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To the best of my knowledge, a firm order means that a contract to purchase has been signed, and a deposit has been paid. An option to buy is reservation of a delivery position, but no contractual obligation. I would venture to guess that some good-faith funds are still required for the option, but significantly less than that required for a firm order.
But then again, I'm just a pilot, so what do I know!
A "Firm order" is a legal commitment to purchase the plane. The manufacturer could sue the company if they did not follow through with the purchase. An incremental deposit is required the closer you get to delivery.
A "option" is the opportunity for the customer to purchase additional planes at a pre-determined price, regardless of future price increases.
Of course, Eclipse had hundreds of "firm orders"....from Day Jet.