ALL THREE of RAF Northolt Station Flight’s BN-2T Islander CC2s have been disposed of recently, following their replacement by civilian-contracted aircraft. The change has not been publicly announced, no doubt due to the clandestine nature of the intelligence-gathering operations of these aircraft. Their role is now being carried out by two Piper PA-31-310 Navajo Cs, G- G-SCMR and G-SCTR, operated by from the same Northolt Station Flighyt hangar as the Islanders by 2Excel Aviation’s Scimitar business unit. Both aircraft are fitted with an under-nose FLIR turret, but details of their other role-specific equipment are unknown.
The three Islanders have all been sold to Islander Aircraft Ltd, based at Cumbernauld Airport, Scotland. Of the three, ZH536 was registered to the company as G-BSAH on May 12, followed by ZH537 as G-BJEC on June 2 and ZF573 as G-BJOH on July 6. With their specialised equipment now removed, they will now be sold on as standard commercial aircraft.
These were the only examples of the type in RAF service. However, the Army Air Corps (AAC) continues to operate both the Islander and its military Defender variant, which are flown by 5 Regiment from Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, in a similar surveillance role to the Northolt aircraft. It was agreed last year that control of these aircraft will eventually be transferred from the AAC to the RAF, after this move had been under consideration for some time. The decision to go ahead with the transfer was confirmed in Parliament on October 10, 2016, by Harriet Baldwin, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Defence Procurement. In a statement, she said: “Detailed implementation plans, including timescales and the implications for 5 Regiment Army Air Corps, or other units, have yet to be finalised.”