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ILA Aerospace Show Opens its Doors in Berlin

The largest-ever Berlin Air Show opened on Tuesday, showcasing an industry that has bucked the lagging economic trend in Germany. The A380 will make its official debut at the show.

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The Airbus A380 is the show's star attraction

Economics Minister Michael Glos opened the Berlin Air Show (ILA) for industry visitors on Tuesday, and if the organizers' hopes are fulfilled, then it will attract the most visitors since it moved to Berlin in 1992. For the event, which also will host up to 90 conferences concurrently, a record 1,014 exhibitors will be present.

One day before the ILA began, the German aerospace industry announced that it had broken its sales record in the year 2005, reaching 18.6 billion euros ($23.8 billion). That was an increase of over 16 percent from 2004, and according to German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI) president, Thomas Enders, the economic growth in the branch should continue.

BdT Bildgalerie ILA in Berlin 2006 MIG 29

A Mikojan MIG-29M-OVT performs its flight program at Schönefeld airport in Berlin on Tuesday

The boom in the international aerospace industry is also creating jobs according to Enders, with 6,400 more people finding employment in 2005 -- an increase of 8.6 percent. He said that he saw nothing stopping the trend in the near future.

Airbus already signs first deal

European aerospace giant, EADS, used the opening of the ILA to announce a deal with a Russian company that would convert old A320 passenger airliners into freight planes. Enders, who is also co-chief of EADS, gave no figure as to how much the contract would be worth.

One of the highlights of the six-day show will be the official debut in Germany of the Airbus A380. The world's largest passenger airliner that can seat as many as 850 customers has only been visible on rare occasions as it has been making test flights since its maiden flight in April 2005. During the ILA, the A380 will be on display every day, both on the ground and in the air -- something that should make it easy to break the visitors' record of 226,000 in 2002.

Future at Berlin Schönefeld almost secured

Bildgalerie ILA in Berlin 2006 ILA 2006 - Schnellinspektion

The Boeing C-17A Globemaster III. transport plane is another of the show's attractions

The future success of the aerospace show is partially dependent on the status of Berlin's Schönefeld airport, which lies on the southern outskirts of the capital. A 2.5-billion-euro expansion of the facility will turn it into a massive construction site in the coming years, making some fear the ILA would move elsewhere.

Yet both Enders and Berlin's mayor Klaus Woworeit expressed optimism on Monday that the 2008 and 2010 shows could go on without any major hitches.

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