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“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!

More Information

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

Flight Simulation

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

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21 Responses to “Aircraft Walkthrough: McCall Aviation Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander”

  1. Ross Engle says:

    So cool! I love the Islander, it was always my dream plane. Great stuff, thanks, Aidan, Mike, Dan, and mysterious camera man!

  2. JSS says:

    Aviation is a small world. My first flying job after college was with North Cay Airways out of San Juan, PR. Starting in June 1974 I flew the BN-2A Islander from SJU to the airports in PR and the surrounding islands. Later on in 1977, I was hired by Evergreen Air of Montana (based in Missoula) to fly their DC-3 on FedEx contracts. The islander was a great short field machine and it was fun to fly in that environment.

  3. Tom Algeo says:

    My wife, children and I used to ride in the Islander from Ft. Lauderdale to South Bimini, Bahamas. About half the time there were (rich) passengers for Cay Cay, so we’d stop there first. The 1,500 foot strip had been damaged in a hurricane and was shortened to 1100 feet! My eight year old son occasionally sat in the copilot’s seat for the landing. Lots of fun.

  4. chable says:

    I flew this plane for many years in the West Indies, and I keep very good memories regarding the BN2, the right plane by this special airfields like Saint Barth’s and others, enjoy flying it !

  5. I own and operate Island Air based in The Bay Islands of Honduras. I sold my beloved MU-2 F Model five years ago in order to buy the Islander that I now fly. I owned the MU-2 for 12 years and absolutely loved flying that airplane. But when I retired to start up an airline in Central America we knew that the airplane we needed was an Islander. I have over 500 hours in the Islander and have to say it is about the easiest airplane I have ever flown. It’s a tremendously honest airplane and once you know the airplane it will let the pilot know exactly what is going on by touch and feel. We have one of 12 Islanders that came from the factory with RayJay Turbo chargers but we rarely use them down here since most of our flights are flown at 1,500 feet and sometimes lower but rarely much higher. This airplane perfectly fits our mission. Check us out at Facebook.com/IslandAirHonduras and visit our web site at http://www.islandair.ws
    Great video. If you would like to see a turbine Islander I found one at the airport at Marathon, Florida. The Florida Mosquito Control has a hangar on the field and they fly a turbine Islander. I refer to our Islander as a bus with wings instead of a truck. That’s probably because we haul passengers more than cargo. I prefer to land with half flaps but use full flaps when there’s a need to land slower and/or shorter.
    To give you a little perspective on me as a pilot, +/- 5,000 hours, Instrument and Commercial Rated, LearJet and L-39 Type Rated, I have owned and flown K-35 Bonanza, B-55 Baron, C-421 Golden Eagle, B-90 and C-90 King Airs, Aerostar 601 P, Lear 24, L-39 Albatros and the MU-2 above mentioned.

  6. Chris says:

    Hi Aden,

    Man you re looking good for an old man;) Say why haven’t you guys set up a HighDef YouTube Chanel for your videos? Chris in Cananananada

  7. mack says:

    I sat on the wing doing annuals on the Islander, with my broken leg in a cast, and the cheapo operators in Ft. Lauderdale tried to screw me out of workman’s comp! I did get to fly it onetime, and it was just like a giant Cessna 150, lots of fun, and gas was still cheap back then, 69 cents for AVgas!

    One indelible memory was, that when you looked up a maintenance operation in the service manual, the Brits would list the time required as “negligible”! How’s that for salesmanship?

  8. berto says:

    McCall Air has flown my group into Indian Creed on numerous occasions. When we first started it took six or seven trips in a 206, a 207 and a 180. With the Islander its two trips max. Great airplane.

  9. Gareth says:

    Dan .. what a great example of how it’s never too late!

  10. James Sloat says:

    That is my dad. He is a great pilot!

    • Aidan says:

      He was pretty comfortable behind the controls, that’s for sure. He also seemed like someone who was very happy with his choices in life.something we can all aspire to.

      • James Sloat says:

        Yeah, he has always been a very safe, conservative pilot who NEVER takes chances. He has taught me many valuable lessons about the art and skill of flying. Above all, he loves to fly.

  11. Gerhard Opel says:

    I flew the Bn-2 for Munz Northern Airlines out of Nome winter ’74 . The route went from Unalakleet to Wales including the DEW line radar sites at White Mountain and Tin city. Great airplane to fly but the noisiest ever with the exhaust stacks of the left engine practically next to your ear. Built like a brick shit house: During flare at Koyuk I lost all forward visibility due to frost on the wind shield. Touched down on the 2 ft snow berm with the left main gear. Full right rudder and max power on the left engine prevented a ground loop. Took three snowmobiles hooked up together to pull it out. NOTHING BENT !! Frozen left brake was thawed with a blow torch and I was on my way home to friendly and chilly Nome.

  12. Debra says:

    So enjoyed seeing this… Dan was a great friend of our family and taught me how to ski at Magic Mountain out of Twin Falls area. Took care of our daughters tennis racquets too. What a great guy, friend and pilot. Thanks for the memories on his flying. He will surely be missed.

  13. Doug says:

    Not sure if you guys have heard, but Dan was killed a couple days past in a 206 crash in the Idaho backcountry. I’m a local and I’m glad to see you do a story on Idaho flying. It’s just unfortunate that I ran across this article under the circumstances.

  14. Sky Pirate says:

    I flew an old Islander for Boise Air in the 70’s. It had the 260’s on it. Later flew one for Arctic Circus out of Fairbanks and Muntz out of Nome and Kotz.
    (Vic Olsen checked me out in it and thirty years later he checked my Son out in a Caravan).

    Solid aircraft, easy to load. But tight for nine pax. Other than the Noise, my mai complaint was the brakes and castering nose wheel. Once on a trip to Minchumina, I had a box of Baby chicks come apart and they were all over the airplane in between boxes and bags of mail. Found all alive but one. Couldn’t find him and thought it was in one of the boxes we unloaded.
    Went back to fairbanks and then Bettles where the little chick reappeared behind the rudders.

  15. Frank Goodale says:

    I have always loved this aircraft, as well as the Trislander. Great video work…much appreciated. Thank you!

  16. I had the pleasure of flying the Islander for Dorado Wings out of Dorado, Puerto Rico back in ’77-78. What a ball…Here we were about 23 years old flying single-pilot building multiengine time all over the Caribbean. My lowest paying but most fun job. Great airplane !!
    I have a Dorado Wings Alumni Facebook page.

  17. JJ says:

    Nice video of the Britten!
    I have always loved that plane.
    Seen them in Belgium operated by the Army at Liege Bierset.
    Tough and reliable.
    Congrats for the page!

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