Britten-Norman (BN) is a privately owned British aircraft manufacturer and aviation services provider. The company is the sole independent commercial aircraft producer in the UK.

FoundedJune 29, 1954; 67 years ago (1954-06-29)
Number of locations
Area served
Key people
  • Alawi Zawawi
  • William Hynett
    (Chief Executive)
Number of employees

Britten-Norman has so far manufactured and sold almost 1,300 aircraft to customers in more than 120 countries. In addition to aircraft manufacturing, the company also performs maintenance, overhaul and repair work as well as performing sub-contract engineering and design work.

The company's historic home[1] is located at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight although airframes have been assembled under subcontract in Romania for more than 50 years. Romanian[2] aircraft used to pass through to the UK for finalisation and certification. Nowadays aircraft are manufactured in the UK at the company's Lee-on-the-Solent manufacturing facility at Daedalus Airfield, a former Royal Naval Air Station. Spare parts production continues at the Bembridge site with sub assemblies also being supplied from the Romanian facility.

The company manufactures such aircraft as the Islander and the militarised Defender both of which are capable of short take-off and landing (STOL) operations. The three-engined Trislander is still operating but is not currently being manufactured. The aircraft are typically used for inter-island schedules.


John Britten[3] and Desmond Norman[4] started developing crop-spraying equipment in the middle 1950s and used de Havilland Tiger Moths (modified at their factory near Ventnor, Isle of Wight) for a contract in Sudan.[5] After that, Britten and Norman (who had both trained with De Havilland) turned their hand to aircraft design.

Their first design was the Britten-Norman BN-1 Finibee, a light single-seater parasol wing aircraft. They pitched the design to several aircraft companies but found no one willing to produce the design.

Britten and Norman made a detailed analysis of the aviation market and decided there was a demand for a twin-engined utility aircraft with the minimum of complex systems that could operate from short, rough airstrips and also be used for high-density commuter flights. This brief developed into the BN-2 Islander, and the Britten-Norman company was formed to produce the aircraft, which first flew in 1965.

During the 1960s, Britten-Norman were involved in the development of hovercraft via their subsidiary Cushioncraft Ltd;[6] their first craft, the CC1, was the world's second hovercraft.

Desmond 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' was built and flown in 1969, but failed to attract significant orders. Norman set up his own company to build the plane, renamed the 'Freelance' and produced components and fuselage sections for six aircraft. However, orders were still not forthcoming and, following failure to win a military order for the 'Firecracker' design, Norman's company closed. After Norman's death in 2002, his son has overseen the completion of one of the Freelances to airworthy condition, and plans to assemble and sell the other five, with the possibility of full-scale production.

Following the failure of the 'Nymph', Britten-Norman continued to develop and improve the Islander design, which was enjoying great success. This culminated in 1970 with the Trislander, a trimotor version with greater range and capacity. In 1975 Britten-Norman won the Queen's Award to Industry for technological innovation for the Trislander.[7]

Ownership of the company has passed through a number of hands. The Fairey Aviation group acquired Britten-Norman in 1973.[8] Following financial troubles at Fairey the company was sold to Oerlikon-Bührle (owner of Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland in 1978, hence the Pilatus Britten-Norman designation of some of the aircraft). Oerlikon-Bührle sold Britten-Norman to Litchfield Continental / Biofarm Inc.[9] (BIOF). B-N Group acquired the assets of Britten-Norman in 2000.[10]


Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander
Model name First flight Number built Type
Britten-Norman BN-1 1951 1 Single engine ultralight airplane
Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander 1965 1,280 Twin engine airliner
Britten-Norman BN-2 Defender 1970 Twin engine military utility airplane
Britten-Norman BN-2 Trislander 1970 72 Trimotor airliner
Britten-Norman BN-3 Nymph 1969 2 Single engine utility airplane

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Morrison, Murdo (20 June 2006). "Great Britten". Flight Global. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  2. ^ "[Homepage]". Romero. Archived from the original on 27 May 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  3. ^ Moss, Roger. "John Britten". British Aviation - Projects to Production. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  4. ^ "Desmond Norman". The Telegraph. 25 November 2002. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  5. ^ "International "Aerial Work"" (PDF). Flight International. 25 April 1963. p. 608. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 April 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Cushioncraft Ltd". Bartie's World. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  7. ^ "The Queen's Award to Industry" (PDF). The Gazette. 18 April 1975. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  8. ^ Wright, Bob (28 August 2020). "Britten Norman BN2 - A British Success Story". Duxford Aviation Society. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  9. ^ "Biofarm, Inc. Announces Acquisition of Britten-Norman Limited". 19 October 1998. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  10. ^ Fortier, Rénald (28 May 2018). "There is more to life than airplanes, Part 4". Ingenium. Retrieved 21 February 2021.

External linksEdit

  • Britten-Norman company website
  • The 1960s hovercraft of the B-N Group