Britten-Norman : The Only Privately-Owned Commercial Aircraft Producer in the United Kingdom

Founded by John Britten and Desmond Norman in 1954, Bitten-Norman was established to fulfill an inadequacy in the aviation market for a light, twin-engined utility vehicle with STOL (short take-off and landing) capability for high-density commuter flights. Britten-Norman played a vital role in making cheaper aircraft with minimal base-line systems more widely available for civilians, as well as for developing countries unable to afford more advanced aircraft.

Currently beneficially owned by a consortium of private interests, Britten-Norman now operates under four segments: B-N Aircraft (designing and engineering aircraft, both civilian and militarized variants), B-N Aerosystems (producing avionics and systems), B-N Defence (maintenance, repair, and overhaul for the defence industry), and B-N Aviation (for maintenance, repair, and overhaul for general aviation systems). Based in Bembridge, Isle of Wight, the company has sold over 1,250 aircraft to markets ranging from England’s Royal Air Force to police and fishery patrol to tourism. The company is compliant with regulations from UK CAA, EASA (21/145), UK MoD, and ISO9000. With a design philosophy informed by bespoke principles, Britten-Norman offers customizable aircraft from start to finish.

Their first product was a light single-seater parasol wing aircraft known as the BN-1 Finibee which eventually developed into the BN-2 Islander. The company’s existing aircraft portfolio, known as the B-2 Series, includes the Islander, the Trislander, and the Defender. The Islander is a short-haul plane which features a square section fuselage, under-wing hard points for attachments such as pods or spray-booms, and a flat cabin floor which can be reconfigured for multiple uses. The Trislander is a larger version of the Islander with 18-seats, and three piston-powered engines. It features a longer fuselage, fixed tricycle landing gear, increased payload and endurance, and an engine atop the fin. Although no longer actively manufactured, the Trislander is still in service. The Defender is a utility transport vehicle optimized for military applications with increased endurance, fuel capacity, and technological compatibility (for installing the likes of secure communications systems, detection and scanning equipment, or HD IR/TV cameras with laser guidance). In addition to the original Defender, this series contains variants specified for maritime patrol and reconnaissance (Maritime Defender), for urban surveillance and counter-terrorism (Defender 4000), and for airborne early warning (AEW Defender). Equipped with four underwing hardpoints, the Defender can hold ordnance and external stores, including radar systems and cameras. The plane can also be fitted with defense suites including MAWS, DIRCM, chaff and flares.

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