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BN-2B-26 Islander of German airline OLT
Role Utility aircraft/Airliner
Manufacturer Britten-Norman
Designer John Britten, Desmond Norman
First flight 12 June 1965
Status In production Active service
Produced 1965-present
Number built 1280
Variants Britten-Norman Trislander
Britten-Norman Defender

The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander is a 1960s British light utility aircraft, regional airliner and cargo aircraft designed and originally manufactured by Britten-Norman of the United Kingdom. The Islander is one of the best-selling commercial aircraft types produced in Europe. Although designed in the 1960s, over 750 are still in service with commercial operators around the world. The aircraft is also used by the British Army and Police forces in the United Kingdom and is a light transport with over 30 military aviation operators around the world.

After Fairey Aviation acquired the Britten-Norman company, their Islanders and Trislander aircraft were built in Romania, then shipped to Avions Fairey for finishing and then flown to the UK for flight certification.

The Islander is also known for servicing the two airports joined by the shortest scheduled flight in the world, a leg of Loganair's inter-island service, Loganair Flight 353, from Papa Westray Airport to Westray Airport. The distance is 1.7 mi (2.7 km) and the scheduled flight time including taxiing is two minutes.[1]

Design and development[edit | edit source]

BN-2B Islander VP-FBD operated by the Falkland Islands Government Air Service, Stanley, 1994.

Britten-Norman was started in 1953 to convert and operate agricultural aircraft. It also produced hovercraft (Cushioncraft, later sold to the British Hovercraft Corporation).[2] Design of the Islander started in 1963 and the first prototype BN-2 first flew on 13 June 1965,[3] with the second prototype on 20 August 1966. Both of these aircraft had engines that were less powerful than the production versions. The Islander is a high-wing cantilever monoplane with a rectangular fuselage and two wing-mounted engines. The fuselage, which has a conventional tail unit and fixed tricycle landing gear, will usually accommodate one pilot and up to nine passengers.[4]

The production Islander first flew on 24 April 1967 and was certified in August 1967. Production started at the Britten-Norman factory at Bembridge, Isle of Wight but within a few years the company could not keep up with demand; a contract was placed with IRMA of Romania, initially to produce aircraft from a kit of parts but the Romanian factory soon became the main source for production Islanders.[2] A military version of the Islander, marketed as the Defender and first flown in 1970, had underwing hardpoints and was fitted out as a light troop transport and support aircraft.

The second prototype was developed into a stretched Super Islander but the program was stopped and the aircraft was used as a basis of the three-engined version, the Trislander.[2] The company had financial difficulties and by the end of 1970 went into receivership. In 1972 the company was bought by the Fairey Aviation Group and production of the Islander and Trislander was moved to their factory (Avions Fairey) in Gosselies, Belgium although the aircraft were flown to Bembridge for final customer preparation.[2] The new company developed the Turbo Islander with Lycoming LTP101 turboprops but the engines were too powerful for the aircraft and the design evolved into the Turbine Islander (BN-2T) with Allison 250 turboprops.[2] Fairey then suffered financial problems and called in the receiver and the Fairey Britten-Norman company was sold to Pilatus of Switzerland.[2]

An improved version, the BN-2A Islander, first flew in 1969. It incorporated aerodynamic and flight equipment improvements as well as changes to the baggage arrangements.

In 1977 a standard BN-2 was re-engined with Dowty ducted fans. It was later reverted to standard engines and sold.[5]

In 1978 a further improved version, the BN-2B Islander II was introduced. Improvements included increased carrying capacity and propeller modifications to reduce noise levels. Options included a long-nosed version for increased baggage capacity, raked wingtip auxiliary fuel tanks and twin Allison 250-B17C turboprop engines. When the latter are installed the aircraft is designated the BN-2T Turbine Islander.

The Defender 4000 is a military conversion of the Islander, capitalizing on its rugged structure for use in developing countries. Purchases from police and military customers centres on use in surveillance and counter-terrorism operations. The Maritime Defender is another military version of the Islander, intended for search and rescue, coastal patrol and fishery protection.

Licensed production[edit | edit source]

Companies in addition to Britten-Norman have manufactured the Islander.

Intreprinderea de Reparatii Material Aeronautic (IRMA) from Romania has been building the aircraft since 1969, as have SONACA (Avions Fairey),[6] in Gosselies, Belgium.

35 have also been assembled by the National Aero Manufacturing Corporation in the Philippines.

Trislander[edit | edit source]

A design project to develop an Islander with a larger capacity resulted in the BN-2A Mk III Trislander. This aircraft has a stretched fuselage, modified landing gear and a third (tail-mounted) engine. The prototype was constructed from the original second BN-2 prototype and flew on 11 September 1970.

