The Britten-Norman Islander is one of the most distinctive aircraft around. If ever there was a “function over form” design, this must be one of the contenders. Huge wings with big flaps indicate STOL capability and a high wing, low body fixed undercarriage design makes for easy passenger loading without the need for external ladders or ramps.
Quoting from the manual: “Designed and originally manufactured by Britten-Norman of the United Kingdom, the BN-2 Islander is a light utility aircraft, mainline airliner and cargo aircraft with two engines, up to nine passengers and one pilot.
Although designed in the 1960s, over 750 are still in service with commercial operators around the world. The aircraft is also used by the Army and Police forces in the United Kingdom and is a popular light transport plane with over 30 military aviation operators around the world.
The Islander’s simple and rugged manufacture make it ideal for daily operation in and out of rough grass and unprepared strips – as short as 300m – in all weather conditions. Indeed, its twin-engine reliability, 30kts cross-wind limit and IFR cockpit fitment has seen the Islander operate the only regular daily transport in the Scottish Western Isles – in weather that even has the local sheep running for cover.
This BN-2 simulation is extensively based on a real world example with assistance from Great Barrier X-Press Airlines, Auckland, New Zealand – fitted with 2x Lycoming O-540 260hp engines.”
I first encountered this airplane while on vacation on St. Barths where it flew in and out of the tricky landing strip at TFFJ. Tricky, because it is short, sloping, and tucked in behind a ridge that has to be cleared before a rapid descent towards the runway. People gather, both on the ridge and on the beach at the other end of the runway to watch airplanes make the approach and take pictures. We were on the beach when the first airplane approached, made the landing with apparent ease and braked right in front of us. My wife shot the picture and wanted to know what kind of airplane this was. I was unable to identify it, but after the trip, looked it up and determined that is was a Britten-Norman Islander.
Ever since, I’ve wanted to fly an Islander in FSX and attempt the landing at St. Barths. Below are two matching pictures, the one my wife took in 2004, and the newly released Flight1 Islander in FSX. The St. Barths scenery is a freeware title "PW Sceneries Volume 5 - The Leeward Islands" by Paul Wheeler.
No surprise then that I volunteered to write a review after reading that Flight1 was releasing a BN-2 Islander for FSX.
I’ve now had the chance to spend several months with this fascinating airplane, from it’s first release to it’s current version 1.06 which has had some initial wrinkles ironed out and new liveries added, and it is frankly a delight to fly around the islands!
Installation & Documentation:
Installation is straightforward, you download the installer from the Flight1 site, run the program and you are ready to fly. The Islander comes with about ten different liveries and more are available for free download. Both the BN-2A and BN2-B versions are modeled, but they only differ in minor details. The “flagship” livery is Great Barrier X-press, seen in the title picture of this review. The folks at Great Barrier X-press Airlines provided access and assistance in the creation of this simulation.
The documentation is quite extensive: A pilot’s reference manual, performance charts, and detail manuals for the avionics are included. As to the avionics, this package includes one of the most detailed simulations of the KLN-90A GPS I’ve seen. It is Navigraph compatible, which means that you can update the GPS database with latest information.
Last but not least, the package includes two little airports, courtesy of UK2000 Scenery: Bembridge and Old Sarum, both located on an island off the south coast of England.
Flying the Islander:
I was looking forward to this aircraft, and I was not disappointed. The cockpit environment is just as one might expect a “workhorse” cockpit to look. Functional, everything within view, and with NAV radio, dual ADFs and a GPS, fully IFR capable. Not that I use ADFs much for navigation, but when you fly the smaller islands, an NDB/ADF is often all you have to go by.
Here some pictures from the cockpit.
All the gauges and panels are 3D modeled which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The gauges move smoothly and when you move your view, the 3D effect is very nice. On the other hand, the level of detail on the panel suffers compared to photo real textures, and in places the panel can look a bit “home-made” with visible polygon edges. Again, this plane is not about beauty and refinement, that is what the Mustang and Duke are for, and the key question here is, if it all works and gets 9 passengers to their destination in any and all weather conditions.
First time I took off, I was surprised to see and feel the cowling shake as the plane picked up speed, but happy to notice it lift off at about 80 knots and feeling very solid and controllable. Over time I’ve grown to appreciate the great handling characteristics of this airplane. You can come in around a corner and straighten out just in front of the runway as if you were flying a much smaller plane, and you can slow down to 60 knots with full flaps without concern for stalling. This plane is very forgiving and really gets the job done every time!
The KLN GPS is also very functional and can provide steering to the autopilot, so your flight can be fully automated. Personally, I am so used to flying with a Garmin GPS that I had some trouble getting used to the way the KLN unit is controlled, but if you are willing to learn how to operate it, it certainly does the job.
As an experiment, I installed an RXP GNS430 unit into one of the Islander liveries and was quite happy to see that it also interfaces nicely with the Century autopilot in the Islander, including fully coupled LPV GPS approaches, so that is the version I now fly most often when navigating around the Caribbean islands.
The sounds are one of the strong points of this package. The real airplane is loud, and soundproofing is not a priority. Earplugs are standard issue. You will not be in doubt if the flaps are in motion, and you can pretty much manage the engines by the noise level alone. For wearers of ANR headsets, a reduced sound package is available.
Animations and special effects:
The airplane is nicely finished wherever you look. A click removes the yoke, which I appreciate. The outside is lovely, with riveted skin and lots of detail. This is a very distinctive plane and it really looks just like its real world counterpart. Well done!
The night lighting is close to perfect. All gauges are well lit, and with both the dome light and the instrument lighting on the cockpit has a soft glow that allows you to look around and find what you need.
Like other newer releases, the Islander does not have a 2D cockpit. I did not miss it, but I know some users are used to seeing one included. For that, the viewing angle is good in the VC and pretty much everything is within reach. As is now expected, all the moving surfaces are animated, including the elevator trim tab.
It is fun just looking around the aircraft and admire the level of detail. The flaps are absolutely huge on this airplane and the engines look very menacing from the cockpit with the propellers only a few feet behind the pilot’s seat.
Here a few of the liveries that are available:
And to close it off, a picture of the Islander in it’s environment:
If you like flying around the islands, pretty much anywhere in the world, this airplane is a great way to move half a dozen passengers with cargo. With its great flying characteristics it will get you in and out of small airstrips and once you master the KLN GPS, you will have no trouble finding your way around. It captures the feeling of a no-nonsense workhorse aircraft very well and really grows on you as you fly it more and more.
What I Like About The BN-2 Islander
What I Don't Like About The BN-2 Islander
Tell A Friend About this Review!
All Rights Reserved