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.

Specialist clean tech investors Hydrogen One, controllers of the Cranfield firm, are behind the merger.    Hydrogen One is among Britain’s leading investment funds backing the green gas. Fifteen months ago, it paid £7 million for a stake in Cranfield Aerospace.

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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