I have written on the blog about the family connection to Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. Bembridge Airport was, for many years, the center of operations for Britten Norman – manufacturers of the Islander aircraft. The Islander has been a very successful twin engine piston that can get into all sorts of strips around the world. It remains in production in small numbers and can be found at remote strips all over the world.
It has a less well known sibling though. When you want to increase the capacity, you need more power. You could go for more powerful engines – or you could add a third. Where to put it though? How about at the top of the fin? That is what led to the Trislander. I used to see them a lot as a kid but now they are less common. Aurigny operated them from the UK mainland to the Channel Islands until relatively recently but they have now been retired. Duxford has received one of their planes so I was really happy to see it there. I guess this is a plane that only a mother can love but there is something about it. Apparently one used to be in the Pacific Northwest but hasn’t been seen for a few years. I would love to see one fly again.
The Isle of Wight may be a pretty small island but it has had a number of significant aerospace projects over the years. One of the most successful is the Britten Norman Islander. A twin piston aircraft, the Islander has been in production for decades and provides passenger and freight service all around the world. Developed and produced for many years in Bembridge, the history of the Islander is important to a lot of the local residents.
A group of them got together to recover and preserve the third Islander ever built. G-AVCN (or Charlie November) was the first production aircraft following on from the two prototypes, neither of which is still in existence. It was recovered in pieces from the Caribbean and returned to Bembridge for restoration. I worked with the project leader on a feature for GAR that can be read here.
My mum is involved in the project so she took me down to the restoration facility to take a look at the airframe as it currently looks. The fuselage is pretty much completed. Now the focus is on the restoration of the wing. They are also looking for the final location where the aircraft will be put on display. It is painted in the colors of Aurigny – an airline that has flown many Islander and Trislander aircraft over the years including Charlie November. Things were a little cramped for photography where the plane is at the moment but it was cool to check out a significant part of the Island’s aviation history.
The Britten Norman Islander recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of the first flight. A group, based in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight – the home of the Islander – were involved in celebrating this event. BNAPS is the group and they have been restoring the first production aircraft. My mum is a part of this group so this one is close to home.
GAR covererd this topic via two articles produced by Bob Wealthy who is a key player in BNAPS. It was good working with Bob on these pieces and you can find them at the links below.