The business venture hopes to accelerate the arrival of zero-emission aircraft in the UK.
1. Green aircraft business
Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) and Britten-Norman announced merging plans to accelerate the transition to zero-emissions flight in the UK. The new green aircraft business is meant to boost leadership in green flight and it counts with up to £10m new investment from existing CAeS shareholders, according to a press statement. Britten-Norman, known for its iconic Islander aircraft, and CAeS, for delivering hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion technology, have been collaborating on Project Fresson for over 2 years, to develop the technologies required to enable the hydrogen propulsion system for the Islander, a small regional aircraft.
By combining CAeS’s development of a hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion system with the existing Britten-Norman aircraft technology, the duo is paving the ground for a passenger-carrying service planned for 2026. The project has been backed by the UK government, via the UK Aerospace Technology Institute, and has secured a total of over £14 million in private funding from global investors.
The Britten-Norman Islander, a nine-seat regional aircraft widely used by operators around the world for inter-island services and short hop operations, is in high demand for its ability to operate from smaller airports and short airstrips in all weather conditions, often providing vital lifelines for remote communities.
Now, the company’s ambition extends beyond the Islander and the sub-regional market, with the intention to design and manufacture new ‘clean sheet’ aircraft up to 100 seats powered using zero carbon technology.
Britten-Norman and CAeS intend to incorporate 7 sites in London, Cranfield, Gosport, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Miami and Malta and will employ circa 220 people.
“The merging of Britten-Norman and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions will create a new market leader in green aircraft manufacturing, bringing together joint strengths in aerospace manufacturing, certification and innovation,” said William Hynett, Chief Executive of Britten-Norman.
The investment will give a huge boost to UK aviation exports and will deliver the first Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) sub-regional aircraft powered by Hydrogen.William Hynett, Chief Executive of Britten-Norman
3. Polluting sector
Air travel currently accounts for 2.5% of global emissions and is projected to grow alongside increased aviation use. As other industrial sectors are in motion to reduce carbon emissions or even become carbon neutral, aviation could be one of the most polluting sectors worldwide by 2050. The sector is one of the fastest-growing sources of CO2 with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasting that emissions from the sector could triple by 2050 compared with 2015 if no action is taken.
“This deal accelerates our roadmap for the introduction of new zero-emissions aircraft. As other sectors decarbonise quickly, it is imperative that the aviation industry accelerates its own transition to new, clean aircraft,” said Paul Hutton, Cranfield Aerospace Chief Executive.