INTERNATIONALE LUFTFAHRT AUSSTELLUNG (ILA) 2008  - Berlin/Schoenefeld

On the 27th of May 2008 the Internationale Luft-und Raumfahrtausstellung (International Air and Space Exhibition) at Berlin Schoenefeld opened its gates to uphold a near 100 year old tradition. The first exhibition to bare this historic name was held at Frankfurt in 1909, since then several events were held in Berlin (between 1912 and 1928) and Hannover-Langenhagen Airport (between 1957 and 1990) with a few interruptions apart from the two world wars and a world economic crisis. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall ILA has been held biannually at Berlin Schoenefeld Airport and has evolved into not only a mayor economic factor contributing to the region but similarly to trade fairs at Le Bourget and Farnborough, has become an important market element for the European and International Aerospace Industries. This is highlighted by the fact that ILA is always been reliant on a partner nation that participates, this year it is Indias turn. For a long time India has possessed a very effective and independent aerospace industry, which is currently looking for closer ties with the bigger European companies. This is why the opening ceremony was instigated by German chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel together with the Indian Defence Minister Mr Arakkaparambil Kurian Antony

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Within an area of 250,000 square meters some 1,127 companies from more than 37 countries exhibited their products. By the end of the fair no less than 241,000 visitors attended the exhibition, located to the south of Germanys capitol city of Berlin. Business deals totalling several billion Euros, including the biggest order ever placed by a single civilian customer worth a total of 3.2 Billion Euros (Gulf Air of Bahrain ordered 15 Airbus A320 and 20 Airbus A330) highlights the importance of this fair. At ILA not only were business deals made but future partnerships were also established. This was one reason for the strong Indian representation at ILA something Indians themselves had confirmed. The numerous symposiums and conferences conducted also ensured future developments within the aerospace industries are maintained. This year the main theme was the protection of the environment, particularly funding and emissions, this was supported by several companies and their relevant products on display. 

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More than 300 aircraft took part in this years ILA. However there was nothing really new, which is of no real surprise as the era of a new aircraft being released nearly every year has long gone. For this reason the appearance of one of the showstoppers in the form of the Airbus A380 wasn't a real debut appearance (as it was two years ago) but it nevertheless attracted strong public attention with its stunning appearance. In the meantime the first aircraft of this type had been delivered after a long delay, which precipitated considerable crisis within the Airbus consortium. All together 12 Aircraft are to be delivered by the end of this year, while other new products in development including the A350 Wide Body Airliner and A400M Military Transport Aircraft continue. The maiden flight of the Militairbus, as the A400M is called with a smile, should take place sometime mid 2009. So we can expect to see some great firsts at ILA 2010!

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One highlight was the premiere appearance of the S-Ray 007 light amphibious aircraft. A design of Iren Dornier, grandson of the famous Claude Dornier, the S-Ray 007 is based on a design of Claude Dornier of the 1920s, the Dornier Libelle (Dragonfly). This two-seat amphibian of composite construction is built by Dornier Technologie GmbH, which was founded by Iren Dornier in 1996. Initially the S-Ray was to have been baptised Dragonfly, but because of licensing laws this name could not be used while the name Stingray wasn't available either so the name S-Ray 007 was used. Contrary to the original, the S-Ray 007 is built from glass-fibre reinforced plastic and is powered by either a 100 or 115 hp Rotax engine providing this tiny aircraft with maximum speed of 230 km/h. As retractable landing gear is standard the S-ray 07 can take off and land from water or land and had her maiden flight on the 14th of July 2007 at Friedrichshafen. However there was a minor accident at ILA where an S-Ray 07 of the Indish Sarang team was toppled by the downwash from a nearby helicopter. Fortunately, an inspection revealed nothing was damaged and the Dornier S-Ray 007 could perform her display the following day.

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A very welcome but unplanned addition to this years ILA line-up was the participation of a Slovak Air Force MiG-29 coming from Sliac AFB. This particular aircraft is the first to utilise Western avionics and navigation systems. The most significant recognition feature being its newly applied pixel digital camouflage scheme, which is similar in appearance to the current combat uniforms of the US Army. The upgraded MiG-29 features a new IFF system, western radios and a modern navigation system. These new features provide the Mig29 with full NATO compatibility. The first upgraded MiG-29 (the one present at ILA) was officially handed over to the Slovak Air Force the 29th of February 2008 with the new designation of MiG 29AS for the single-seat and UBS for the two-seat variant. The Slovak AF currently operates 21 aircraft of this type (18 single and 3 two-seat) all of which will be upgraded to the new standard within the next months.

