Internationale Luftfahrt-Ausstellung (International Aviation Exhibition) (ILA) 2002, Berlin-Schönefeld, 6-12 May.
Gary Parsons reports from the first European trade show of the year.
It was the cancellation of Mildenhall's Air Fete that led me to Berlin - a need to infuse some airshow action between Duxford and the impending summer. Previous Berlin reports had suggested a worthwhile event, so a cheap return flight was found and the day booked. Logistics dictated Friday 10 May, the first public day of the seven-day trade and industry event.
The beauty of ILA, based at Berlin's Schönefeld Airport to the south of the city, is that it can be reached directly from a number of European airports - in my case London Stansted. Arriving at 10:00 allowed a full day at the show before returning later the same evening, the only problem being the limited Air-Scene UK funds only allowing just the one day, not enough to take in the vast array of aircraft and trade stands.
ILA is Germany's answer to Farnborough and Paris; a biennial event that coincides with the SBAC event but hasn't yet quite matched the latter's status in the aircraft industry. It is still growing though, the first event in recent times being as late as 1992, the trade fair having moved from Hanover after unification. Held on the south side of Schönefeld's two east-west runways, it occupies an area normally used for the maintenance of Lufthansa aircraft that is chaotic in layout and not immediately ideal for such a purpose, taking a good amount of time to find one's way around! There has been much talk lately of increased security measures for this July's Farnborough International, but ILA proved that it can be done and prevent massive logjams - car parking was all off-base, with many bus shuttles running from many parts of the locality. Large entrance marquees with security scanners enabled swift progress once tickets had been purchased, so security wasn't intrusive. Take note SBAC; you'll be measured in July! It was anticipated that 230,000 visitors would attend over the week, the majority over the three public days - estimates that proved quite accurate.
With contracts and co-operation agreements running into billions of Euros, 1,067 exhibitors from 40 countries, 90,000 trade visitors from Germany and abroad, and 215,150 visitors in total, the International Aerospace Exhibition ILA2002 reconfirmed its status as a major European marketplace for the aerospace industry. A record 340 registered aircraft attended, and around 60 conferences were held, including key political meetings such as the XIX International Workshop on Global Security and the War on Terrorism, the Airbus Ministers' Conference and the first International Meeting of Parliamentarians, underlining the increased importance now attributed to the ILA. Moreover, the trade show highlighted its importance as a platform for the aviation industry by attracting top politicians, headed by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who opened ILA2002.
Only having a short time at the event meant a choice - flying display or trade stands. Not a difficult choice, so there won't be any details of what was to be found in the many exhibition halls - but you'll probably see the same at Farnborough anyway. A beautiful spring day with temperatures in the low twenties meant good conditions for the flying display that kicked off at about 10:30 with general aviation aircraft, the more interesting items reserved for later in the schedule. The programme was a varied mix from gliders through military hardware to even a Zeppelin - the first time one had appeared in public over Berlin since the war (at least that's what I could make out).
ILA was typical of many foreign shows - the runway was some distance away with a static line and taxiway between it and the crowd. As the runways are aligned 25 - 07 they were perfectly positioned for the sun to be behind throughout the day, so at least what shots could be got were well lit, even though the aircraft were a long way off. One interesting aspect was the shuffling of the flyers out of the static park during the day - constant barrier movements among the crowd proved to be a logistical feat. At the end of the day it was hard to believe that some items, now buried deep in the static park, had flown earlier. Space was at a premium and is another reason that ILA is outgrowing Schönefeld.
As might be expected, the German Armed Forces were a major contributor to the flying programme with Tornados, MiG-29, CH-53Gs, UH-1s and the lovely F-4F to entertain the crowds. German audiences don't get to see many flying demonstrations post-Ramstein '88 and those that are sanctioned are tame by comparison with even the CAA's strict standards, but they were good to see, especially the HEER CH-53G role demonstration and the four-ship of Luftwaffe Tornados. Even better was Bf109G D-FMBB that performed a 'battle' scenario with two P-51 Mustangs from the UK - one could almost hear Basil Fawlty whispering 'Don't mention the war'! Maybe a small sign that Germany has indeed come to terms with its past.
Airbus was high-profile with Beluga, A340 and the new baby 100-seat A318 on show, the latter two giving brief demonstrations in the morning. Airbus has high hopes for the '318, it being a shortened version of the A319 by about 2.4 metres and an enlarged fin tip. Originally destined for a brand new Pratt & Whitney PW6000 powerplant, delays to the engines has necessitated the fitment of CFM56 on early orders. The PW6000 engine would have provided a substantial weight benefit, and P&W has consequently suffered a major setback in its standing as a major engine supplier, but it is desperately trying to rescue the situation in time to provide at least half the existing A318 orders. The only other large civilian aircraft was Beriev's Be-200 Mermaid, which unfortunately remained resolutely static-bound on the Friday, although it had flown earlier in the week.
As for fighters, only Eurofighter represented the new breed of fifth generation fighters. No Gripen, Rafale, or JSF (but you never really expected the latter, did you?) or Russian participation at all. In shady goings-on reminiscent of Paris last year, Mikoyan was forced to pull out over threats of aircraft being impounded (see footnote). EADS was well represented with its new C-295 (CN235 derivative) (absolutely un-photographable where it was positioned), pair of CASA 101s and EF-18As. One Hornet was put through its paces early in the flying display and sported a 'Genie' motif from Disney's Aladdin - unusual but colourful! Lakenheath provided a brace of Eagles, one being a new delivery 98-0133 and not an armed guard in sight, despite rumours of paranoia in the US military. Display teams were scarce, only the Patrouille Swiss being in evidence - their French cousins were billed, but certainly were absent on the Friday. Closing the show was a C-17 from the 437 AW, representing modern-day airlift capability - how the west could have used some back in 1947! But, no doubt the star of the show was, of course, this!
ILA 2004 is scheduled for 17 - 23 May in two years time, and this could well be the last to be held at Schönefeld as it is the site of Berlin's proposed BBI (Berlin-Brandenburg International) airport that will effectively replace the three current ones of Schönefeld, Tegel and Templehof. All major construction work will be on the south side of the airport on the existing Lufthansa Technical area, where ILA is currently held (allowing the northern side to operate its normal civilian activities). It may be that beyond this ILA will have outgrown Schönefeld anyway - whatever, it seems to have a bright future in an ever-shrinking global aviation marketplace.
however, question the industry's need for three major European trade shows
every two years - there just aren't enough orders to go around these days.
Surely it would be better for the three shows (Paris, Farnborough and
Berlin) to rotate on a three-yearly basis - it would provide each with
a major focus for its particular year and a regular date of mid-May would
set the aviation world up for a consistent twelve-month gap. But, it's
difficult to see the powers-that-be letting go of their biennial merry-go-round,
more's the pity.