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.
|A Winair Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander|
|Designer||John Britten, Desmond Norman|
|First flight||13 June 1965|
|Developed into||Britten-Norman Trislander|
In 1953, Britten-Norman was formed for the purpose of converting and operating agricultural aircraft, amongst other vehicles such as the Cushioncraft hovercraft. In 1963, the firm initiated development work upon what would become the Islander, having sensed a demand for a single and inexpensive twin-piston engine aircraft. The founders, John Britten and Desmond Norman, had observed the rapid growth of the commuter airline sector, and concluded that capacity was of a higher value to these operators than either range or cruising speed, thus the Islander emphasized payload over either of these attributes.
Through the use of low wing- and span-loading to generate greater effectiveness than conventional counterparts, the Islander could lift considerably heavier payloads than the typical aircraft in its power, weight or cost classes. To reduce manufacturing costs, both the wings and tail surfaces maintain a constant chord and thickness, while the ribs within the aircraft's wing are all identical; both rivets and external fishplate joints are used for the same purpose. The type was originally intended to use a fabric-and-steel design. A light alloy monocoque approach was adopted instead. The structure is designed to give rise to and experience low levels of stress, and has an infinite fatigue life without testing.
On 13 June 1965, the first prototype BN-2 Islander conducted its maiden flight, powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce/Continental IO-360B piston engines; only four days later, the prototype appeared at the Paris Air Show. The IO-360B engines were later replaced by more powerful Lycoming O-540-E engines, which were located further outboard on the wings, for superior single-engine climb performance. On 20 August 1966, a second BN-2 prototype performed its first flight. These prototype aircraft, while resembling subsequent production models for the most part, were outfitted with different, less powerful engines. On 24 April 1967, the first production Islander performed its first flight; UK type certification was received in August 1967, US authorities also certified the type in December 1967.
Initial production of the Islander started at the Britten-Norman factory at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight; however, within a few years the company found that it could not produce the aircraft at a sufficient rate to keep up with the customer demand. To expand production, a contract was placed with Intreprinderea de Reparatii Material Aeronautic (IRMA) of Romania, initially to assemble kit-form aircraft, which were then sent to the UK for completion. In August 1969, the first Romanian-assembled Islander performed its first flight. IRMA proved successful at economically producing the aircraft, producing roughly 30-40 aircraft per year at times, and eventually became the primary manufacturing site for the Islander. In 1977, IRMA received a contract for the production of a further 100 Islanders; from that point on, the firm produced all subsequent Islander aircraft. More than 500 of the type were manufactured in Romania.
In 1970, a military version of the Islander, marketed as the Defender, conducted its first flight. Modifications included the addition of underwing hardpoints for armaments/equipment, and the main cabin area being fitted out for light troop transport and support aircraft duties. The Defender capitalised on the aircraft's rugged structure, making it suitable for long-term operations in developing countries. Purchases from police and military customers have typically been for use in surveillance and counter-terrorism operations. The Maritime Defender is another military version of the Islander, intended for search and rescue, coastal patrol and fishery protection.
Despite the relative success of the Islander, Britten-Norman experienced wider financial difficulties during the late 1960s, ultimately resulting in the company entering receivership in October 1971. In August 1972, Britten-Norman was purchased by the Fairey Aviation Group, forming the Fairey Britten-Norman company; shortly thereafter, the majority of manufacturing activity for both the Islander and Trislander was transferred to its Avions Fairey factory in Gosselies, Belgium. Completed aircraft were flown to Bembridge for final customer preparation prior to delivery.
Fairey Aviation set about the development of a more powerful model, the Turbo Islander, equipped with a pair of Lycoming LTP101 turboprop engines. However, testing revealed that the LTP101 engines were too powerful for the aircraft; thus, following a period of re-designing, the project evolved into the Turbine Islander (BN-2T), equipped with a pair of Allison 250 turboprop engines instead. However, Fairey itself encountered financial difficulty, resulting in the Fairey Britten-Norman company entering receivership and the firm's acquisition by Oerlikon Buerle of Switzerland, leading to the formation of Pilatus Britten-Norman, at which point some production activity was transferred back to Bembridge.
In 1969, an improved version, the BN-2A Islander, conducted its maiden flight. It incorporated aerodynamic and flight equipment improvements, such as lower-drag engine cowlings and undercarriage, an improved interior, and an expanded rear baggage area with external access. In 1970, to improve hot-and-high performance, more powerful Lycoming O-540-K1-B5 engines were made available, alongside optional tiptanks and an elongated nose to house baggage.
