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Aviation's Jet Set Lands in Berlin

As the renowned Berlin Air Show gets under way, lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft are taking the center stage. Yet there was also plenty of interest in the latest jumbo jets and sleek fighter planes.

Airplane flying over ILA sign

Berlin's Air Show has taken off

With oil prices soaring, the talk of the Berlin Air Show this week will center around how to make aviation more efficient. High fuel prices and environmental concerns are increasing demand for light, fuel-efficient planes.

With prices rising as high as $135 (86 euros) per barrel last week, alternative fuels are expected to draw interest at the show, formally known as the Aerospace Exhibition and Conferences (ILA). It runs from Tuesday, May 27 through Sunday at Berlin's Schoenefeld Airport.

As much as it is a chance for industry insiders to catch up on the latest trends, it is a chance for companies to strut their stuff with flight shows and competitions. At this year's event, a special ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift is also planned.

Off to a roaring start

Eurofighter jet takes off

A Eurofighter jet shows what it's made of

Europe's most modern fighter jets showed off their tactical prowess Tuesday. There were also plenty of people checking out the latest military choppers and transporters. And that was just a tiny fraction of the aircraft on display.

"We cover the entire spectrum from high performance military jets to commercial aircraft to ultralight flyers," said director Wolfram Cornelius.

Established in Frankfurt in 1909, the ILA is today one of the world's oldest and largest aviation trade shows. The show moved to Berlin in 1992 and has been held every two years at the Schoenefeld Airport. Organizers said more than 200,000 people were expected at the show by the time it ends on Sunday. It will be open to the public on Friday only.

Three giant aircraft dominated the state of the show Tuesday, including the now-infamous jumbo A380 passenger plane. The A380, billed as the largest passenger plane of all times, has been dogged by manufacturing delays. Beside the A380 were the two biggest series-production planes ever made, the Antonov An 124 and the C-5 Galaxy.

There are more than 300 aircraft on show at the event, but there won't be any of the showy manoeuvers that come with other air shows out of saftey concerns.

A record 1,127 companies and institutions from the aerospace and defense industry have exhibits at the event.

Spotlight on India

Indian army helicopters

India was in the spotlight this year

This year, India was chosen as the "partner nation" for the fair. In recent years Asia has become a major growth market for European airplane manufacturers as demand continues to skyrocket.

Jet Airways, the rapidly expanding Indian airline, picked up one of its new A330-200 from the Euroepan airplane manufacturer Airbus. The plane was the eighth in an order for 15 of the two-engined wide-bodied jets, which are used on longe-range flights.

Arakkaparambil Kurian Antony, the Indian defense minister, toured the exhibits Tuesday with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. But despite the presence of about 40 countries, the Berlin Air Show is dominated by European names such as EADS, Airbus, eurocopter, Eurofighter and Eurojet.

And the industry remains central to the German economy. More than 88,000 people work in the field and the number is growing.

"We reached this magical figure of 20 billion euros in sales last year. Sales have increased 3.8 percent and when you look at that, it is higher than the general economic growth rate in Germany," said Thomas Enders, who is the head of both Airbus and the German Aerospace Industries Association.

Headed for space?

A man stands inside a model of a spaceship

Europe's space ambitions created an extra buzz

The Air Show has attracted additional attention amid speculation that a European manned space flight might be possible as early as 2017. Such a project would give a big boost to Europe's industry.

Up to now, Europe has relied on the Americans and the Russians for getting its astronauts into orbit.

The European company EADS and the German Space Agency (DLR) have advanced ideas on how to use European equipment for manned space flight, including adaptation of a new space station freighter, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), to carry people.

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