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While civilian airliners were the feature at last years ILA, this year it was the helicopters turn to dominate. Flying displays began with a stunning display of no less than 10 Sikorsky CH-53G Tactical Transport Helicopters of the German Heeresflieger (Army Air Corps), one NH-90, two Eurocopter Tiger UHT`s , two MBB Bo-105`s and two Bell UH-1D. This was followed by an awesome solo display of a Red Bull Bo-105 then culminating in the premiere appearance of the Indian Air Force Sarang display team flying their indigenous built HAL Dhruv helicopters. Even though the Eurocopter Tiger UHT was not terribly new, it`s flying display was an absolute show stopper. A very special visitor this year was a Croatian Army Mil Mi-171Sh. This particular model of this venerable machine represented the latest and most up-to-date variant of the Mi-8/17class. Clearly visible were the bevelled hatchback (the Mi-8 Hip series hatchback is round shaped), which defines the type. The Mi-171Sh is powered by a two Isotov TV3-117VMA -SBM1V gas turbine engines each rated at 2,000 SHP and features modern western avionics including an all -weather radar system and the latest in GPS navigational systems. The Croatian Army received two of these combat/transport helicopters on the 6th February 2008 as settlement for a dept from the Russian Federation . The Mi-171 is produced by JSC U-UAZ of Ulan Ude, which is also the capitol city of the Russian Federation Republic of Burjatia.

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The very colourful Indian Air Force (IAF) Sarang display team (Sarang, Sanskrit for Peacock) is equipped with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Dhruv (Polestar) helicopter, which is a medium size helicopter within the 5 ton class. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited developed the Dhruv with assistance from MBB, clearly obvious as the Dhruv bears a close resemblance to the famous MBB design while its revolutionary rotor concept, also developed by MBB, sets this helicopter apart from other designs. While the Dhruv had its maiden flight in 1992, it took almost ten years for the first models to be delivered to the Indian Coast Guard followed by the Indian Army and Navy. Until today some 85 Dhruv have been built. The Sarang display team has been flying since 2003 and it is one of only three military helicopter aerobatic teams worldwide. The Sarang`s are based at IAF Yelahanka which is located near the city of Bangalore. Apart from their team display a solo display was also flown by a single Dhruv of the Indian Army. Another (civilian) version of this helicopter was on static display.

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While an aviation exhibition is all about the very latest in aviation technology there were also many old-timers present at ILA. From a Fokker Dr.1 Triplane right up to the state of the art Eurofighter EF-2000 aviation enthusiasts had the chance to see aircraft representing a wide range of aviation history. Where else one can find a Messerschmitt Me-109, Me-262, Supermarine Spitfire, North American P-51 Mustang, Dassault Rafale, MiG-29 and an Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon all in the one place? Two legendary flying boats in the form of the Dornier Do-24ATT and Consolidated Catalina PBY-5 were present as well as the North American B-25 Mitchell bomber and Douglas DC-6 Airliner, both belonging to the Red Bull Company. The two later types were especially pleasing to the crowd with their dedicated photo passes, a manoeuvre which unfortunately is not performed very often at European air shows, however provides a wonderful photo opportunity for photographers.

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The Messerschmitt Foundation was extremely fortunate at ILA. After performing a display with their Messerschmitt Me-262, one of the foundations most famous aircraft, their Me-109 G10 was hit by a sudden crosswind on landing which caused the right main undercarriage to collapse resulting in the aircraft coming off the runway. Fortunately the Pilot Walter Eichhorn was uninjured and the One-O-Nine suffered only minor damage. The narrow design profile of the Me-109 was always one of the greatest disadvantages of this famous aircraft designed by Prof Willy Messerschmitt. A splintered propeller along with minor landing gear and wing tip damage were the result of the incident while further displays of this type at ILA were cancelled. What makes this particular episode worse was that a second Me-109 from the Messerschmitt Foundation (Me-109G4 Red 4) had to make a belly landing just a few weeks earlier, prior to ILA opening its gates. If that was not enough, just two days later their Me-262 also had trouble with its landing gear when the nose gear jammed – fortunately this was discovered before it took off for another display and rectified by the ground crew within a day so the M-262 could fly again on the public days of Saturday and Sunday. At the Me-262 controls was famous EADS Chief Test Pilot Wolfgang Schirdewahn, who was also one of the test pilots in charge of the Eurofighter Typhoon`s test flight programme.