Variants[edit | edit source]

Britten-Norman Islander II operated by Ryukyu Air Commuter

Headcorn Parachute Club's BN-2A carries them over Derbyshire to a display at Chatsworth House


Prototype first flown in 1966 with two 260 hp Lycoming O-540-E4B5 piston engines.
Production version with minor modification from prototype and increased Takeoff weight.
A BN-2A with modified flaps, and two 300 hp Lycoming IO-540-K1B5 (fuel injected) engines.
A BN-2A-2 with increased wingspan and fitted with extra wingtip fuel tanks.
A BN-2A with wing leading edge modifications and two 260 hp Lycoming O-540-E4C5 engine.
A BN-2A-6 with increased wingspan and fuel capacity.
A BN-2A-6 with droop flaps.
A BN-2A-7 with droop flaps.
A BN-2A-8 with increased takeoff weight and 270 hp Lycoming TIO-540-H1A (turbo-charged, fuel injected) engines.
A BN-2A-2 with increased takeoff weight and minor improvements.
A BN-2A-3 with increased takeoff weight.
A BN-2A-21 with lengthened nose.
A BN-2A-26 with lengthened nose.
A BN-2A-27 with lengthened nose.
A BN-2A-8 with increased takeoff weight.
A BN-2A-9 with increased takeoff weight.
A BN-2A-20 fitted with floats. Twin floats were attached to the undercarriage legs and incorporated retractable landing gear.
Turbo Islander with lengthened nose, droop flaps and two Lycoming LTP-101 turboprops, first flown in 1977.
Britten-Norman BN-2B Defender
Defender military variant with 300 hp IO-540-K1B5 engines and underwing hard points and military modifications.
A BN-2A-20 with improved soundproofing and increased landing weight and other minor modifications.
A BN-2A-21 with Model B improvements.
A BN-2A-26 with Model B improvements.
A BN-2A-27 with Model B improvements.

A BN-2T at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow

Turbine Islander based on BN-2A-26 with two 320 shp Allison 250-B17C turboprops.
Islander AL.Mk 1
Twin-engined communications, reconnaissance aircraft for the British Army; seven built. Used for aerial reconnaissance and photography in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner. They were part of No. 1 Flight, Army Air Corps and were based at Aldergrove.[8]
Islander CC.Mk 2 and CC.Mk 2A
Twin-engined communications aircraft for the RAF; three operated.[9][10][11]
Armed maritime reconnaissance and patrol aircraft.
BN-2A-III Trislander
Three engined Trislander, a stretched BN-2A with 18 seats and three 260 hp Lycoming O-540-E4C5 piston engines.

Operators[edit | edit source]

Specifications (BN-2A Islander)[edit | edit source]

Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander on the Melaleuca Airstrip with Mount Rugby behind, Southwest Conservation Area, Tasmania, Australia

Sunflower Airlines Islander, landing on Malololailai, Fiji, 1986.

Data from The Observer's Book of Aircraft, 1976.

General characteristics

  • Crew: One or two pilots
  • Capacity: Up to nine passengers
  • Length: 35 ft 8 in (10.86 m)
  • Wingspan: 49 ft (14.94 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 9 in (4.18 m)
  • Wing area: 325 ft² (30.2 m²)
  • Empty weight: 3,675 lb (1,667 kg)
  • Loaded weight: Up to 6,600 lb (BN2A-20 onwards) (2,994 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 6,600 lb (2,994 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Lycoming O-540-E4C5 or IO-540, 260 hp or 300 hp if fuel injected (195 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 170 mph (273 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 160 mph (257 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 40 mph (64 km/h)
  • Minimum controllable speed: 45 mph (72 km/h)
  • Range: 874 miles (1,400 km)
  • Service ceiling: 13,200 ft (4,024 m)
  • Rate of climb: 970 ft/min (295 m/min)
  • Wing loading: 20 lb/ft² (99 kg/m²)

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Westray and Papa Westray Getting here
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Simpson 1991 p. 77.
  3. Green 1976, p. 52.
  4. Orbis 1985, p. 992.
  5. Britten-Norman BN-2A-27 Islander
  6. Belgian Aircraft History Association page about Fairey-SONACA
  7. Simpson 1991, pp. 78–79.
  8. Ripley, Tim and Chappel, Mike (1993). Security forces in Northern Ireland (1969-92). Osprey, p. 30.ISBN 1855322781
  9. Lake 2008, pp. 44–45.
  10. "Islander BN2T CC Mk2." Royal Air Force. Retrieved: 22 November 2008. Note: While officially described as communications and photo survey aircraft, these aircraft are believed to also operate in a surveillance role.
  11. Lake 2008, pp. 45—46.
  • Green, William. The Observer's Book of Aircraft. London. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., 1976. ISBN 0-7232-1553-7
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982-1985). London: Orbis Publishing, 1985.
  • Lake, Jon. "Aircraft of the RAF - Part 8 Islander." Air International, Vol 75 Number 6, December 2008, pp. 44–46.
  • Simpson, R.W. Airlife's General Aviation. London: Airlife Publishing, 1991, p. 190. ISBN 1-85310-194-X.

External links[edit | edit source]

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