ILA: Show to fly flag for German aerospace

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Berlin’s ILA air show may not have the global status of Paris or Farnborough, but its importance to the German aerospace industry and the federal republic’s international image is illustrated by the fact it will once again be opened by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The biennial event – held at Berlin’s new ExpoCenter next to the delayed Brandenburg airport, and organised by trade association BDLI – takes place from 20 to 22 May. ILA claims to be the oldest air show in the world, with the first event having taken place in 1909 – weeks before Paris – albeit in its original home of Frankfurt. In those days, ILA lasted 100 days and attracted 1.5 million visitors.

The world of air shows may be very different today from the era of biplanes, balloons and airships, but though ILA has struggled to compete with the big two European events for big names and big news, it has established its own distinct appeal and identity. In recent years, the event has served as a showcase for Germany’s hundreds of “mittelstand” – small and medium-size enterprises – involved in aerospace engineering, as well as the country’s sizeable green-technology sector and the German armed forces.

Over the 22 years since it relocated to its current home from Hanover – after the end of the Cold War and the reunification of the country – ILA has also presented itself as a gateway to the West for Russian and eastern European industry. This year, however, another nation keen to join the club of major aerospace powers, Turkey, is an official partner country. The nation has a large display of exhibitors in Hall 6, including national champion Turkish Aerospace Industries – a partner in the Airbus Defence & Space A400M military transport programme.

Airbus Group – unsurprisingly – is a strong supporter of one of its two “home” shows (three if Farnborough is counted), and this year will see the official European air display debut of the A350 – the widebody performed a flypast at Le Bourget last year. The twinjet is one of around 300 aircraft on the static line. A French A400M – one of two its air force has taken delivery of – will also fly at the show.

Another highlight will be a 20min aerial performance by the German armed forces involving four Panavia Tornados, two Eurofighter Typhoons, two Airbus Helicopters Tigers, a Sikorsky CH-53, a Transall C-160 and the Airbus A330 MRTT tanker.

The US Air Force will again bring a strong contingent of aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin C-130J, Boeing C-7 Globemaster and Boeing UH-60L Black Hawk. Airbus will also present its electric, experimental E-Fan two-seat aircraft in Germany for the first time.

Another debut on the propulsion side will be the Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1500G geared turbofan, which is being loaned by P&W to its German partner MTU – one of the biggest names in Germany’s aerospace sector. This variant of the engine family is for the Bombardier CSeries – although the Canadian manufacturer will not be bringing its narrowbody, currently in flight testing, to the event.

Munich-based MTU makes the high-speed low-pressure turbine for the geared turbofan, and will display this component at its booth in Hall 2. Five manufacturers have selected the powerplant, which has 5,300 orders – the others being Airbus for the A320neo, Irkut for the MC-21, Mitsubishi for the MRJ and Embraer for its new generation of E-Jets.

One key feature of ILA is its programme of more than 60 conferences, seminars and meetings. This year’s show includes the sixth European Air Transport Congress, the Airbus Ministers Conference – attended by industry ministers from France, Germany, Spain and the UK – and the International Biofuel Conference, which will focus on the potential for alternative fuel sources in aviation. There will also be talks on aircraft recycling and plastics in aviation.

Space is also an important feature of the show, with a dedicated pavilion and an Astronauts’ Day – 23 May.

ILA will not have the week to itself in the air show calendar – an unfortunate clash with the EBACE convention in Geneva will likely keep some business aviation manufacturers away. However, organisers are confident that with 1,200 exhibitors from 40 countries, a packed air display and a busy conference agenda, the event will have plenty to attract trade visitors from around the world, and do its bit to keep the flag flying for German aerospace.