On its opening day, the Berlin Air Show raised hopes that the the European aerospace sector will be a model of growth in coming years.
Ready for takeoff: Schröder tests the seating in the Eurocopter NH90
On day one of the Berlin Air Show, European aerospace company EADS signed a €3 billion ($3.5 billion) contract to deliver 30 Ariane 5 rockets to European commercial space launcher Arianespace, meeting participants' expectations that the conference would help breathe new life into the industry.
The five-day exhibition was opened by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who oversaw the signing of the EADS contract. Some 200,000 visitors are expected to visit the trade fair, where 987 exhibitors from 43 countries represent the range of industry goods and services.
Schröder called the air and
The French Mystère Falcon 50 is on show at the Berlin Airshow.
space industry a "model example of a competent and strong industry."
Against the general business trend, the aerospace industry was able to increase profits by 2.3 percent, mostly due to increased military orders. Experts predict the commercial air transportation sector, which suffered badly after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, could grow by an average of 5 percent in coming years.
Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement praised the "exceptionally strong innovation" in the branch.
"There are increasing signs for clear growth in the aerospace industry," Clement told news agencies following the traditional conference of ministers from the countries whose firms belong to the Airbus consortium.
An Ariane 5 rocket
Air and space, with its high research and development component, is "an example for other industry branches," Clement said.
Importance of the East
Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard said he was confident that the EU expansion would bring a new impulse into his business. Indeed, the European Union eastern expansion is a big theme at this year's trade fair. Companies from the new EU countries are heavily represented, and western firms are looking eagerly eastward.
Also Monday, event officials as well as representatives from Berlin Schönefeld Airport, where the trade fair is being held, signed an agreement to continue hosting the fair at the Berlin airport. The biennial event moved from Hanover to Berlin in 1992.
More than 300 aircraft on are show at Schönefeld, including the 75-meter (246-feet) long Airbus A340-600, the longest passenger jet in the world.
The exhibition will be open to the public from May 14-16.