An iconic British plane was today absorbed into a new venture promoting zero admissions flight.

A hydrogen-powered version of the Britten-Norman Islander light transport may lift its wheels as early 2026, thanks to a proposed merger announced this morning between its Hampshire-based builders and consulting engineers Cranfield Aerospace Solutions.

The Islander’s heritage dates back to the 1960s. Around 750 of the turbo-props are believed to remain in service with regional airlines & military customers around the world.

Under heads of agreement intentions announced today, investors committing to the new merger say they’ll pump up to £10 million of new equity into the merged firm.  Half will come from the fund, and the rest from partner investors, aerospace firm Safran and UAE-based Strategic Development Fund.

Britten-Norman’s owners, including lead investor Alawi Zawawi, will also join the new business.  Further backing may follow. Due diligence means the merger should complete later in 2023.

Thanks to pump-priming from the government’s Aerospace Technology Institute, the project has secured over £14 million in private funding from global investors.

Both Britten-Norman and Cranfield have collaborated since 2021 on Project Fresson, a demonstrator for electric, low carbon flight.  Last week Cranfield welcomed UK company Evolito as engine and inverter supplier to the venture.

Sustainable aviation is on a roll. Operators as large as BP and Southwest Airlines are experimenting in hydrogen, either blended with conventional fuel, or embedded in fuel cells driving electric motors.

HydrogenOne’s chairman Simon Hogan said: “We are very proud to have led this funding round that will create a new leader in green aircraft manufacturing in the UK.

“Our commitment to investing in clean hydrogen for a positive environmental impact is central to this investment that will contribute towards moving global aviation towards zero-emissions operations.”


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