Malta-based SJC Group is to acquire up to three new-build Islander utility aircraft from Britten-Norman to support future passenger operations.
The short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft “will be used by SJC Group to establish a new company focused on building a fleet of fixed-wing aircraft intended to be used for routes in the Mediterranean, Europe, and North Africa”, the airframer says.
SJC Group has signed a letter of intent covering two Islanders, plus one option, with the aircraft to built on a newly completed assembly line at B-N’s Bembridge manufacturing site on the Isle of Wight in the UK.
“We are pleased to announce plans for a new Maltese-owned aviation business,” says SJC Group chairman Simon Camilleri.
Under B-N’s ‘Green Futures’ scheme, the customer has the option to later trade in its conventionally-powered Islanders and take hydrogen-powered replacements. The company – which is developing the hydrogen-powered version in partnership with Cranfield Aerospace, with which it is merging – expects the model to be available for operational use from late 2026.
“[B-N’s] commitment to evolving their product to zero carbon [emissions] is perfectly aligned with our vision,” Camilleri notes.
“The Islander is the ideal aircraft to complement SJC Group’s expansion into fixed-wing operations, and our planned introduction of the hydrogen Islander will further assist in supporting deliver sustainable aviation to Malta and the Mediterranean,” says B-N Group chief executive William Hynett.
“The aircraft’s low operating cost, STOL performance and high availability rates have made the Islander the ideal solution for [SJC Group affiliate] Gulf Med Aviation Services’ opportunities,” the airframer says. It also will “facilitate the training and development of Gulf Med pilots, maintenance and ground staff from its own MRO and training facilities in Malta”.
Cirium fleets data indicates that Safi Aviation Park-based Gulf Med Aviation Services currently operates a rotorcraft fleet of four Airbus Helicopters H135s and one Bell 412EP.
“The Islander has operated successfully around the islands of Malta and Gozo for a number of years as a littoral patrol aircraft for the Maltese government… [and] provides a lifeline service for search and rescue operations around the island group’s 200 miles of coastline,” B-N notes.
Malta’s armed forces currently operates one BN-2 airframe, which Cirium fleets data records as being a 40-year-old asset.