In 1977, a single standard BN-2 was re-engined with Dowty Rotol ducted fans. The ducted fan produced less noise than conventional propeller propulsion. Some structural strengthening of the main wing spar at the root was required due to the extra weight. This aircraft was subject to 18 months of flying trials to test the suitability of the ducted fan as a means of reducing aircraft noise; these tests reportedly demonstrated a 20 decibel noise reduction as well as increased thrust and reduced pollution.
In 1978, a further improved version, the BN-2B Islander II, was produced as a result of a product improvement program. The BN-2B model involved several changes, including a redesigned cockpit and a reduction in cabin noise levels. In 1980, it was decided to make available turboprop engines for the type, adopting twin Allison 250-B17C engines; when the latter are installed, the aircraft is designated the BN-2T Turbine Islander. The first such BN-2T entered service in 1981.
In February 1999, the acquisition of Romaero, the Romanian manufacturer of the Islander, by Britten-Norman Group was announced. By May 2006, a greater sales emphasis was being placed upon the Defender over the Islander. In December 2006, aerospace publication Flight International observed that: "The only civil aircraft that remains in production in the UK is the tiny Britten-Norman Islander". In May 2010, Britten-Norman announced that manufacturing of the Islander would be relocated from Romania to a new site in the UK, due to the rising costs of production in Romania.
Supported by Britten-Norman, Cranfield Aerospace wants to develop an electric propulsion system for the over 700 Islanders currently operated. It is proposed for Scottish airline Loganair which operate the few minutes long flights to the Orkney Islands' six airfields, including the world's shortest, the Westray to Papa Westray flight scheduled for 1.5 min. The Orkney already have wind turbines and Kirkwall Harbour ships are powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Less noisy, the kit could be modified for similar-size aircraft and could be used for parachuting depending on the charging speed.
Approved by the EASA, Cranfield built the X-48 blended wing body scale-model for NASA, and works with Airbus and Rolls-Royce to develop the hybrid E-Fan X converted BAe 146 demonstrator. Cranfield wants to develop a STC with off-the-shelf parts: current batteries would give it a 30 min endurance, sufficient for most island flights, and more with a range extender. By avoiding Avgas and with the lower maintenance of the simpler system, operators could attain a return on investment in 2-3 years with additional investment for charging infrastructure. To back the development, Cranfield applied for UK government grants through the Aerospace Technology Institute and UK Research and Innovation, and approached private enterprises. If funded for £10 million, a prototype could fly in 2021, and the kit could be available in 2022-23.
In 1968, the original second Islander prototype was re-used for a further development programme, being modified into a stretched aircraft with greater capacity, referred to as the Super Islander. However, the Super Islander programme was aborted without proceeding to certification. The prototype later received further design changes to produce the three-engined version, the BN-2A Mk III Trislander. This aircraft has a stretched fuselage, modified landing gear and a third engine, which is mounted on the tail. On 11 September 1970, the Trislander prototype conducted its maiden flight, appearing at the 1970 Farnborough Air Show the same day.
The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander is a high-wing cantilever monoplane with a rectangular fuselage and two wing-mounted engines; early aircraft were equipped with a pair of piston engines while later production models may be alternatively fitted with turboprop engines in their place. The rectangular cross section fuselage, which is furnished with a conventional tail unit and fixed tricycle landing gear, typically accommodates a single pilot and up to nine passengers in a commuter configuration, each row being accessed by its own door; the cabin can be rapidly reconfigured, allowing for a single aircraft to undertake a diverse range of tasks within a minimal period of time. Often referring to the type as "The world's most versatile aircraft", Britten-Norman promotes the Islander's low direct operating costs, minimal maintenance, and its stability in flight as major attributes of the aircraft.
The original Islander was designed with an emphasis upon providing ease of access within the short haul sector to remote locations as a safe, efficient, and profitable transport aircraft. It has been regularly used by such operators, including the frequent use of unprepared rough airstrips and from challenging terrain; the Islander being capable of short takeoff and landing (STOL) operations. The low load height and wide side doors provide for easy access for passenger and cargo operations, while the aircraft's ability to maintain a high takeoff frequency has led to the type's use for parachuting. For operating within noise-sensitive environments, silencers can be equipped on both the aircraft's engine and propellers.
