Lee-on-the-Solent aircraft manufacturer Britten-Norman celebrates anniversary of popular Islander craft

AN AIRCRAFT manufacturer that is celebrating the 55th anniversary of its most popular aircraft is looking to clean energy as the future of aviation.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, 11:47 am
Updated Thursday, 25th June 2020, 11:48 am

Britten-Norman, which operates in Lee-on-the-Solent, is the original manufacturer of the Islander light utility aircraft, designed to be capable of takeoff and landing in tough conditions.

Fifty-five years on from the craft’s maiden flight, the company is looking to the future – which chief executive William Hynett believes lies in clean energy.

Recent investment and an expansion of the Britten-Norman research and development team will allow the company to explore new operating concepts such as green power, with electric and hybrid powertrains being considered.

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Britten Norman's Islander. The firm is based in Lee-on-the-Solent. Picture: John Le Ray

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Mr Hynett said: ‘I am incredibly proud that Britten-Norman has reached this milestone. John Britten and Desmond Norman established a simplicity of design that has endured since 1965.

‘It is a testament to British design and manufacturing that the aircraft still has no like-for-like competitor.

‘However, we are not complacent. British aviation is on the cusp of several exciting technological breakthroughs and we are committed to ensuring the Islander, and our operators, remain at the forefront of these innovations.’

Since the maiden flight in 1965, there have been more than 2,044 modifications to the aircraft, with each one custom-designed for people’s needs.

The aircraft has been employed as passenger transport, as well as in search and rescue and counter-terrorism operations.

The core airframe is much the same now as it was 55 years ago, but the aircraft itself comes with a variety of mod cons, such as USB charging facilities, glass instrument panel and cabin conditioning.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said: ‘Huge congratulations to Britten-Norman on reaching this impressive milestone – the Islander is an iconic aircraft and its manufacture here in the Gosport constituency is a true British aviation-engineering success story.’

Transport secretary Grant Shapps added: ‘Congratulations Britten-Norman on making this important milestone.

‘I know the company is investing heavily in research and development and I cannot wait to see what happens next.’

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