Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

Pilatus Britten Norman (PBN), the UK-based utility aircraft manufacturer, has been put up for sale by its parent company Pilatus Aircraft.The sale is believed to be part of wider rationalisation by Pilatus holding company Oerlikon-Buhrle.

Although PBN, which produces the utility piston and turbine powered BN-2 Islander and the Defender 4000, declines to comment on the sale, Swiss parent Pilatus Aircraft has confirmed that it is examining a number of options for the company.

"We are looking for a partner, a new owner or an official shareholder," says the company's chief financial officer, Oskar Brundler. Pilatus is now holding discussions with "a couple of interested parties", but will not disclose any further details of its plans.

If the company is sold, it will represent the third ownership change in the Bembridge, Isle of Wight-based company's 50-year history. John Britten and Desmond Norman set up Britten-Norman in 1949 and produced the first BN-2 prototype in 1963. Seven years later, the duo produced the stretched Trilander. In October 1971, the company was forced into receivership following "major cashflow problems", but continued to trade as Britten-Norman (Bembridge) until Belgium's Fairey acquired the company in August the following year. Once again, financial difficulties drove Fairey Britten-Norman into receivership in 1977.


In 1978, the company was rescued by Pilatus Aircraft, which subsequently formed Pilatus Britten-Norman in January 1979. Throughout its chequered history, PBN has sold more than 1,200 aircraft in over 120 countries, and about 870 are still in operation today. The UK manufacturer, which now produces only about 12 aircraft a year, is desperately seeking additional investment.

The financial crisis in the Far East has placed additional strain on PBN because the region has accounted for about 25% of its total sales over the past 10 years. The company's order book has shrunk to nine aircraft.

Source: Flight International