Designed as a small and inexpensive commuter/utility aircraft, various cabin configurations and equipment loadouts are available to suit a wide variety of different purposes, including charter flights, scheduled flights, agricultural uses, aerial firefighting, air freight VIP/executive transport, aerial surveillance, air ambulance, paradropping, and law enforcement. The design programme can be entirely personalized, allowing each customer to be involved in every area of the aircraft's manufacture to mold it to their preferences. Later versions of the Islander offer various options, including enlarged bay doors, 3-bladed scimitar propellers, low drag fairings, modern interior, ergonomic leather seating, in-flight entertainment systems, and alternative seat arrangements; underwing hardpoints can also be installed for carrying pod, spray booms and other external stores.
Immediately following commercial availability, US distributor Jonas Aircraft ordered 30 Islanders, and placed orders for another 112 aircraft within a year. When equipped with four 54-gallon fuel tanks, the Islander was able to ferry itself across the transatlantic route, via Gander International Airport, Newfoundland, for US deliveries. The Islander's long-range capabilities were highlighted when the type won the 1969 London-Sydney air race.
In 1974, sales of the Islander surpassed the 548-order record for British multi-engine commercial aircraft. In 1982, another production milestone was reached with the delivery of the 1,000th Islander. From the 1980s onwards, sales noticeably declined; according to Britten-Norman Chief Executive William Hynett, this was due to the global market having become saturated by the type and there being only a low civil demand for additional aircraft, in part due to the longevity of in-service Islanders. As of 2016, Britten-Norman claim that the Islander is in daily service with roughly 500 operators in more than 120 countries.
Between 1976 and 2006, Scottish airline Loganair operated a number of Islanders as air ambulances, covering areas such as the island communities in the Hebrides. The Islander is known for servicing the two airports joined by the shortest scheduled flight in the world. Operated as a leg of Loganair's inter-island service, Loganair Flight 353, the distance from Papa Westray Airport to Westray Airport is only 1.7 mi (2.7 km), and the scheduled flight time including taxiing is two minutes.
Several commuter airlines and general aviation charter operators in the U.S. also flew the Islander including Stol Air Commuter in scheduled passenger service in northern California from their San Francisco International Airport (SFO) hub and Channel Islands Aviation in southern California which used the aircraft for the flights to Channel Islands National Park. Another U.S. commuter airline operator was Wings Airways which operated high frequency shuttle service into the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL).
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Air BVI was an airline which operated and was based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Founded in 1971, in 1975 it significantly added capacity to its fleet with the introduction of two Douglas DC-3 aircraft. Air BVI primarily flew between the Beef Island Airport (EIS) on Tortola and Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, providing connecting flights to and from major air carriers serving San Juan in order to enable tourists to visit the British Virgin Islands as well as providing transportation for local BVI residents and also served other destinations in the BVI such as Anegada and Virgin Gorda.
Air BVI went insolvent liquidation in 1991, although it continued to operate out of bankruptcy for nearly two and a half years. In May 1993 it suffered its only major incident when one of its aircraft overran the runway at Beef Island on an aborted takeoff, and landed in the sea. However, the accident resulted in no significant injuries.Air Martinique
Air Martinique (IATA: NN, ICAO: MTQ, Call sign: Martinique) was an airline based in the island of Martinique in the Lesser Antilles. Its head office was on the grounds of Fort-de-France Airport, now Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport, in Le Lamentin.Air ambulances in the United Kingdom
Air ambulance services in the United Kingdom are provided by a mixture of organisations, operating either helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft to respond to medical emergencies, and transport patients to, from, or between points of definitive care. These air ambulances fulfil both emergency medical services functions, as well as patient transport between specialist centres, or as part of a repatriation operation. All air ambulances in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are operated by charities, whilst Scotland has one charity service in addition to its four NHS-funded aircraft.Caribbean Helicopters
Caribbean Helicopters Limited was founded in 1995. The air charter airline is based in Antigua and provides services to Anguilla, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica and other islands.Copenhagen AirTaxi
Copenhagen AirTaxi (CAT) is Denmarks most experienced aviation company and flight school based in Roskilde, Denmark. It provide a range of services, including operating regularly scheduled flights from Copenhagen Airport, Roskilde (ICAO: EKRK) to the Danish islands of Anholt and Læsø; managing the airfield on Anholt, and is also a major airtaxi operator in Denmark, operating from EKRK. CAT is a experienced flight school with flight training leading to a private and commercial pilots license. With large modern facilities based in Roskilde, the school trains the future generation of professionel pilots in Denmark. CAT also has a large maintenance facility specialized in General Aviation aircraft.
The company was a first-mover in Europe to introduce charter flights (airtaxi) on single engine turboprop aircraft under new legislation CAT SET-IMC. In 2017, CAT introduced the Pilatus PC-12 business aircraft to its fleet. The aircraft reaches destinations all over Europe, and have exceptional performance for short field operations.
