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Sun, Sep 03, 2023

Torres Strait Air Acquires 10 Britten-Norman Islanders

Australian Carrier Undertakes $25 Million (AUD) Fleet Modernization

Queensland, Australia’s Torres Strait Air is making ready to take deliveries of no fewer than ten new Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander aircraft. The $25-million AUD ($16.3-million USD) acquisition speaks to the scope of the company’s fleet modernization plan.

Over the period spanning 2023 through 2028, Torres Strait Air will refurbish the aggregation of aging BN-2, Cessna 206, and North American Rockwell Shrike Commanders with which it services locales within the vicinity of its namesake Torres Strait—the 81-nautical-mile-wide seaway lying between Queensland, Australia’s northern peninsula and the Melanesian island of New Guinea, and by which the Arafura and Coral Seas are separated. The strait is named for Spanish navigator Luís Vaz de Torres, who sailed it in 1606.

Based at Horn Island Airport (HID)—a former RAF base on Horn Island, a seamount of the Torres Strait Islands archipelago located in the Torres Strait some ten-nautical-miles northwest of the northernmost point of the Australian federated state of Queensland—Torres Strait Air connects the communities of the islands of the Torres Strait, the Cape York Peninsula, and Papua New Guinea.

Originally designed in the 1960s and continuously upgraded since, the BN-2 Islander is a light utility aircraft and regional airliner manufactured, originally, by the U.K.’s Britten-Norman company. Over its protracted production run, the Islander has consistently remained among Europe’s best-selling commercial aircraft types. Currently, some 750 specimens of the Islander are in service with upwards of thirty commercial operators worldwide.

Britten-Norman’s current production Islander aircraft feature IFR-certified Garmin G600 and GTN series EFIS suites comprising the company’s G600 TXi Primary Flight Display PFD and Multiple Flight Display (MFD) with integrated DME, GTN 750/650 dual nav/comm and GPS, Electronic Engine Display, a remote digital audio system, ADSB Out transponder, and Bluetooth connectivity. Aft of the cockpit bulkhead, the Islander’s cabin features all-window seating and plentiful baggage storage.

Torres Strait Air’s Islanders will retain the company’s favored nine-passenger configuration. In its cargo configuration, however, the BN-2 is capable of bearing aloft a 3,527-pound useful load.

Current production Britten-Norman Islanders can be equipped with a variety of engines, to include Lycoming 260-horsepower, normally-aspirated and three-hundred-horsepower fuel-injected piston powerplants; and 320 and four-hundred-horsepower Rolls-Royce turboprop mills.

Britten-Norman offers its customers the option to upgrade to the company’s zero-emission Islander—an as-of-yet nonexistent machine being developed in collaboration with Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS). Though the zero-emission Islander isn’t expected to enter commercial service until 2026, Torres Strait Air will retain the option to upgrade to the vehicle upon its launch.

In the short-term, the Britten-Norman-Cranfield Aerospace Solutions partnership is working to develop and deliver a flying demonstrator showcasing hydrogen propulsion technology and a clear route to market. The project is being funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute, and is focused on developing technologies conducive to the fielding of the world’s first truly green passenger-carrying airline services.

Torres Strait Air CEO Daniel Takei stated: “Our commitment to this investment is for the people of Torres Strait and their future. The world is challenged with increasing sea levels. Our island communities, our people’s homes, are at sea level; every effort must be made to offset carbon emission. We act now whilst continuing to provide the highest levels of aviation safety, comfort, efficiency, reliability and affordability to our people and those who come to our pristine waters and beautiful Islands.”

In May 2023, Queensland’s Government earmarked $9.2-million AUD ($6-million USD) for the backing of an array of eco-friendly initiatives, including the development of a nature-based glamping ground on South Stradbroke Island, the upgrading Carnarvon Gorge Holiday Park, and the establishment of an outdoor tourism hub in Pioneer Valley.

Queensland’s government is set, also, to support the Australian aviation industry’s net-zero drive by working in collaboration with Qantas, Airbus, Lanzajet, and Jet Zero Australia to build a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) synthesizing facility within the state. The planned SAF plant—by dint of a $2-million AUD ($1.3-million USD) investment from Airbus and Qantas, Queensland’s $760,000 AUD ($490,000 USD), and an additional $6-million AUD ($3.9 million USD) of external capital—will ostensibly convert sugar cane grown in northern Queensland into biofuel.



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