Britten-Norman Ltd. was founded in 1955 to specialize in equipment for agricultural aircraft. Flew prototype of BN-2 Islander, a twin-engined feeder-line transport, on 13 June 1965.
In 1966 at Bembridge Airport on the Isle of Wight the Britten-Norman company had 11,930 sq.ft of factory space at the airport, but a new 56 000 sq.ft hangar was under construction to make possible the rapid production of the Islander. Down at the harbour was additional space amounting to 5390 sq.ft. The company employed 318 people, of whom some 70% were engaged on civil aircraft work.
Directors of the aircraft and Cushion craft companies were N. D. Norman, F. R. S. Britten (director and secretary), J. M. McMahon and F. H. Mann,. while two additional directors of the Cushioncraft company were C. D. J. Bland (sales) and P. H. Winter (technical). The company's sales manager was P. J. Dorrington; production manager, J. W. Sullivan; and chief technical executive, R. E. Bird.
The facilities at Bembridge include rigs for structural testing of all components, and a test rig for proof loading of control cables. Among special equipment used by the company was a Wadkin router, a British Oxygen argon arc welder, " Oxford " electric argon arc welder, ICI degreasing and salt-bath plant, a Guyson sand blasting machine and a Besco-Hydrobend brake press.
The 1966 projects of the company included the BN-2 Islander light transport which was expected to reach its target rate of production of two per week in 1968.
BN-2ATrislander, with a third engine mounted on vertical tail, first flown September 11,1970. Military version of BN-2, named Defender, first demonstrated 1971, able to carry 522kg of mixed weapons on underwing pylons.
But despite a full order book, Britten-Norman was experiencing serious cash-flow problems and in November 1971 the com-pany was forced into receivership. It con-tinued to keep itself in business and reorganized as Britten-Norman (Bembridge) Ltd until a year later when the receiver accepted a bid, one of thirty worldwide, from the Fairey Group in August 1972.
A new company was formed, Fairey Britten-Norman Ltd, and a production line was set up at the Fairey SA factory at Gosselies in Belgium for full production and flight test-ing of the Islander and Trislander aircraft.
In August of 1977 Fairey SA began to suffer from financial problems which had serious repercussions for Britten-Norman, causing the company to once again he placed into the hands of a receiver.
This time Pilatus Air-craft of Switzerland made a successful bid for the company and, in January 1979, the take-over was completed under the name of Pilatus Britten-Norman.
In July 1998 Pilatus sold Britten-Norman to private investment company Litchfield Continental Ltd, reverting to its original name of Britten-Norman Ltd. Manufacture of the Islander, Defender and latest BN2T- 4S Defender 4000 continued.
In January 1999 Britten-Norman received approval from the Board of Directors of Romania's State Ownership Fund for its tender offer to acquire Romaero.