Britten-Norman (BN) is a British aircraft manufacturer and aviation services provider beneficially owned by Alstom. The company is the sole independent commercial aircraft producer in the UK.

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 historic home is located at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight although airframes have been assembled under subcontract in Romania for more than 40 years. Romanian[1] aircraft used to pass through Avions Fairey in Belgium to the UK for certification.[2] Nowadays aircraft are manufactured in the UK at the company's Lee-on-the-Solent manufacturing facility at Daedalus Airfield, a former Royal Naval Air Station. Spare parts production continues at the Bembridge site with sub assemblies also being supplied from the Romanian facility.

The company manufactures such aircraft as the Islander and the militarised Defender both of which are capable of short take-off and landing (STOL) operations. The three-engined Trislander is still operating but is not currently being manufactured. The aircraft are typically used for inter-island schedules.

Many modern Islanders/Defenders have been fitted with turbine rather than piston engines. Some are employed on police or fishery patrol tasks, providing an efficient and roomy alternative to a twin-engined helicopter. Hampshire Constabulary that oversees matters on the Isle of Wight and across Hampshire was one of two police forces using Defender aircraft. In the UK the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) use the Defender 4000, and the aircraft is also used by the police in the Republic of Ireland, the Garda Síochána. The British Army utilises both the turbine version of the Islander as well as the Defender within its fixed-wing aircraft fleet.

Privately held company
Founded29 July 1954
HeadquartersBembridge, Isle of Wight
Key people
William Hynett OBE
John Britten
Desmond Norman


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

Their first design was the Britten-Norman BN-1 Finibee, a light single-seater parasol wing aircraft. They pitched the design to several aircraft companies but found no one willing to produce the design.

Britten and Norman made a detailed analysis of the aviation market and decided there was a demand for a twin-engined utility aircraft with the minimum of complex systems that could operate from short, rough airstrips and also be used for high-density commuter flights. This brief developed into the BN-2 Islander, and the Britten-Norman company was formed to produce the aircraft, which first flew in 1965.

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

Desmond Norman then designed a four-seater touring aircraft to compete with established types such as the Cessna 172 and Piper Cherokee. A single prototype of the BN-3 'Nymph' was built and flown in 1969, but failed to attract significant orders. Norman set up his own company to build the plane, renamed the 'Freelance' and produced components and fuselage sections for six aircraft. However, orders were still not forthcoming and, following failure to win a military order for the 'Firecracker' design, Norman's company closed. After Norman's death in 2002, his son has overseen the completion of one of the Freelances to airworthy condition, and plans to assemble and sell the other five, with the possibility of full-scale production.

Following the failure of the 'Nymph', Britten-Norman continued to develop and improve the Islander design, which was enjoying great success. This culminated in 1970 with the Trislander, a trimotor version with greater range and capacity. In 1975 Britten-Norman won the Queen's Award to Industry for technological innovation for the Trislander.

Ownership of the company has passed through a number of hands. The Fairey Aviation group acquired Britten-Norman in 1972. Following financial troubles it was sold to Oerlikon-Bührle (owner of Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland in 1978,[3] hence the Pilatus Britten-Norman designation of some of their aircraft). Oerlikon-Bührle sold Britten-Norman to Litchfield Continental in 1998. On 19 October 1998, Biofarm Inc. (BIOF) announced its acquisition of 100% of the capital stock of Britten-Norman Limited (BN) from Litchfield Continental Limited. B-N Group was formed in 2000 to acquire the assets of Britten-Norman Limited.


Islander Series


See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Avions Fairey Gosselies. Retrieved on 17 August 2011.
  3. ^ Britten-Norman. British Aircraft Directory. Retrieved on 1 July 2017.

External links

2013 Transaereo 5074 Britten-Norman Islander crash

On 4 January 2013, a Britten-Norman Islander light passenger aircraft operated by Transaereo 5074 crashed during a domestic flight from Los Roques Airport, on the Los Roques archipelago, to Caracas, Venezuela, killing all six people on board. Among the victims was Italian fashion entrepreneur Vittorio Missoni.