The scheduled route between Roskilde – Anholt – Læsø is operated by a 10-seat Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander, but this may be substituted or augmented with one of the company's 6-seat Partenavia P.68'sDorado Wings
Dorado Wings was a small commuter airline that operated from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico to Dorado Airport in the tourist center of Dorado. Dorado Wings was the only commercial operator at Dorado Airport. Dorado Wings existed from 1964 to 1982. In early 1981, the airline was purchased and its name was changed to Crown Air which operated until 1988.
Commuter turboprop and prop aircraft operated by Dorado Wings during its existence included:
Thirteen (13) Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander (BN-2A models)
Five (5) de Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter
Three (3) Handley Page Jetstream
One (1) Piper Navajo
One (1) Swearingen MetrolinerFlights from San Juan to Dorado took a mere 15 minutes. Because of the shortness of their flights, Dorado Wings airplanes were a constant sight every day at many airports throughout this part of the Caribbean. Airports served in Puerto Rico were San Juan International (SJU), Isla Grande (SIG), Dorado Beach (DBA), Mayagüez (MAZ), Palmas Del Mar (PDM) and Aguadilla (BQN) (former Ramey Air Force Base). Other Caribbean airports served were St. Thomas (STT), St. Croix (STX), Tortola/Beef Island BVI (EIS), Virgin Gorda BVI (VIJ), St. Kitts (SKB), St. Maarten/St. Martin (SXM), St. Barts (SBH) and Anguilla (AXA). Still more airports were served on a charter basis.
Pilots (there were 900 to 1,000 of them during the history of the company) have wonderful memories of the good times and say it was the best jobs they ever had in aviation. No mortgage, car payments, worries or cares mostly.Gum Air
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Henri Alwies Airstrip (Dutch: Henri Alwies Vliegveld) (IATA: SMHA), also known as Henri Alwies Airfield or Henri Alwies Vliegveld, is in the Saramacca district of Suriname. This is one of the newest airports in Suriname, in use since April 5, 2012.
It's the homebase of crop dusting company ERK Farms and is also heavily used by the Gliders Club "Zweefvliegclub Akka."
On March 24, 2013 an Open Day was held at the new Henri Alwies Airfield with multiple planes from Zorg en Hoop Airport together with a demonstration from Skydive Free 2 Fly Suriname jumping parachutes from a privately owned Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander (N26NB). Surinamese Minister Of Sport & Youth, Ismanto Adna, also participated with a tandem parachute jump. A nice crop dusting demonstration was performed by pilot Martin Veldkamp with a Grumman G-164B Ag-Cat B (PZ-USB) from ERK Farms.Manyame Air Base
Manyame Air Base is one of the two main air bases for the Air Force of Zimbabwe. Formerly known as New Sarum Air Force Station, Manyame Air Base is situated in Harare and is the principal air force establishment and provides facilities for aircraft squadrons of differing roles, training schools for technicians, staff and academic training and security dog handlers. A full range of amenities, which include workshops, transport fleets, equipment depots, accommodation, sports and entertainment facilities, support the base. Located on the same grounds as the Harare International Airport and sharing the same runway, it is home to these squadrons. It also houses the technical training school and the dog taining unit. The base has a hospital and is surrounded by farmland as it is located on the outskirts of the capital city. It uses the same facilities as Harare International Airport:
3rd Squadron (Falcon) - transport. Operating the Casa 212-200 and Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander.
7th Squadron (Spider) - combat helicopter squadron with Alouette III, AS 532 and Mi-35Ps.
8th Squadron (Scorpion) - Agusta-Bell 412SPNew England Airlines
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No. 1 Flight AAC was an independent flight within the British Army's Army Air Corps.
Saunders-Roe Skeeter AOP.12
Westland Scout AH.1
de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver AL.1
Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander AL.1Papa 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 IslanderRediske Air
Rediske Air was a small air taxi charter airline operating out of Alaska.Rhodesia United Air Carriers
Rhodesia United Air Carriers (RUAC) was a company formed in 1957 by the amalgamation of several existing charter companies; Air Carriers Limited and Flights (1956) Limited of Salisbury, and Fishair of Victoria Falls. Commercial Air Services (Rhodesia) of Bulawayo was integrated into RUAC in August 1960, following the merger of its holding company, Airwork Ltd (also known as Airwork Services), with Hunting-Clan (which had owned Air Carriers Ltd), a subsidiary of the maritime company Clan Line.
RUAC was the Beechcraft agent for Central Africa. It operated a fleet of Beech Barons, a Beech Queen Air, several Piper Apache and Aztec aircraft, a Cessna 180 and a Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander.
