“The original Islander was designed to allow ease of access on short-haul sectors to remote locations and has been extremely successful in achieving that role both cost effectively and efficiently.”
That’s the opening line on the Islander page of the Britten-Norman website. By all accounts they were successful in the design. The BN-2 Islander has been operating in remote areas and off short, rough strips since the first one rolled off the factory line in 1965.
I saw my first Islander in 1995. It was operated by Larry’s Air out of Bethel. I’ve been hankering to fly one ever since. Finally, last summer I had an opportunity to do so. I was on an Oddball Pilot road trip through Montana and Idaho. The main purpose of the trip was to check out some of the aerial fire suppression outfits that operate out of Missoula, Montana and McCall, Idaho. McCall is the home base for a smoke jumper outfit, as well as a Part 135 air taxi.
A secondary mission was to check out the air taxi operation: McCall Aviation. I’d been interested in McCall Aviation for a long time. Mike and I knew a pilot who flew for them in the early 90’s, and I remember him raving about the super fun mountain flying they did over in McCall. As a bonus they operated an Islander. I hoped I could scam a flight.
As it turned out I didn’t need to scam anything. Seeing me moping around her office, Laura Scott (who owns McCall Aviation) was kind enough to let me tag along on a flight in one of her Islanders.
Dan Wilson, a former ski shop owner who was working on his second cool career, was the pilot. The Islander itself lived up to everything I’d heard about it. It was a loud, vibrating son of a *****. But, with Dan at the helm, we landed sweetly at a short dirt strip at 5,000 feet MSL. It may sound like a loose collection of parts, but the Islander performs very well.
A great attribute of the Islander is that there is no VMC. The rudder is so big and effective that the Islander will stall (at an extremely slow speed) before you lose directional control. Inside, there’s lots of space to load up freight and an extra door on the right side of the plane to facilitate the loading process.
After we landed Dan was kind enough to let me film an aircraft walkthrough video. After we were done I realized the camera had malfunctioned, but it was too late to reshoot it. Never one to give up, I drove all the way back to McCall a month later and shot this video for you.
An interesting side note: Loganair operates Islanders on the shortest scheduled flight in the world. Flight 353 from Westray Airport to Papa Westray Airport in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. At 1.7 miles the flight time, including taxi, is two just minutes. That’s shorter than a PKA-WNA run in Bethel … a real time builder!
In the video you’ll get a good look at the engines, the wings, the landing gear, the cargo doors, the tail, the cockpit, and the instrument panel. Dan explains it all, and we also chat a bit about the Islander’s performance and flying characteristics.
Did you like this video? Scroll down to leave your comments and questions!
The Britten-Norman company site
Britten Norman Islander on Wikipedia.org
Islander stats from Airliners.net
Some great McCall Aviation Islander cockpit videos on Ken McIntyre’s YouTube Channel
Comprehensive Islander flying notes: A Cowboy’s Guide to the Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander
Want to fly the Islander in Idaho yourself? Pick up these great add-ons for for Microsoft Flight Simulator X:
The BN-2 Islander by Aerosoft
Boise X scenery by Newport Scenery