2014 Romania Britten-Norman Islander crash

On 20 January 2014, a Britten-Norman Islander light aircraft belonging to the Superior School of Aviation in Romania (Romanian: Școala Superioară de Aviație Civilă) crashed in the Apuseni Mountains at an altitude of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 ft), near the village of Petreasa, between Alba and Cluj counties. The aircraft was piloted by two crew and was transporting a five-person medical team from Bucharest to Oradea. The pilot and a medical student died, while the copilot and four medical doctors were injured.

2016 Sunbird Aviation crash

On 13 April 2016, a Britten-Norman BN-2T Turbine Islander operated by Sunbird Aviation crashed about 1,200 m (0.65 nmi; 0.75 mi) short of runway number 7 at Kiunga Airport in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. The plane had pitched up right before the crash, and then dropped its right wing and fell almost vertically to the ground. Eleven passengers (including three children) and the 31 year old Australian pilot, Benjamin Picard, were killed. Nine people died on impact, with other three declared dead on arrival at Kiunga Hospital.The investigation determined that an engine failure occurred in mid-flight. The aircraft was loaded significantly aft of the center of gravity limit. Upon extension of the aircraft's flaps, an uncontrollable pitch up resulted in the aircraft stalling and spinning into the ground.

Air Flamenco

Air Flamenco is a commuter airline operated by Air Charter, Inc., based in Puerto Rico.

Air Vanuatu Flight 241

On 28 July 2018, Air Vanuatu Flight 214, operated by ATR-72 registration YJ-AV71 suffered an in-flight engine fire while operating a domestic scheduled passenger flight from Whitegrass Airport, Tanna to Bauerfield International Airport, Port Vila, Vanuatu. On landing at Port Vila, a runway excursion occurred. The aircraft collided with two Britten-Norman Islanders, writing one off and severely damaging the other. Thirteen of the 43 people on board sustained minor injuries.

Belize Defence Force Air Wing

The Belize Defence Force Air Wing is the aviation branch of the Belize Defence Force, formed in 1983 it is based at the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport in Ladyville. The main tasks of the Air Wing are Reconnaissance, SAR, CASEVAC, aerial resupply and troop transport. Furthermore they assist the police in drug interdiction and anti-smuggling operations, and can be called upon by the Maritime Wing. Two Britten-Norman Defenders were purchased in Britain and formed the backbone of the air wing for years. The two aircraft could be equipped with light armament, making them the first armed aircraft in Belizean history. The British Forces in Belize maintained a strong position throughout the eighties and it was only in 1990, twelve years after its formation, that three Belizeans took command of the Belize Defence Force as Commandant of BDF, Guard Commander, Commander of Air & Maritime Wing.

Britten-Norman BN-1

The Britten-Norman BN-1F was a British single-seat ultralight aircraft built in 1950.

Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander

The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander is a British light utility aircraft and regional airliner designed and originally manufactured by Britten-Norman of the United Kingdom. Still in production, the Islander is one of the best-selling commercial aircraft types produced in Europe. Although designed in the 1960s, over 750 are still in service with commercial operators around the world. The aircraft is also used by the British Army and police forces in the United Kingdom and is a light transport with over 30 military aviation operators around the world.

Initial aircraft were manufactured at Britten-Norman's factory in Bembridge, Isle of Wight, UK. After Fairey Aviation acquired the Britten-Norman company, its Islanders and Trislander aircraft were built in Romania, then shipped to Avions Fairey in Belgium for finishing before being flown to the UK for flight certification. The Islander has been in production for more than 50 years.

Britten-Norman Defender

The Britten-Norman Defender is a multi-role utility transport aircraft, manufactured by Britten-Norman of the United Kingdom. It is the military version of the Britten-Norman Islander, developed for roles such as utility transport, casualty evacuation, counter-insurgency and light attack, forward air control, patrol and reconnaissance.

Britten-Norman Trislander

The Britten-Norman Trislander (more formally designated the BN-2A Mk III Trislander) is an 18-seat three-engined piston-powered civilian utility aircraft produced in the 1970s and early 1980s by Britten-Norman of Britain. These STOL capable aircraft were produced on the Isle of Wight. They were also produced in Romania, and delivered via Belgium to Britain for their certification. A number of commuter airlines operated the Trislander in scheduled passenger services.