The company had bases at Salisbury (head office and maintenance base), Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.Suavanao Airport
Suavanao Airport is an airport on Santa Isabel Island in the Solomon Islands (IATA: VAO, ICAO: AGGV).
The main destination off this airfield is Honiara, Solomon Island's capital. It has very little traffic, providing one flight a week most of the time, depending on the season. Mainly used by Isabel’s inhabitants, it also provides a fast connection to a Papatura Island resort.
The short airstrip is basically a leveled and cleaned up piece of land, surrounded by a dense tropical forest and narrow streams. It is not paved, and can only be used by small regional aircraft like the DHC-6 Twin Otter or Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander of Solomon Airlines. There is a small wooden cabin by the strip, but there’s no electricity nor means of communication with the mainland.Sunbird Aviation
Sunbird Aviation was an airline in Kenya which merged with Air Kenya in 1987 to form Airkenya Aviation.TimAir
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Wheeler Airlines was the operating name of Wheeler Flying Service (WHAA), a historically significant company because it was the first black-owned airline certificated in the USA by the FAA and it helped integrate the pilots at major US air carriers by qualifying a large number of black pilots that were subsequently hired by the nation’s major airlines.
Wheeler Flying Service was started by Warren Wheeler in 1969, who at the time was a Captain at Piedmont Airlines, flying Boeing 737-200 jetliners.
Wheeler Flying Service provided flight training, charter services, aircraft maintenance and courier services for banks using Piper PA-28, PA-24 and PA-32, Beechcraft 18, Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander and Ted Smith Aerostar twin engine prop aircraft. Wheeler Flying Service was certificated by the FAA as an air carrier and a repair station.In August 1973, Wheeler Flying Service received a grant from the North Carolina Economic Authority to provide scheduled passenger air service from Raleigh/Durham, NC to Morehead City, NC and Elizabeth City, NC using Cessna 402 commuter twin prop aircraft. No other flying company in North Carolina wanted the contract. This was the beginning of Wheeler Airlines.In 1974, Wheeler Airlines began scheduled passenger flights to Greenville, NC, Asheville, NC and Norfolk, VA. The flights to and from Greenville were requested by the Burroughs-Welcome Drug Company based in the Research Triangle Park and included passengers and a sample box delivered each day to the headquarters from their factory in Greenville. The airline switched to Piper PA-31 Navajo aircraft.
In 1975, Wheeler Airlines briefly operated a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter. The February 1, 1976 Official Airline Guide (OAG) lists scheduled passenger service being flown to Charlotte, NC (CLT), Elizabeth City, NC (ECG), Greenville, NC (PGV), Morehead City, NC (MRH), Norfolk, VA (ORF) and Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU) with all flights being operated with Cessna 402 twin prop commuter aircraft and the airline using the two letter air carrier code "WR". Wheeler then selected the Beechcraft 99 commuter turboprop aircraft for scheduled service. The airline established joint fares and pass agreements with several major airlines. In 1978 the airline added a larger Fairchild F-27 turboprop with service to New York City and Atlantic City, NJ.The airline experienced significant growth during the early 1980s as major airlines assigned their jet aircraft to major markets. At its peak in 1984, Wheeler Airlines operated a fleet of five Beechcraft 99's. The routes expanded to Wilmington, Delaware, Washington, DC and Tri Cities, Tennessee. The airline hired a relatively large proportion of black pilots with low flight time; including two black women pilots that were the first hired at major airlines Many of the pilots were trained at Wheeler Flying Service under the Federal CEDA Program. Low time pilots started as copilots in the Beech 99. When they reached 1200 hours flight time they were assigned to fly courier routes in piston airplanes. Upon the completion of 2,000 hours the pilot could check out as a Beech 99 Captain if they could pass an aircraft "check ride" conducted by Wheeler himself. All of the pilots gained valuable turbine time while employed at Wheeler Airlines and the vast majority of Wheeler Airline co-pilots black and white were or still are employed as pilots at major air carriers.
Wheeler introduced a number of first in the commuter industry, including one engine turn around's and engine trend monitoring for turbine powered aircraft.In the 1980s the airline experienced competition from other commuter air carriers. Wheeler suffered a major blow when Piedmont Airlines selected another commuter airline for code sharing air services. Realizing Wheeler Airlines was going to fail, Warren Wheeler started Wheeler Regional Airlines (WRA) a much smaller version of Wheeler Airlines specializing in underserved mid Atlantic destinations. In 1986 Wheeler Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Britten-Norman and NDN/NAC aircraft