Chris Jasper/LONDON

UK utility aircraft specialist Britten-Norman has found a buyer, reviving the possibility of it manufacturing a production-line version of the Europa XS kit aircraft. The company's purchase by Oman-based investment group Zawawi also means a likely expansion of its product range beyond the Islander, Trislander and Defender lines into other markets, including trainers.

Zawawi, a diversified investment group active in motor vehicle distribution, pharmaceuticals, oilfield activities, insurance and tourism, purchased the Isle of Wight-based airframer for an undisclosed sum running to "millions of pounds", and is to rename it B-N Group. Britten-Norman went into receivership on 3 April due to mounting debts, and was close to having its assets sold when the deal was struck.

The new company, to be headed by Alawi Zawawi, says it will "continue producing" the three B-N types. It has "plans to develop the factory's facilities to manufacture other types of aircraft". It will offer "full support" for the 800 or so B-N aircraft operating round the world. An agreed joint venture between B-N and Europa, also of the UK, has lapsed, but could be revived.

"B-N will be used to expand our activities into manufacturing," says Maurice Hynett, managing director of Zawawi's Alawi Enterprises. "We are looking to manufacture at least one more type of aircraft. The Europa, for example, could be offered as a two-seat trainer, for which there is a huge market," he says.

Part-built aircraft will be completed if customers agree. Six are in various states of construction at B-N's Bembridge base, including three for China Northern Airlines, with a further three part-built by joint venture partner Romaero in Romania.

The Zawawi takeover is unrelated to a previous deal with Dubai-based investment group HSPD, which had planned to take a 15% stake in B-N and establish a marketing joint venture to sell its aircraft - and possibly the Europa XS derivative - in the Middle East. Its collapse plunged B-N into crisis.

Source: Flight International