H2 helps Britten-Norman bring production back to UK

Aircraft manufacturer Britten-Norman has announced plans to bring whole-aircraft manufacturing back to its spiritual home on the Isle of Wight.

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The company - best known for its Islander sub-regional propeller aircraft - has been producing its planes in Romania for over 50 years, with final customer preparation taking place in the UK. Now, Britten-Norman will repatriate some of this production, investing in new jigs and tooling to create two additional production lines at its Bembridge headquarters on the Isle of Wight. According to the company, the plans also include modernising production and decarbonising the site with new sustainable energy initiatives.

Britten-Norman attributes the move with increased interest in the Islander following the announcement of a zero emissions variant, set to hit the market in 2026. Under development in partnership with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), the aircraft will see the merger of the two entities, with combined entity incorporating seven sites in London, Cranfield, Gosport, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Miami and Malta, employing around 220 people. By combining CAeS’s development of a hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion system with existing Britten-Norman aircraft technology, the partners believe ‘a clear and unambiguous route to market’ has been created with certification for passenger services planned for 2026.

New manufacturing jigs at Britten-Norman's Bembridge facility - Britten-Norman

“The project is a great success story for the British aircraft manufacturing industry,” said Britten-Norman chief executive, William Hynett. “I am very proud to be involved in this next chapter at Britten-Norman.”

As part of the new entity, Britten-Norman will retain its 34,000sq ft. manufacturing base at Solent Airport Daedalus, home of the final assembly line for the Islander. The site also provides OEM aircraft refurbishment, EASA Part 145 MRO services, international field servicing, and specialist avionics and mission systems integration.

Britten-Norman - The company is forecasting a big uptick in sales, driven largely by its forthcoming hydrogen aircraft

According to the company, the coming months will also see a widespread recruitment campaign across the UK’s Solent Local Enterprise Partnership area. Britten-Norman says the focus will include aircraft fitters and technicians, production engineering and supply chain roles. The expansion will also create new traineeship and apprenticeship opportunities on the Isle of Wight and in South Hampshire.