Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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1966. "Islander"

Britten-Norman (officially the Britten-Norman Group or BNG) was a British aircraft manufacturer.

Mid-1950s: John Britten and Desmond Norman started developing crop spraying equipment, using de Havilland Tiger Moths modified at their factory near Ventor, Isle of Wight for a contract in the Sudan. After that, Britten and Norman (who had both trained with de Havilland) turned their hand to aircraft design.

In addition to the successful BN-2 Islander, they also designed the unsuccessful BN-1 Finibee and the BN-3 Nymph.

During the 1960s, Britten-Norman were involved in the development of hovercraft via their subsidiary Cushioncraft; their first craft, the CC1, was the second hovercraft to lift off the surface of the world.

Early 1970's, B-N sold the Cushioncraft company to the British Hovercraft Corporation.

1971 The banks and the government, concerned about the number of unsold aircraft in stock, withdrew support[1]

1972 The Fairey Aviation Co group was selected from 35 bids to acquire Britten-Norman

1979 Fairey sold Britten-Norman to Oerlikon-Buhle (owner of Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland, hence the Pilatus Britten-Norman designation of some of their aircraft).

1998 Oerlikon-Buhle sold Britten-Norman to its current owners. The company is now owned by members of the Zawawi family from the Sultanate of Oman, making it one of the UK's two remaining independent commercial aircraft producers, the other being Slingsby Aviation of Kirkbymoorside in Yorkshire.

Britten-Norman has sold more than 1,250 aircraft to customers in more than 120 countries. In addition to aircraft manufacturing, the company also performs maintenance, overhaul and repair work as well as performing sub-contract engineering and design work.

The company's sole factory is located at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight although some airframes were assembled under license in Romania once the type's robust and reliable reputation had been established. Romanian aircraft passed through Avions Fairey in Belgium to the UK for certification.

The company manufactures such aircraft as the Islander, the militarised Defender and three-engined Trislander, all capable of short take-off and landing (STOL) operations. They are typically used for inter-island schedules.

Many modern Islanders/Defenders have been fitted with turbine rather than piston engines if the customer so requires. Some are employed on police or fishery patrol tasks, providing an efficient and roomy alternative to a twin-engined helicopter. The Hampshire constabulary that oversees matters on the Isle of Wight and across the Solent is one of the police forces using Islander aircraft. Turbine-Islanders are the only fixed-wing aircraft in use by the British Army.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Mar 06, 1976