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Norman BN2 Islander / Defender

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Britten-Norman BN2 Islander / Defender



In 1962 the two partners, John Britten and Desmond Norman, decided to build a plane of their own. The essential factors were low cost, all-weather construction, twin engine reliability and a good payload. The design was of classic simplicity: a one-piece wing with no dihedral, Hoerner-type tips, slab-sided fuselage with seating for up to 10 passengers. The prototype was powered by two 210-hp Continental engines with a fixed tricycle undercarriage. Bench-type seats for two people eliminated the need for a central aisle and these were accessed by three doors, two port and one starboard, with the rear door being of extra width to allow ease of cargo loading. The Islander can also be operated as a freighter carrying more than a ton of cargo. Passenger baggage is stored in a large 30 cu.ft. bin behind the cabin with an access door on the port side.The first metal was cut in September 1964 and the aircraft was hand crafted on a “Dexion” jig. The prototype took to the air for its first flight of 70 minutes on 13 June 1965 with both John Britten and Desmond Norman at the controls. There were some shortcomings which an increase in wing span by 1.22 metres and more powerful Avco Lycoming 260-hp engines cured.

A choice of wings was offered, so the plane could be fitted with the standard 49-foot-span wings or extended 53-foot wings, using raked tips and auxiliary fuel tanks.
Delivery of the Islander began in August 1967, but the great number of orders from over 50 countries forced Britten-Norman to subcontract manufacture of a number of the mini-airliners to the British Hovercraft Corporation. Others were produced in Romania by IRMA - which was then trucked to Bembridge for completion. Buyers were able to choose Lycoming engines: 260 or 300 hp. A Rajay turbocharging unit increased the Islander’s twin-engine ceiling to 26,000.

Britten-Norman developed two other variants for demonstration at the 1976 Farnborough Show, the "Firefighter" and "Agricultural Islander". While both designs proved themselves technically, no orders were forthcoming and the variants were shelved.

Arrangements were made with Rornaero in Bucharest, Romania, to produce the airframes. The engines, propellers, and undercarriage are trucked across Europe to where the aircraft are assembled under UK CAA supervision then, with basic instrumentation and a pilot’s seat fitted, the aircraft is flown in dull grey primer to Bembridge to be completed to customer’s requirements.

The BN-2 Super was developed by inserting a 33-inch plug in the fuselage of the production prototype, G-ATWU, allowing for an additional row of seats, however, the version was never put into production. To increase the Islander’s hot and high performance Lycoming IO-540K 300-hp fuel-injected engines were fitted. Another modification involved fitting wingtip tanks which increased the span to 53 feet while droop flaps and droop leading edges increased performance.

The first turbine-powered Islander flew in April 1977. Designated the BN2A--41, it was powered by Lycoming LTP 101 turboprops and, although its performance was described as "sparkling", it was overpowered and the fitting of the engines required major wing modifications. The project was discontinued.

In 1980 the production BN2T Turbine Islander took off with Allison 250 B17C engines. Wing fences were fitted to improve stall recovery and the prototype headed off for hot and high in Kenya and to Finland for cold weather trials.

Pilatus introduced a beefed-up Islander, the BN2B, featuring a 300 -pound increase in landing weight, including the BN-2B-20 and BN-2B-26.

In 1979 it was decided to diversify, looking at different roles as against taking people. Those sort of roles are fisheries protection, border patrol and parachuting etc. In 1978 they looked at putting a more sophisticated airborne radar into the aircraft, entering into a joint venture with Thorn EMI, using their Skymaster radar to increase the ground warning time from three or four minutes to 20-30 minutes. The name “Defender” came at that point, referring to an Islander with four wing-mounted hardpoints. Stressed to take 750lbs on the inboard pair and 350lb outboard, the hardpoints designed to carry long range fuel tanks or military stores.

Available with 260 hp, turbo-charged 260 hp, or 300 hp engines, and optional 28 cu.ft. capacity nose extension.

Defender - For general military duties PBN developed the Defender from the basic piston-engined Islander utility aircraft and, with the introduction of the Allison 250-B17C powered Turbine Islander, a parallel turbine Defender was offered. The Defender is capable of a wide range of military roles including troop transport, SAR, forward air control, electronic warfare, logistic support, and medevac.

Operationally launched by PBN on March 6, 1987, The AEW Defender is a low-cost AEW system offered in conjunction with Thorn-EMI’s Skymaster lightweight multi-mode pulse-Doppler track-while-scan radar. Acquisition and tracking of targets is automatic, and air-to-air/air-to-ground datalinks, IFF and navigation systems may be fully inte-grated with the radar’s display and control system. The Skymaster system can also be used to detect surface vessels during maritime reconnaissance missions. A large undernose radome houses the 360’-scan antenna. With appropriate computer software modifications, the AEW Defender/Skymaster combination is being offered as a solution to the British Army’s Astor requirement for an airborne battlefield surveillance radar. The British Army has bought Defender AL Mk 1s to replace Beavers.Another Defender has been flown with a Ferranti surveillance radar installed in connection with the Army’s earlier Corps Airborne Stand-Off Radar (Castor) requirement. The AEW Defender is based on the BN-2T Turbine Defender airframe.

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