BN_logo.jpg    Britten-Norman Ltd
   Britten-Norman (Bembridge) Ltd
                        Fairey Britten-Norman Ltd
                        Pilatus Britten-Norman Ltd
                        B-N Group (BNG)


Britten-Norman evolved from the ambition of two young men, John Britten and Desmond Norman, who had met as de Havilland apprentices at Hatfield in 1947. Deciding to build their own light aircraft after they had finished their apprenticeships at the de Havilland Technical School in 1949, the Britten-Norman partnership came into being. Their first project was the construction of an ultra-light monoplane, the BN1-F Finibee, built in a garage at Britten’s home, St. Denis, Bembridge, in the Isle of Wight. At this time, building aircraft was still very much a side project for the two young engineers, with John employed in the family theatre business while Desmond was working as an export assistant at the SBAC, while continuing to fly de Havilland Vampires with 601 Count of London Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force.

Britten-Norman Limited was formed in 1953 and during the early 1950s specialised in converting surplus training aircraft, mainly Tiger Moths, for agricultural use. However by 1954 the demand for these conversions was beginning to decline and attention was turned to improving crop spraying techniques, leading to the development of the Micronair Rotary Atomiser for crop spraying in 1955. The design successfully replaced the clumsy boom-and-nozzle style equipment of the era, and by 1958 over 500 Micronair Rotary Atomiser units had been sold worldwide. In order to operate aircraft fitted with the Atomiser, a company known as Crop Culture (Aerial) Ltd was formed in 1956 when Britten and Norman joined up with Frank Mann and Jim McMahon to pursue crop spraying business worldwide.

In 1959 B-N and Crop Culture began to study air-cushion vehicles or hovercraft. Their first craft, the CC1, was the world's second hovercraft and design and construction of the Cushioncraft series successfully proceeded through various stages up to the Cushioncraft CC-7, when B-N’s Cushioncraft interests were sold off to the British Hovercraft Corporation.

In 1963, B-N turned its attention back to aircraft design. John Britten began designing the BN-2, looking for a low-cost “Dragon Rapide” replacement. The BN-2 series had its genesis in the operations of Cameroons Air Transport, a small company set up by B-N in 1960. A scheduled domestic air service was operated by the company between Tiko and Douala, initially with a Piper Apache and later with an Aztec and Dornier Do28. Neither the Apache nor Aztec aircraft was particularly well suited to the work due to restricted load space in the cabin, so B-N decided to produce their own design to meet these requirements. The concept was schemed out by John Britten, initial Chief designer on the project being John Allen, later replaced by Denis Albert Berryman C.Eng. FRAeS (b. 21 Dec 1928 in Hampshire, d. 21 May 1994 in Bembridge, Isle of Wight).

Until the end of 1965, the whole of the cost of design, prototype building and early development flying, as well as initial production tooling and component building, to the extent of some £170,000, had been met by Britten-Norman alone. On the advice of the Transport Aircraft Requirements Committee, the Ministry of Aviation had recommended to the Treasury that the project, on its achievements and forward prospects, should be supported. On November 1, 1966, the announcement was made that the Ministry of Aviation was prepared to meet up to half the launching costs and that the Government would participate in the proceeds from Islander sales. With this timely support in the form of a £190,000 loan the project went ahead with increasing impetus. A new factory, with an area of 56,000 sq ft to expand the existing facilities at Bembridge, was put in hand and brought into use at the end of 1966. Convincing evidence of the truly dynamic quality of the project became evident in February 1967, when the Minister of Aviation announced additional support in the form of an interest-bearing loan of £250,000, as a result of the greatly increased interest and orders that were being attracted by the Islander. The loan was later increased to £550,000 by the Ministry of Technology.

On 13 June 1965 the BN-2 Prototype made its first flight. The aircraft was an immediate success and by 1968 sales of the Islander far outstripped the available production capacity at Bembridge and a major production sub-contract was let to Westland Aircraft’s Saunders Roe Division at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Over 300 sets of Islander airframe components were delivered to Bembridge where final assembly and flight testing was undertaken by B-N at their new factory. From February 1968, production of bare Islander and later on Defender aircraft was transferred to Romania as a result of a technology transfer agreement associated with setting up production of the BAC.111 airliner in Romania. Bembridge remained the centre for final fitting out of the aircraft to customer requirements, flight testing, delivery and support.

