Britten-Norman’s deal to reassemble and deliver Cirrus Design aircraft for Europe at its Bembridge, Isle of Wight factory began with a visit by chief executive William Hynett to the AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin last summer, where the Duluth-based company was an exhibitor. He was on the look out for opportunities to fill spare capacity in the company’s maintenance operation. “Part of my plan was to increase the utlilisation of resource we have here. We maintain an outfit capable of servicing the Islander fleet, but we wanted to look at what else we could do,” he says.

It was one of these air show moments. Cirrus, which had a number of sales centres across Europe for its SR20 and SR22 light aircraft, was on the hunt for a way in which it could improve on the delivery offering for its growing base of European owner-flyer and flying school customers. “We were worried because our European customers were not getting the same experience of delivery,” says Ian Bentley, vice-president of customer relations. Unlike US customers, who usually picked their aircraft up direct from Duluth or had a short delivery flight, Cirrus buyers in Europe collected their somewhat weatherbeaten SR20 or SR22 after it had legged it over the North Atlantic via northern Canada, Greenland and Iceland.

Since January, when the contract began, European aircraft have been arriving at Bembridge plastic-wrapped in sea containers, and with the wing and horizontal stabliliser removed. Britten-Norman reassembles the aircraft – a process that takes three people just over two weeks – cleans it and test flies it before taking it to the customer. At any one time, there are up to three aircraft in the hangar and Britten-Norman, which has already delivered more than 20 aircraft, expects to complete almost 100 this year.

Cirrus’s European business is taking off. Of the 2,600 SR20s and SR22s in operation, 261 have been ordered by European customers, with the SR22 edging ahead on sales since it received European Aviation Safety Agency certification in April this year.

Bentley is optimistic about prospects. “We certainly think there is no reason Europe should not become a much bigger proportion of our business and the more infrastructure that we can put in place will help that along,” he says.

Hynett thinks the Cirrus business is a good addition to Britten-Norman as it continues to diversify. “Even though there doesn’t seem to be commonality, what we do is very GA focused,” he says. “Cirrus appealed to me because I liked their culture and their US can-do attitude. Hopefully, it will be a good opportunity for us to adopt some of their mentality.”

Source: Flight International