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Aviation managers spread their wings in Berlin

The Berlin Air Show (ILA) is underway again as the sector prepares to take off again after the global financial downturn. According to industry projections, major airlines will go back into the black again this year.

Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Chairman and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a mock up of an Airbus A380 aircraft in front of the Airbus A380 'Frankfurt am Main'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the ILA 2010

The 100th Berlin Air Show has attracted a record number of exhibitors this year with more than 40 percent coming from abroad.

Over 1,150 industry representatives from nearly 50 countries are presenting all manner of planes, helicopters, rotors, motors and other technology through to June 13.

The ILA is also hosting some 100 conferences attended by delegates from politics, business, defence and research.

"The whole industry is in Berlin," said Wolfgang Mayrhuber, chief executive of German flag carrier Lufthansa, Europe's top airline in terms of passenger numbers.

Director General and CEO, Giovanni Bisignani, answers questions during a press conference

IATA head Giovanni Bisignani says things are looking up for the airline industry

Favorable flying conditions

The event opened on Tuesday amid favorable forecasts for the global air industry. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which is also meeting this week in the German capital, projected that the sector would achieve full year profits of almost 2.1 billion euros ($US 2.5 billion) worldwide. This would be the first time the industry has turned a profit since 2007.

Just three months ago, IATA was predicting a loss of over 2.3 billion euros ($US 2.8 billion). IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani said on Monday that the global economy was improving more quickly than anyone expected, boosting traffic and yields sharply.

Along with their optimistic global projections, IATA has, however, expressed fears that the weak euro and the disruption caused by the volcanic ash clouds could clip the wings of growth in Europe.

Icelandic volcano crater spewing ash and plumes of grit

The volcanic eruption in Iceland caused major disruptions to European air traffic

"In Europe people are happy to be flying again, but both business and individual travelers are very price conscious," aviation expert Cord Schellenberg told Deutsche Welle.

"Thriftiness is a goal here. In Asia status is still very important. People there still want to fly first class and business class."

Big order for Airbus

The body organizing the ILA, the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI), struck an upbeat note at the opening of the Berlin Air Show. "We are expecting an optimistic and dynamic ILA," said Thomas Enders, who serves as both BDLI president and the head of aircraft maker Airbus.

Bullish international forecasts ahead of the ILA already appear to be coming to fruition. On the show's very first day, Airbus landed a record order from Dubai-based airline Emirates.

Workers of Airbus accompany the first Airbus A380 plane for the Emirates airline

Emirates has been busy snapping up more Airbus A380 superjumbos

The leading Middle Eastern carrier announced it would be purchasing 32 more Airbus A380 super-jumbo aircraft, worth some 9.6 billion euros (US$11 billion). The deal takes the number of A380s ordered by Emirates to 90.

"The ILA has already sent a very strong signal," said Schellenberg. "But it is not very surprising that this signal has come from Emirates. They come from a region that has completely different money reserves and growth prospects than in Europe," added the aviation expert. "It is also a very clever piece of PR by Emirates. There is not so much competition here as at the other European shows."

A400M landing in desert

ILA visitors will be treated to the first public viewing of the A400M military transporter

Star turns

Along with the news of the bumper order, Airbus' parent company EADS has also been attracting attention with its "hybrid" aircraft, which runs on algae fuel - a world first.

The unveiling of Airbus's new military transporter A400M is also a major drawcard. However, its premiere may be somewhat soured by speculation that Germany's defense ministry could cancel some orders under the government's savings package announced on Monday.

A departure tax on passengers leaving German airports proposed under Berlin's 81.6-billion-euro (US$97.5 billion) austerity program also caused some turbulence among airlines.

Looking forwards and backwards

file picture shows French aviator Louis Bleriot'a aircraft on Channel flight

Historic aircraft are also on show at ILA 2010

The Berlin Air Show opens to the public at the weekend. A whole section of Berlin ILA has been set aside for the show's centenary exhibition, which will feature one aircraft from each decade of the show's history, including the Bleriot XI, the first aircraft to cross the English channel; the Fokker DR-1, the iconic German World War One aircraft; and the Douglas DC-6, the world's first modern long haul passenger plane.

With consumers increasingly concerned about the carbon footprint of flying, the show has an exhibition dedicated to the future of the aviation industry.

The ILA, which takes place every two years, comes ahead of the Paris Air Show from June 20-26 and the Farnborough Air Show in Britain from July 19-25. It is expected to attract some 200,000 visitors.

Author: Julie Gregson
Editor: Sam Edmonds

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