ABOVE: The hydrogen-powered, sub regional aircraft is projected to enter service in 2026

A “new UK green aircraft business” – merging Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) and Britten-Norman – has been formed with the intention of creating the world’s “fully integrated, zero-emissions sub regional aircraft for entry into service in 2026”.

With the merger due to complete in mid-2023, the partnership will pair Britten-Norman’s expertise in manufacturing the “iconic Islander aircraft” with CAeS’ pioneering work in hydrogen-electric fuel cell propulsion technology. In anticipation of the technologies required, the two companies have been collaborating on Project Fresson for over two years, backed by over £14 million in private funding and UK government support via the UK Aerospace Technology Institute.

A consortium of investors have also pledged to invest up to £10m in the new company, including up to £5m of investment from Hydrogen One subject to successful completion of the merger.

This is the first time an OEM has developed a hydrogen-powered sub-regional aircraft, something William Hynett, Chief Executive of Britten-Normen, described as bringing “a huge boost to UK aviation exports”. The merger will also “create a new market leader in green aircraft manufacturing, bringing together joint strengths in aerospace manufacturing, certification and innovation”, he added.

Noting that “it is imperative that the aviation industry accelerates its own transition to new, clean aircraft”, Cranfield Aerospace Chief Executive Paul Hutton added: “Looking to the future we will use the combined experience of Cranfield Aerospace and Britten-Norman to produce an entirely new aircraft design, optimized around hydrogen fuel cell technology”.

The new company will incorporate seven sites in London, Cranfield, Gosport, the Isle of Wight, Southampton, Miami and Malta, and will employ around 220 people.