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John Britten

(1928 - 1977)

Forester Richard John Britten was born 27 May 1928 at Windsor, Berkshire, the eldest son of Col. Forester Cecil Robin Britten and Evelyn Zoe Rhodes (née James). After an education at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, he began his aviation training at the de Havilland Aeronautical Technical School in 1946, where he met Desmond Norman. While at college, he learned to fly at the London Aero Club and gained his RAeC Aviators Certificate No. 24447 on 24 May 1948.

In 1949, the two formed a partnership with the aim of building new aircraft. Working part-time, the partners designed and built the BN-1F ultra-light high-wing monoplane which made its maiden flight on 26 May, 1951. Britten, like Norman, also shared a passion for sailing and one of their first joint commissions was to take an old 80 ft. ketch across the Atlantic to the Bahamas and in early 1953 John Britten and Desmond Norman designed and had built a 21 ft. Junior Offshore Group sailing boat.

Commitment to a family business prevented him from taking up an aviation career immediately, but in 1954 the Britten-Norman name was registered. John Britten and Desmond Norman next turned their attention to agricultural aviation and, with the invention of the Micronair rotary atomiser, made their own original contribution to the problem of controlled chemical dispersion. As a result, in 1955 Britten and Norman, with a third partner, Jim McMahon, formed a crop-spraying company, Crop Culture (Aerial) Ltd., a B-N associated company. In 1963 Norman and Britten sold their share of Crop Culture to other members of the Board to concentrate their efforts on production of the Islander.

In 1960 the partners developed the early Cushioncraft hovercraft, and Cushioncraft Ltd was formed out of the hovercraft division of Britten Norman. For a time the Cushioncraft name stayed at the forefront of the company’s business, but by 1963 John Britten and Desmond Norman were back at the head of an aircraft design team with the launch of the B.N.2 Islander. In June 1970, as joint Managing Director, Britten-Norman Ltd., he was awarded a CBE for services to Export. However, in 1971 Britten-Norman went into receivership and in 1972 the Fairey Company acquired the company, John Britten joining the new Fairey board. In February 1976 he resigned to form his own company, Britten Aviation Technical Services, to develop the all metal Sheriff. Part of the inspiration behind this aircraft was John Britten's increasing involvement with the Light Aircraft Group of the Royal Aeronautical Society, in whose foundation he played a leading role.

Appointed High Sheriff of the Isle of Wight in 1976, Britten succumbed to leukemia and died on 7 July 1977 on the Isle of Wight.

Biography References
  1. Flight International, 16 July 1977
  2. Ancestry.com

V1.3.0 Created by Roger Moss. Last updated February 2017