Britten-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, to be offered with a choice of engine—115 h.p., 130 h.p. or 160 h.p., was built and flown in 1969. A feature of the Nymph was a plan involving final assembly by suitably qualified local organisations from kits of fully finished, interchangeable parts supplied by the manufacturer. At one point Shorts were considered to build and supply the kits. Britten-Norman seemed to make a good start to sales of the Nymph with an order for 100 kits from their Australian distributor, H. P. Hunt. The plans were to have the aircraft assembled by Aero Engine Services in New Zealand. Unfortunately lack of cash flow prevented this plan from being implemented and the Nymph remained a prototype only.

Following the failure of the Nymph, Britten-Norman continued to develop and improve the Islander design. This culminated in 1970 with the BN-2A MkIII, a trimotor version with greater range and capacity, the first Trislander, as it became named, flying on 11 September 1970. In 1975 Britten-Norman won the Queen's Award to Industry for technological innovation for the Trislander.

Though the Trislander was an immediate success, it also led, in October 1971, to the collapse of the Britten-Norman company. The aircraft's design and development had been encouraged by a director, appointed by Lloyd's Bank, who subsequently called in the bank's loan. One month later, Britten-Norman (Bembridge) Limited was formed. In August 1972, the company was bought by Fairey Engineering, with Britten and Norman remaining as directors until February 1976, when they left “to pursue other interests”. Fairey steadily moved Islander and Trislander production from Bembridge to their Gosselies, Belgium, subsidiary, aircraft only going to Bembridge for UK certification. During 1972 the company conducted a feasibility study for a short-haul, three-Dart-powered passenger/cargo transport, the Mainlander, aimed as a replacement for such types as the Fairchild C-119 and the Bristol Freighter, production of which would have been based at the Gosselies plant of Fairey, and would be first Britten-Norman design to have the Fairey Britten-Norman prefix. BAF management studied the Britten-Norman Mainlander as a replacement for the Carvair, but the project remained on paper only.

On 3 August 1977, Britten-Norman (Bembridge) Limited went into receivership and was sold to Oerlikon-Bührle, owner of Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland in 1978, creating Pilatus Britten-Norman. Considerable development of the Defender series continued in the following years, particularly in the field of AEW. Trslander production ceased in 1981, but in 1982 Pilatus Britten Norman sold a manufacturing license to the International Aviation Corporation (See Audrey, Integrity and the Trislander). This eventually came to nothing, but during the early 1990's Pilatus Britten-Norman considered reviving production in China as a joint-venture deal with the Shenzhen General Aircraft Company. Eventually to date, the only "new" Trislander production that has ocurred is when Guernsey, Channel Islands-based Anglo Normandy Aeroengineering, a specialist in the maintenance of PBN Islanders and Trislanders, received two Trislander kits late in 1995 origininally supplied to International Aviation Corporation in the USA, where they had been kept in store, thereby putting the Trislander back into limited production. Anglo Normandy intended further kits to be assembled if it could gain any firm orders, but it remained at just the two.

In mid 1998 Oerlikon-Bührle sold Britten-Norman to Litchfield Continental Limited, a British Virgin Islands entity located in London, a diversified holding company with holdings in chemical, real property, maritime, mining, research and development and financial management companies, with the company once again named Britten-Norman Aircraft. On 19 October that year, Biofarm Inc., a US based company from Linfield, Pennsylvania, who 12 days earlier had been renamed from Global Spill Management, Inc., announced its acquisition of 100% of the capital stock of Britten-Norman Limited from Litchfield. In January 1999, Britten Norman signed a contract for the acquisition of a 72.9% stake in Romaero, who had a 35-year relationship building airframes for B-N. Following the Romanian Government’s suspension of tax and customs exemptions for foreign investors during 1999, Britten Norman refused to pay the purchase price, amounted to 80.5 million USD. Consequently, State Ownership Fund (the major shareholder at that time) cancelled the contract and resumed Romaero’s privatization process. In return, Britten-Norman filed suit against the Romanian Government in the International Arbitration Court claiming breach of contract as Romania had cancelled the tax breaks stipulated in the contract by enforcing the State Budget Law for 1999. The litigation was finalized and Romaero was re-offered for sale during 2003. Non of this injected much needed capital into Britten-Norman, and the company once again went into receivership on 3 April 2000. However, on 4 May 2000, Alawi Zawawi Enterprises, a consortium which includes members of the Al Zawawi family from the Sultanate of Oman, formed B-N Group, in order to acquire the assets of Britten-Norman Limited, the latter going into final liquidation on 19 May 2000. The company was headed by Alawi Al Zawawi as chairman, aided by his brother Munim, with William Anthony Hynett as CEO, but both Al Zawawi brothers resigned their directorships on 28 June 2008.