Coll Airport

Coll Island Airport (IATA: COL, ICAO: EGEL) is located 5 NM (9.3 km; 5.8 mi) west southwest of Arinagour on the Isle of Coll in the Inner Hebrides. Highland Airways who originally operated the route to Oban went into administration in 2010, but a new operator, Hebridean Air Services now operates the route under a PSO (Public service obligation) with flights to Oban and Tiree using Britten-Norman Islander aircraft.

Desmond Norman

Nigel Desmond Norman, CBE, was an aircraft designer and aviation pioneer. Born in London on 13 August 1929, Norman co-founded Britten-Norman in 1954 was appointed a CBE in 1970, was chairman and managing director of AeroNorTec (1988–2002). With his longtime friend and business partner John Britten, he also designed, built and sailed racing yachts, as well as a series of air cushion vehicles and crop spraying equipment. He died of a heart attack at Basingstoke railway station, in Hampshire on 13 November 2002.

Norman's grandfather was Sir Henry Norman, 1st Baronet, a Liberal politician, and his family held title in the title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom.

Divi Divi Air Flight 014

Divi Divi Air Flight 014 was a scheduled commuter flight from Hato International Airport in Curaçao to Flamingo International Airport in Bonaire carrying a single pilot and nine passengers, which on 22 October 2009 ditched in the Caribbean Sea off the Coast of Bonaire due to an engine failure.

Kyokushin Air

Kyokushin Air (旭神航空, Kyokushin Kōkū) was a commuter airline serving visitors and residents of Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, Japan. It commuted between Sado Island and Niigata Airport. The airline used Britten-Norman BN2 Islander aircraft for its services.

The airline ceased operations on October 1, 2008 due to financial difficulties.

List of Britten-Norman Islander operators

This is a list of Britten-Norman Islander military and law enforcement operators, both past and present


Loganair is a Scottish regional airline based at Glasgow Airport near Paisley, Scotland.In addition to its main base at Glasgow, the airline has hubs at Edinburgh Airport, Inverness Airport, Dundee Airport and Aberdeen Airport. The company holds a United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating Licence. It is permitted to carry passengers, cargo and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats.

NAC Freelance

The NAC-1 Freelance, originally the BN-3 Nymph, is a British four-seat touring monoplane.

Nepalese Army Air Service

Nepal has no separate Air Force but flies several aircraft within the Nepalese Army Air Service, also known as the Nepal Army Air Wing (formerly Royal Nepalese Air Force). It was formed in 1960s, but became an air force unit in 1979. Finally, It is now again a part of the Army. It has limited combat capabilities as only few helicopters can be armed. The main objective of this flying element is transport, flying paratroopers and assistance in case of an emergency (e.g. natural disasters). Apart from the 11th Brigade the country has established a VIP Flight from Tribhuvan Airport, mostly the aircraft are stationed at Kathmandu, Surkhet and Dipayal.

From 1996 to 2006 the country was in civil war against Maoist rebels who strove to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and establish a republic. Their attacks increased since the massacre of the Royal Family in 2001. This development led to the need for armed helicopters. Several types of aircraft have entered service since: MI-17s, M28 Skytruck, HAL Lancer and HAL Dhruv. The UK has delivered two Britten-Norman Islanders and two MI-17s free of charge. China decided to supply an MA-60 (an Y-7 derivative). Nepal has also purchased HAL Cheetah and HAL Chetak helicopters.

In November 2014, India gave an HAL Dhruv as part of a strategic pact.The NAAS consists of about 500 members.

Papa Stour Airstrip

Papa Stour Airstrip is a small airstrip in the village of Biggings on the island of Papa Stour. Shetland, Scotland. It is the most northerly airport in the United Kingdom with regularly scheduled passenger flights. The airport has a direct flight to Tingwall Airport on the Shetland Mainland operated by Directflight using a Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander

Britten-Norman and NDN/NAC aircraft
Key people
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regulatory bodies
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