The Falkland Islands Government Aviation Service (FIGAS) has taken delivery of the first of two factory-new BN2B-26 Islander aircraft from Britten-Norman. The Islander's ability to operate as a high-frequency, short-sector, passenger and freight aircraft has made it ideal for hopping around the Falkland Islands' landscape. The second Islander is scheduled for delivery in 2021.
FIGAS is Britten-Norman's southern-most operator and has employed Islanders since the 1970s. The current fleet of four Islanders serve in a variety of roles and are essential in keeping the Falklands, and some of its more remote communities, connected. In addition to commuting flights, regular missions include air ambulance, postal carrier, freight, environmental monitoring and scenic flights.
The new Islander's registration honours Sir Miles Clifford, whose name name has been inscribed above the pilot's door. As Governor of the Falkland Islands he was responsible for the launch of the air service in 1948. The service, which became FIGAS, was originally aimed at providing medical evacuation capabilities, but it soon broadened to include mail delivery and passenger flight services. These changes were key to connectivity between the communities of the Falklands and are vital roles that Britten-Norman Islanders continue today.
FIGAS' latest Islander is fitted with a high-end Garmin avionics suite, aiding safety, navigation and situational awareness. This includes the next generation G600TXi primary display, GTN 750Xi and GTN 650Xi nav/comm/GPS and EIS TXi advanced electronic engine instrumentation system. The suite also provides terrain alerts and integration with a radar altimeter, both of which are of particular benefit to pilots navigating the Falkland's rugged landscape and harsh weather systems. A Spidertracks installation provides additional safety by allowing the operations team to track aircraft in real-time and by enabling satellite based two-way communication.
Richard Hyslop, Falkland Islands Government representative to the UK and Europe, comments: “Britten-Norman's Islanders are iconic; a real lifeline. We use them for everything from mobile polling stations to medevac missions, tourists and people taking their animals to the vet. They are the real glue that keeps the Islands together.”
Grahame Stone, commercial director at Britten-Norman, adds: “With such varied roles, FIGAS really put our Islanders through their paces. Britten-Norman is incredibly proud to be part of the Falkland Islands community. I am thrilled we have been able to deliver another aircraft to its growing fleet.”
Kurt Whitney, quality manager at FIGAS, was involved with the commission and collaborated with Britten-Norman throughout the entire production of the aircraft. He concludes: “Islanders are a perfect fit for the Falkland Islands. They can handle a variety of conditions that other aircraft cannot. FIGAS only operates out of two surfaced runways; the rest are clay, sand and grass. The Falklands has an increasingly busy tourist season. In recent years we have seen passenger numbers rise from 5,800 to 8,800. Despite some initial COVID-19 disruption, we are confident this will keep on increasing.”