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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

Thirty five years ago the Editor flew to the Britten-Norman plant on the Isle of Wight on a school Aviation Society jaunt. On arrival we were treated to landing on one engine ‘just to show the performance of the aircraft!” (Health and Safety would cringe today!) The firm was just six year old since the first Islander model was conceived by John Britten and Desmond Norman since they met in 1947. (Key dates are shown at the end)

I then rode in the aircraft at Netheravon Airfield serving in the Eton CCF on the parachute course where an Islander was used by the Army Parachute Association. The performance of the aircraft was experienced at first hand when our pilot, an ex-WWII bomber pilot threw the aircraft into a steep turn after the first stick had been dropped, thus I have first hand knowledge of this great British aircraft!

Jumping thirty five years, I am glad to say that, after a few hiccups and bad management on the way, the company is thriving under the management of William Hynett, Group Chief Executive, his father Maurice, Deputy Chairman and inward investment form the Zawawi brothers based in Oman.

The new management took over in 2000 from the previous company which had run the business into the ground since 1998, concentrating more on the property assets than the core aircraft business. B-N Group now employs 165 workers a leap from the 21 employed in 2000.

“Not only have we kept the assembly line for the Islander and Defender at full stretch having built several aircraft since we bought the company, we have expanded to modifications and upgrades, after-sales and support and pilot training. In addition we have bought the Cirrus assembly license from the U.S. parent Company, which build 1000 aircraft a year, and hope to assemble at least 100 aircraft a year,” William Hynett told the Editor.

The Islander is the best-selling commercial aircraft produced in Western Europe. The original Islander design, which has an impressive world class pedigree and impeccable safety record spanning 5 decades, remains highly respected for its rugged dependability. Celebrating 40 years since it’s first flight in 1965, today’s BN2B Piston Islander incorporates many hundreds of modifications that have been developed to meet customer needs over the 40 years.

In addition to this 300HP Lycoming version of the Islander, there is also a 260HP Lycoming version and a twin Rolls-Royce (Allison) 250 B17C series Turboprop derivative available.

The newest version of the aircraft, the BN2C, is currently being designed and will come equipped with other new features such as “Row 3” windows and 3 bladed, scimitar props and electronic instruments, to name just a few. Some of these features will also be available for retro-fit. The Editor was shown the sleek leather-clad business aviation version built for a Middle Eastern customer at last year’s Dubai Air show.

“Out of a total of over one thousand aircraft built 800 are still flying. We continue to support and sell to the U.K. MoD which has recently placed a new order for three Defender 4000s under a UOR in 2004 to increase its fleet to six Islanders and three Defenders. Hampshire Police are amongst a number of Police users.

The Islander and Defender 4000 Surveillance Aircraft are in service with over 45 of the world’s armies, B-N has recently established a U.S. Distributor

Defender 4000 is the latest development of the BN2T Defender aircraft meeting the need to operate a lightweight aircraft from short airstrips in all weather conditions, by day and night.

Design improvements include an extended fuselage, larger wing
for greater internal fuel capacity and enhanced visibility cockpit and cabin. The Defender 4000 is designed to carry the most sophisticated navigation and sensor equipment such as thermal imaging camera and 360 degree search rada

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