Britten-Norman to merge with Cranfield hydrogen fuel cell firm

Britten-Norman Islander hydrogen

Britten-Norman, manufacturer of Islander aircraft, and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), a pioneer of hydrogen-electric fuel cells, are to merge and develop a fully integrated, zero-emissions sub regional aircraft for entry into service in 2026.

The merger is due to complete in mid-2023, subject to final due diligence.

A consortium of CAeS investors comprising HydrogenOne Capital Growth Plc, Safran Corporate Ventures and UAE-based investment firm Strategic Development Fund will invest up to £10 million in the new company.

A statement from B-N and CAeS said they are responding to the growing demand from airlines and operators for an OEM-backed aircraft that will enable their move to zero-emissions operations.

They plan to combine CAeS’s propulsion system with existing Britten-Norman aircraft, creating “a clear and unambiguous route to market has been created with certification for passenger-carrying service planned for 2026”.

Project Fresson

The Britten-Norman Islander is a nine-seat regional aircraft used by operators around the world for inter-island services and short hop operations.

However, the new 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.

Paul Hutton, Cranfield Aerospace Chief Executive, said, “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.

“Looking to the future we will use the combined experience of Cranfield Aerospace and Britten-Norman to produce an entirely new aircraft design, optimised around hydrogen fuel cell technology.”

William Hynett, Chief Executive of Britten-Norman added, “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.

“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.

“This merger will create many new high tech and manufacturing roles across the new business and a host of opportunities for apprenticeships and graduate placements in the sustainable aerospace sector.”

The two companies have been collaborating on Project Fresson for over two years, a project set up to develop the technologies required to enable the hydrogen propulsion system for the Islander, and backed by the UK Aerospace Technology Institute.

The combined entity will incorporate seven sites in London, Cranfield, Gosport, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Miami and Malta and will employ circa 220 people.

Cranfield Aerospace Solutions




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