December 3, 2002
Desmond Norman CBE, one half of the founding team behind Britten-Norman, has died of a heart attack at the age of 73. B-N Group’s executive director Bob Wilson said: “As far as this company is concerned, had Desmond and John Britton not come up with the Islander, there wouldn’t have been a business here. Both the company and the Isle of Wight owe him a tremendous amount. I will remember him with great affection and I am personally indebted to him.”
Born into a Gloucestershire family in 1929, he was educated at Eton and then served eight years in the RAF as a fighter pilot. In 1947, as an apprentice at the de Havilland Aeronautical Technical School, he first met John Britten, marking a friendship which blossomed into various business ventures.
A spare time partnership formed when their training finished in 1949, which evolved into the formation of Britten-Norman. The company went on to manufacture the Islander, Defender and Trislander. Today, the Islander and its variants have sold close to 1,300, making the marque Britain’s most successful in terms of aircraft numbers.
Britten and Norman left the company in 1976 to pursue other interests. Three years later the aviation world was saddened when John Britten died, aged just 49. Today, Britten-Norman aircraft are manufactured by B-N Group Ltd, a new corporate identity owned by members of the Zawawi family from the Sultanate of Oman. “When the company was acquired by our present owners in May 2000, Desmond was invited as our guest of honour. So although he hadn’t been involved in the company’s activities for many years, on a personal level we still kept in contact,” said Wilson.
Forming NDN Aircraft very soon after leaving the company, Norman continued with various related ventures and was actively working on aviation projects at the time of his sudden death on November 13. “He was still running his own business and had an office on the island and the mainland, and was still very active in aviation and a figure who attracted huge respect,” added Wilson.