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What makes this particular episode worse was that a second Me-109 from the Messerschmitt Foundation (Me-109G4 Red 4) had to make a belly landing just a few weeks earlier, prior to ILA opening its gates. If that was not enough, just two days later their Me-262 also had trouble with its landing gear when the nose gear jammed – fortunately this was discovered before it took off for another display and rectified by the ground crew within a day so the M-262 could fly again on the public days of Saturday and Sunday. At the Me-262 controls was famous EADS Chief Test Pilot Wolfgang Schirdewahn, who was also one of the test pilots in charge of the Eurofighter Typhoon`s test flight programme.

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The date of 23rd of July 2008 represents the 60th anniversary of the famous Berlin Airlift, where during this unique operation the entire city was supplied by air through no fewer than 278,228 cargo flights over several months. More than 2.3 million tons of food and coal were flown into Berlin via three 20 km wide corridors providing her population with the most critical of supplies. Of course this event was celebrated at ILA by old airlifters in attendance such as two Douglas DC-3s and a single Douglas C -47 Dakota (military version of the DC-3). Much newer but still nevertheless also related to the Berlin Airlift was the attendance of a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, quite rightly named Spirit of Berlin by the former American President Bill Clinton and provided flying displays on all days. The forerunner of this huge cargo plane, the Douglas C-74 Globemaster was also the biggest aircraft utilised during the Berlin Airlift. Apart from the previously mentioned aircraft the following types were also utilised by the Americans, Douglas C-54 (military version of the Douglas DC-4), Fairchild C-82 and Boeing C-97. The British mainly utilised, Vickers Vikings, Avro Lancastrians, Avro Tudors, Avro Yorks, Bristol Freighters and Short Sunderland flying boats. In many publications it is claimed that the French Air Force took part in the Berlin Airlift flying Junkers Ju-52 aircraft however this is not entirely correct. The French flew a single Ju-52 into Berlin Tegel Airport (which has been built by them after the war) however this was only to resupply their own garrison and had nothing to do with the supplying Berlins besieged population.

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For many of the visitors to ILA one special highlight was to meet one of the last remaining and probably most famous of the Berlin Airlift veterans, retired former air force pilot Colonel Gail S. Halverson who is now 87 years old. As a young Lieutenant flying a Douglas C-54 Skytrain, Halverson dropped chocolate bars and candies using self made small parachutes to young Berlin children watching the incoming planes. This kind gesture made him and all other air lift pilots popular and created the name of all participating aircraft as Candy Bombers, or as the Germans called them Rosinen Bomber. Colonel Halverson was an honorary guest at this years ILA and while driving along the public crowd line in a Willy`s Jeep he, again tossed original Hershey chocolate bars into the cheering crowd, the very action which gave the actual Berlin Airlift again a very human note. While previously at the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift Gail Halverson flew into Berlin along with two other veterans in an original Douglas C-54.

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Some visitors might be quick to point out that there was even a forth DC-3 in attendance at ILA 2008, however this was not entirely correct. The forth type in attendance was actually the last remaining airworthy Lissunov Li-2, a Soviet licensed built copy of the DC-3 (actually the Soviet Union signed an agreement to built the DC-3 under licence in 1937 but never paid a single cent to the Douglas Company). Later, the Soviets did a similar thing when they manufactured a 1:1 copy of the Boeing B-29 Bomber utilising the Soviet designation Tupolev Tu-4, in this case they didn't even ask for permission so no agreement was signed. The Russian DC-3 was designated PS-84 and the later militarized version as the Li-2 and as such differs in many areas. The most significant and obvious difference is the use of Shvetsov M-62IR (1000 HP) 9-Zylinder radial engines, the position of the loading door on the right side of the fuselage and reduced overall wingspan. The underpowered Shvetsov engines provided the Li-2 with a reduced max speed but did increase the maximum range of the aircraft. The Li-2 on display at Berlin Schoenefeld came from Budoaers airport located in Hungary not far away from Budapest where it is used for scenic flights.

