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Business

Ready for Takeoff

Europe's biggest aerospace trade fair, ILA2002, opened in Berlin on Monday. Europe's air and space industry is optimistic for the future, but American producers still dominate the market.

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Europe's Airbus consortium hopes to find buyers for its new A 318 model

For some makers of air- and space technology, the International Aerospace Exhibition "ILA2002" is the best place to do business. They see the Berlin trade fair as the best meeting place for buyers and sellers from East and West.

But even though the organizers claim ILA2002 is Europe's biggest and most important aerospace trade fair, there are two strong competitors in Europe: the Le Bourget air salon in France and the Farnborough International Airshow in Great Britain.

And Farnborough can boast one big name that's missing in Berlin: Boeing.

ILA Berlin 2002 Logo

ILA2002 logo

The US company is the world's leading aerospace company, producing the most satellites, commercial jetliners, and military aircraft. But Boeing is conspicuously absent at Berlin's ILA.

Boeing shows Berlin the cold shoulder

Boeing prefers to show its newest products on British soil rather than in Berlin. Perhaps because the Americans see Britain as a closer ally. After all, Britain has been playing a much more loyal role in the US-led "War against Terror" than some other European nations.

European Union countries like France and Germany have been critical of US military operations and don't share American views of an "axis of evil". They refuse to see countries like Iraq and Iran as a rogue states and continue doing business with these nations.

Military secrets

The fact that Europe is on relatively friendly terms with some countries the US administration considers "evil" hasn't helped European makers of military technology, airplanes and satellites. Some American defense contractors have shied away from doing business with European partners because they fear military technology could get into the wrong hands.

In addition, the US government has largely been placing orders with American companies in an effort to stabilize the country's economy - especially after September 11.

Optimism in Europe after 9/11 shock

Swissair

Swissair planes

The aviation industry was among the hardest hit by the effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Flight bookings dropped, airlines have gone out of business and many of those that still fly have cancelled orders for new planes. According to industry estimates, airlines lost some 16.5 billion euro ($ 15 billion) last year.

But the European manufacturers hope that ILA2002 will turn the tide. "In these difficult times for the aviation industry, ILA2002 will send a signal that things are moving again," said Hans Eberhard Birke, Managing Director of the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI).

According to BDLI president Rainer Hertrich, the European air- and space industry has numerous reasons to be optimistic. Among them the start of construction on the European satellite navigation system Galileo, the Airbus A380 and the Airbus A400M – Europe's biggest joint military project ever. Hertrich said the A 400 M would create 40,000 jobs in Europe – 12,000 of them in Germany.

Airbus A400 M

Computer animation showing military plane Airbus A 400 M.

Eight European countries have teamed up for the A400 M project. They plan to produce 196 Airbus A400 planes worth some 18 billion euro ($ 16.5 billion). But not all partners have signed on the dotted line for the costly project. Hertrich hopes the defense deal will be made perfect before the end of this month.

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