When the biennial Farnborough air show shifted from its traditional September slot to July a decade ago, many predicted the inevitable demise of Berlin's ILA, held just a few weeks earlier and attempting to tap into many of the same exhibition budgets as its larger UK counterpart.

It also came at a time when much of Germany's aerospace assets were consolidating into European consortia EADS and Airbus, appearing to make the need for a separate national industry show less compelling.

ILA2008, ©Messe Berlin
This year's ILA will be the last to take place at Berlin Schönefeld airport. Picture: Messe Berlin 
ILA, however, is still thriving. The German aerospace industries association BDLI's century-old event - which takes place for the final time at its current home at Schönefeld airport from 8-13 June - may not attract the global audience and as many US heavyweights as Farnborough and Paris. Nevertheless, it remains a key stage for Germany's substantial aerospace sector and those of its neighbours. It has also established itself in important niches, as a platform for Russian industry, light and experimental aviation manufacturers and the space sector.

The biggest scoop for ILA this year, however, is one that Paris and Farnborough must be eyeing with envy: the debut of the Airbus Military A400M. Berlin is the first major show on the calendar since the European airlifter made its first flight in December and Germany is its biggest single customer with 60 on order.

Following the programme's near-death experience and with virtually all its partner nations' defence acquisition budgets under severe fiscal pressure in the coming years, having the A400M display its prowess in front of the crowds and potential export customers at ILA is an important statement.

While the Airbus A380 has been a familiar sight at air shows for a few years now, the opening day of ILA also will mark an appearance by flag carrier Lufthansa's first superjumbo. It is due to take off on its first long-haul flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg on 6 June, carrying among others the German football team to the World Cup in South Africa, and will stop at ILA on the way back. An Emirates A380 will also put in an appearance.

Other aircraft on show include the German army's Eurocopter-upgraded Sikorsky CH-53GA transport and the Ruag Dornier 228 NG, the updated version of the 19-seat regional aircraft. In terms of experimental technology, German aerospace research centre DLR's H2 Antares research aircraft is the first manned aircraft to be powered solely by fuel cells. Powered by hydrogen, which reacts with oxygen in the air to produce electrical energy without requiring combustion, the aircraft, which flew for the first time last year, emits just water.

This year ILA has also teamed up with Switzerland, which is the "partner country" of the show, reflecting the close ties between the two nations' industries. Among these, Switzerland's Ruag now owns the remnants of the old Dornier business near Munich. The organisers also claim that ILA is the "most important European meeting place for the helicopter sector", with a HeliCenter area of the exhibition bringing together manufacturers, operators, suppliers and service providers around a large static display.

Another sector where ILA claims to be the European leader in is spaceflight, with a Space Pavilion in Hall 9 next to a dedicated space conference area, combining both suppliers and the various European agencies supporting space projects. The organisers also maintain that ILA has the most comprehensive conference programme of any air show, with events covering subjects from unmanned air systems in the armed forces to green skies and from aircraft financing to general aviation.

This will be the last ILA held at the rather ramshackle Schönefeld airport, formerly the gateway to East Berlin in the Communist era. The exhibition area is being incorporated into the under-construction Berlin Brandenburg International airport that will replace both Schönefeld and Tegel airport from 2011.

This means that from 2012 ILA will move to a new home, either a new site to the south-west of the new airport, or Leipzig. BDLI was due to make a decision on 31 May.

Flightglobal will be covering ILA online and in print, with all the breaking news, video and pictures from the show on flightglobal.com/ila2010. If you are attending the show, you will be able to catch up with all the previous day's happenings in Flight Daily News, distributed each morning. Flight International will have a report on the show in our 15 June issue.

Source: Flight International