On 8 May 2002, a subsidiary company, Fly BN Limited, was formed to specialise in product support and MRO, while on the 10th, the corresponding design and manufacturing subsidiary, Britten-Norman Aircraft Limited, was formed. Various new support companies have since been formed:

BN Resources Limited, an HR & Training company, on 1 October 2003.
BN Aircraft Sales Inc. in USA on 1 August 2004, to handle US aircraft sales.
Britten-Norman Pty Ltd in Australia on 1 November 2004.
Aero Composites Limited, a Fly BN subsidiary, in August 2005.
BN Logistics Limited in June 2006, based at new premises near London Heathrow, but dissolved on 5 August 2014.
BN Helicopters Limited in September 2006, based at premises at Thruxton Airfield, but dissolved on 11 August 2015.
BN Defence Limited in February 2007, originally based at MOD St Athan Airfield, but now at Daedalus Airfield.
BN Aerosystems in June 2009, specialising in avionics and systems integration, installation, maintenance, modification and repairs.
On 14 December 2005 Cirrus Aircraft announced that Britten-Norman would provide final re-assembly of Cirrus’s SR20 and SR22, via its Aero Composites subsidiary, for aircraft to be delivered to European customers.

In 2010, facilities for aircraft manufacture in the UK were moved from Britten-Normans traditional home of Bembridge to the newly created Lee-on-the-Solent manufacturing facility at Solent Airport, the former Royal Naval Air Station Daedalus. Spare parts production continues at the Bembridge site with sub-assemblies also being supplied from the Romanian facility.

Company References
  1. http://www.ivanberrymandirect.com/BNAPS_Images/BNAPS_News-March_2014.pdf
  2. http://www.ivanberrymandirect.com/BNAPS_Images/BNAPS_News-September_2014.pdf
  3. http://www.ivanberrymandirect.com/BNAPS_Images/BNAPS_News-May_2016.pdf
  4. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/ro-industry-aviation.htm
  5. http://www.globalaviationresource.com/v2/2015/06/13/aviation-history-britten-norman-islander-50th-anniversary/
  6. Flight International, 22 May 1969
  7. Flight International, 5 June 1969
  8. Flight International, 12 June 1969
  9. Flight International, 28 October 1971
  10. Flight International, 2 December 1971
  11. Flight International, 19 April 1973
  12. Flight International, 1-7 July 1998
  13. Flight International, 2-8 May 2000

Project Data top

Project No Type No Name Alternative Name(s) Year Spec Status Qty Description References
   BN-1F  Finibee    1951    Proto  1  1S, 1E high wing monoplane  1,4,5,313,336
       4-seat Tourer  1955    Proj  0  4S, 1E low wing light aircraft  4
   BN-2  Islander  Defender  1965    Prdn  1179 (669)  10S, 2E high wing transport  1,6,300,301,302,305,307,308,309,310,311,312,315,
   BN-2A Mk.III  Trislander    1970    Prdn  82 (10)  18S, 3E high wing transport  1,6,300,302,304,306,317,322,326,338
   BN-3  Nymph    1969    Proto  1  4S, 1E high wing light aircraft  1,3,4,314,321,804
     Twin Nymph        Proj  0  6S, 2E high wing light aircraft  2,801 (see Projects ) page
   BN-4  Mainlander (1)        Proj  0  Various 2E and   4E studies for a 21-24 pax high
 wing transport.
 2,800 (see Projects page)
     Mainlander (1)    1973    Proj  0  3E, 100 seat high wing STOL transport  2,303,316,323,803

  1. The name Mainlander was reused for the larger 100 seat aircraft when under the Pilatus Britten-Norman name.

Project References                    To show project references in a floating window

Project References      

1        British Civil Aircraft since 1919 Volume 1, A.J. Jackson (Putnam, 2nd Ed., 1973)

2        Stuck on the Drawing Board, Richard Payne (Tempus, 2004)

3        British Private Aircraft 1946-1970 Volume 1, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume (Mushroom Model Publications, 2013)

4        British Private Aircraft 1946-1970 Volume 2, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume (Mushroom Model Publications, 2013)

