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Business

Berlin Air Show a Success, Organizers Say

The prestigious Berlin Air Show (ILA) attracted around 250,000 visitors over six days and saw contracts worth some five billion euros ($7.8 billion) sealed as it drew to a close on Saturday, May 31.

Spectators at the Berlin Air Show

The Berlin Air Show drew a crush of spectators on the last day

The show, held every two years, mixes flying displays by lovingly restored vintage planes with hard-sell marketing talk from companies like European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), the parent of Airbus.

The majority of the 1,100 exhibitors from 37 countries said they were satisfied with their success at the show.

Dietmar Schrick, head of the German Aerospace Indsturies Association (BDLI) said he was satisfied with the show's results.

The Swiss squadron Patroille Suisse with their Northop F-5E Tiger jets at the Belrin Air Show

The Swiss squadron "Patroille Suisse" with their Northop F-5E Tiger jets

"With a turnover of more than 5 billion euros, we've reached a record and have met all our business goals," Schrick said on Saturday, adding that topics such as the environment, supplying parts and recruiting new talent found a strong resonance.

The final day of the ILA drew 50,000 visitors to the venue near Schoenefeld airport on the south-eastern outskirts of the German capital.

The show saw 300 aircraft displayed on the ground or taking to the skies, with the star of the show the Airbus A380, the world's largest commercial airliner. Also on view were the two biggest series- production planes ever made, the Antonov An 124 and C-5 Galaxy.

Booming Indian air travel brings cheer

India was the partner nation this year at the show and the country's rapidly expanding airline industry was typical of the robust markets that cheered European aerospace and defense companies at the aviation show. India's booming Jet Airways took delivery of one of the 15 new A330-200 airliners it has ordered from Airbus.

Air travel is growing fast in India as incomes rise and travelers avoid slower land transport, a shift in travel behavior that is being seen in other emerging economies too.

A helicopter of the Indian Air Force, Dhruv at the air show

A helicopter of the Indian Air Force, "Dhruv" at the air show

That expansion not only spells more orders for planes, but is also leading to a worldwide shortage of pilots and aviation engineers.

European plane-maker Airbus announced a global recruiting drive to find 500 engineers after Thomas Enders admitted that the company was having difficulties finding qualified specialists in Europe.

"We will recruit 500 engineers all over the world this year. We need the best and the brightest worldwide for our industry," Enders told a news briefing at the ILA. "Our sector is very challenging and in big demand of highly skilled engineers. Unfortunately, we don't find them in Europe."

He pointed out that Airbus had opened training centers for engineers in countries where the air transport market was expected to grow, including China, India and Russia.

The Airbus boss said that in particular he needed staff familiar with lightweight composite materials used to make the next generation of passenger jets and also electrical designers.

Soaring fuel prices a dampener

In addition to a skills crunch in the aviation industry, the show this year also took place in the shadow of soaring oil prices, environmental concerns, a rising euro and the effects of a faltering US economy on the aviation industry.

Surging fuel prices led Jet Blue Airways in San Francisco to announce it was postponing purchase of 21 Airbus jets. Jet Blue chief executive Dave Barger said the airline had to be financially cautious.

The original order foresaw delivery of the A320 jets between 2009 and 2011. Jet Blue, in which Lufthansa of Germany has a 20-percent stake, expects to accept the aircraft between 2014 and 2015 instead.

But Gulf Air of Bahrain ordered 35 jets Wednesday from Airbus at the Air Show in a purchase package with a list price of $4.86 billion (3.12 billion euros). The discount terms for the bulk order were not disclosed.

The state-owned airline will obtain 15 Airbus A320 jets and 20 Airbus A330-300 planes, the two companies said.

The industry in Europe admits that the high value of the euro is becoming an export handicap, while environmentalist criticism of air travel is prompting efforts to discover green technologies.

Earlier this week, Peter Hintze, the German government's coordinator of aviation policy, appealed to the aerospace industry to pay more attention to criticisms of the planes' pollution and climate-change impact.

He said the extensive use of older jets for air cargo meant greater public sensitivity about the freight business. Older planes are generally noisier and use more fuel per ton carried than new ones.

Oldest aviation show

Established in Frankfurt in 1909, the ILA is one of the world's oldest aviation trade shows. Since 1992, following German reunification, it has been staged every two years at Schoenefeld, now being rebuilt to become Berlin's sole airport.

The ILA also 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.

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