Two UK companies to merge to form world’s first integrated zero-carbon aircraft maker

An BN2T Islander (not a Defender, despite its military colours)

An BN2T Islander (not a Defender, despite its military colours)

Photo by Rob Hodgkins/Creative Commons 2.0

12th May 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Two relatively small but highly regarded UK aerospace companies, local/subregional airliner manufacturer Britten-Norman and aircraft design, production and maintenance company Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), have announced that they are to merge and create the world’s first fully integrated zero-carbon-emissions aircraft company (that is, designing and producing both the powertrain and the airframe).

Subject to final due diligence, the merger will be completed by the middle of this year.

The new company will develop a new, zero-emissions, subregional aircraft, which will enter service in 2026. The aircraft will be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell (hydrogen- electric) propulsion system, developed by CAeS. The merged entity will combine the fuel cell expertise of CAeS with the airframe and manufacturing expertise of Britten-Norman, renowned for its twin-engined nine-seater Islander aircraft (and its military derivative, the Defender).

More than 750 Islanders and Defenders are reported to be in service worldwide. Although designed in the 1960s, the Islander, in its upgraded BN2T model, remains in production today. The Defender has been particularly popular among African armed forces.

The two companies have been cooperating for more than two years, on a project named Fresson. Backed by the UK government, through the UK Aerospace Technology Institute, and by more than £14-million in private funding from global investors, Project Fresson seeks to develop a hydrogen-electric propulsion system for the Islander aircraft, which would allow the type’s conversion to zero-emission operation.

“The merging of Britten-Norman and [CAeS] will create a new market leader in green aircraft manufacturing, bringing together joint strengths in aerospace manufacturing, certification and innovation,” highlighted Britten-Norman CE William Hynett. “The investment will give a huge boost to UK aviation exports and will deliver the first original-equipment manufacturer subregional aircraft powered by hydrogen. This merger will create many new high-tech and manufacturing roles across the new business and a host of opportunities for apprenticeships and graduate placements in the sustainable aerospace sector.”

“This deal accelerates our roadmap for the introduction of new zero-emissions aircraft,” stressed CAeS CE Paul Hutton.

“As other sectors decarbonise quickly, it is imperative that the aviation industry accelerates its own transition to new, clean aircraft. Looking to the future, we will use the combined experience of Cranfield Aerospace and Britten-Norman to produce an entirely new aircraft design, optimised around hydrogen fuel cell technology.”

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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