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On the 27th of May 1958 one of the most famous aircraft of our time, the incredible McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II made its maiden flight. As a salute to this remarkable aircraft German Luftwaffe F-4F Phantoms of Jagdgeschwader 71 Richthofen (Fighter Wing 71) performed a four ship formation fly-by for the visitors while another F-4F participated in a Significance of National Power (SNAP) display of the Luftwaffe, unfortunately only as the bad guy The Phantom has served (and still serves) the Luftwaffe well and it was a pity that this significant date wasn't celebrated more than what was shown. Between 1973 and 1976 the Luftwaffe purchased 175 McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom II with a total of 110 aircraft receiving major upgrades between 1991 and 1996. Only two active Fighter Wings are still equipped with the F-4 those being Jagdgeschwader 74 (Fighter Wing 74) of Neuburg AB and 71 based at Wittmund AB. FW 74 is presently converting to the EF-2000 and will relinquish its F-4`s within the next few months. The last remaining Fighter Wing, Jagdgeschwader 71 Richthofen will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year on 6th June 2009. Hopefully the German Luftwaffe Chiefs of Staff will allow JG 71 to celebrate their anniversary with an open day at the very least. As their last scheduled open day for this year was unfortunately cancelled, this would provide what is most possibly the last opportunity for enthusiasts to see an operational version of this old war horse. As the say goes, well keep our fingers crossed!

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The aforementioned mentioned SNAP exercise of the German Luftwaffe features the evacuation of German citizens from hostile territory through the use of the necessary amount of force. The scenario consisted of multiple steps. The first phase was the interception of hostile aircraft to secure the airspace by friendly fighter aircraft (Eurofighter EF-2000) within the evacuation zone followed by a ground attack performed by combat aircraft (Panavia Tornado IDS). This was followed by a C-160 Transall dropping equipment while another carried out a tactical manoeuvre called Sarajevo landing, the European version of the Khe San landing utilised by the Americans in Vietnam landing the aircraft as steeply and as shortly as possible in an effort to minimise exposure to hostile ground fire. After the civilians were secured by friendly ground troops from the C-160 they were quickly loaded into the Transall and flown out almost immediately. In reality friendly Special Forces troops would be airdropped in to the area of operations hours before the evacuation takes place to perform reconnaissance and support the extraction scenario. Currently, the possibility that this scenario will be enacted for real is quite high. For example, if the political situation in Kenya at the beginning of 2008 had deteriorated further a rescue operation such as the one demonstrated at ILA may have been the only viable solution.

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In relation to aerobatic teams, ILA had plenty on offer. Apart from being the very first display within Germany of the Croatian Air Force Krila Oluje (Storm Wing) Team flying their five Pilatus PC-9M and the previously mentioned helicopter display team from India an already impressed public could also see the perfect formation flying of the Swiss Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Patrouille Suisse. Unfortunately due to strict German air show regulation the Patrouille had to change their display routine considerably, which the commentator mentioned numerous times with disgust, was for safety? This may be so, but within reason. For example the Patrouille was denied to perform the so called Mirror manoeuvre (two planes flying above each other, one inverted, so both can look into the cockpit of the other), because according to German authorities it was too dangerous, however the Croatian Prop Team were allowed to perform this manoeuvre? All displays at ILA had to fly at (even for Germany) an unusually high level (minimum of 450 m). Because one man living in one of the nearby villages had issued a judicial writ, all low level flying in the area was prohibited. Together with the fact that the air traffic at Berlin Schoenefeld has increased in the last few years resulted in the whole flying display being moved to the northern side of the airfield which resulted in some flying displays being so far away one could only see small dots flying around in far distance. Last but not least, further problems were caused for the organisers by the nearby construction of the new Berlin Brandenburg International airport (to be completed in 2011).

Verdict: Considering these shortcomings the organisers should be praised, including the BDLI (Bundesverband der Deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrtindustrie (Federal Association of the German Air and Space Industry) and the Messe Berlin GmbH (Berlin Exhibition Inc.) for doing so well. Despite the huge building project which is currently taking place at nearby Schoenefeld the whole event ran smoothly (of course within the aforementioned constraints). ILA 2008 once again was a great success and this was not only because of the companies involved, which left the exhibition with full order books, but also due to a programme for the public attendees that was absolutely outstanding. One could see many attractions, rarely seen within Germany. With this in mind we are looking forward to the next ILA which takes place at Berlin Schoenefeld between the 8th and 13th June 2010.

Robert Kysela / CHK6

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