5        British Homebuilt Aircraft since 1920, Ken Ellis (Merseyside Aviation Society, 1975)

6        The Encyclopedia of Civil Aircraft, David Donald (Thunder Books, 1999)

300    Aeroplane Monthly Aug 1994

301    Aeroplane Monthly Sep 2015

302    Air International Oct 1971

303    Air International Feb 1973

304    Air International Sep 1974

305    Air International Nov 1974

306    Air International Jun 1975

307    Air International Jun 1987

308    Air International Oct 1991

309    Air International Apr 1995

310    Air International Jul 1995

311    Air International Feb 2003

312    Air International Dec 2008

313    Air Pictorial Sep 1968

314    Air Pictorial Jul 1969

315    Air Pictorial Jun 1971

316    Air Pictorial Feb 1973

317    Air Pictorial Jun 1973

318    Air Pictorial Aug 1975

319    Air Pictorial Jul 1984

320    Air Pictorial Jun 1987

321    Aircraft Illustrated Dec 1969

322    Aircraft Illustrated Dec 1970

323    Aviation News Vol 1 No 18

324    Aviation News Vol 15 No 21

325    Aviation News Vol 17 No 15

326    Aviation News Vol 17 No 8

327    Flying Review Vol 23 No 1

328    Flight International, 24 Jun I965

329    Flight International, 24 Aug I967

330    Flight International, 22 May 1969

331    Flight International, 9 Apr 1970

332    Flight International, 15 Jul 1971

333    Flight International, 14 Dec 1972

334    Flight International, 19 Dec 1990

335    Aviation News Vol 4 No 5

336    The Aeroplane 08 Jun 1951

337    Aircraft Engineering Aug 1970

338    Aircraft Engineering Oct 1971

800     http://www.ivanberrymandirect.com/BNAPS_Images/BNAPS_News-January_2016.pdf

801     http://www.ivanberrymandirect.com/blog_archive.htm

802     https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,1866.0.html

803     https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,29263.0.html

Books & Booklets
1.British Civil Aircraft since 1919 Volume 1, A.J. Jackson (Putnam, 2nd Ed., 1973)
2.Stuck on the Drawing Board, Richard Payne (Tempus, 2004)
3.British Private Aircraft 1946-1970 Volume 1, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume (Mushroom Model Publications, 2013)
4.British Private Aircraft 1946-1970 Volume 2, Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume (Mushroom Model Publications, 2013)
5.British Homebuilt Aircraft since 1920, Ken Ellis (Merseyside Aviation Society, 1975)
6.The Encyclopedia of Civil Aircraft, David Donald (Thunder Books, 1999)

Magazines and Periodicals
300.Aeroplane Monthly Aug 1994326.Aviation News Vol 17 No 8
301.Aeroplane Monthly Sep 2015327.Flying Review Vol 23 No 1
302.Air International Oct 1971328.Flight International, 24 Jun I965
303.Air International Feb 1973329.Flight International, 24 Aug I967
304.Air International Sep 1974330.Flight International, 22 May 1969
305.Air International Nov 1974331.Flight International, 9 Apr 1970
306.Air International Jun 1975332.Flight International, 15 Jul 1971
307.Air International Jun 1987333.Flight International, 14 Dec 1972
308.Air International Oct 1991334.Flight International, 19 Dec 1990
309.Air International Apr 1995335.Aviation News Vol 4 No 5
310.Air International Jul 1995336.The Aeroplane 08 Jun 1951
311.Air International Feb 2003337.Aircraft Engineering Aug 1970
312.Air International Dec 2008338.Aircraft Engineering Oct 1971
313.Air Pictorial Sep 1968
314.Air Pictorial Jul 1969
315.Air Pictorial Jun 1971
316.Air Pictorial Feb 1973
317.Air Pictorial Jun 1973
318.Air Pictorial Aug 1975
319.Air Pictorial Jul 1984
320.Air Pictorial Jun 1987
321.Aircraft Illustrated Dec 1969
322.Aircraft Illustrated Dec 1970
323.Aviation News Vol 1 No 18
324.Aviation News Vol 15 No 21
325.Aviation News Vol 17 No 15

Production Summary top
Select the Prdn_List button to go to the appropriate listings page.

Note: In the Production Summary, conversions are only listed where they result in a change from one Type to another. Changes to sub-type or Mark Number are not shown in the summary. For details of these, see the individual listings.

Type No
Qty (New)
Qty (Conv.)
 BN-1F  Finibee
 BN-2  Islander/Defender
 BN-2A Mk.III  Trislander
 BN-3  Nymph

Total Britten-Norman Production
Total Britten-Norman Cancelled Orders

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Revised at Version 1.4.4
  • Note 1 added.

V1.4.4 Created by Roger Moss. Last updated August 2020