a joint venture between NPO Saturn of Russia and Snecma of France. The Willis portfolio includes NPO Saturn and Snecma engines.

Now the equipment lessor has contacts with Alenia and Sukhoi customers, according to Mr. Willis.

As of June 30, the company's lease portfolio had 172 commercial aircraft engines, four aircraft parts packages and four aircraft and other engine-related equipment. The net book value was $971 million.

Willis Lease Finance's stock price was $9.73 a share at the close of trading today, up  a penny from Wednesday.