Half way through the International Aerospace Exhibition, ILA, in Berlin, the industry seems to be back in top shape. With contracts of €4 billion already in the bag, the future looks bright.
After a bumpy ride, air industry is flying back on track
Even before the show got underway at Berlin's Schönefeld Airport, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, EADS, took a lucrative booking for 30 Ariane-5 rockets to be delivered to Arianespace, Europe's premier commercial satellite launching firm.
The contract, which was signed in the presence of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the French Minister of Research François d'Aubert at the show in the German capital, is a big deal. Not only will it ensure Arianespace a competitive place on the international launcher market, but it will bring €3 billion to EADS and help the company plan for the longer term in a highly cyclical market. The contract was the best possible start to a show which is being widely seen as an indicator of the health of the air industry on the whole.
The momentum hasn't slowed, and the overall vibe of the third largest aerospace show has been filled with a feeling of opportunity. "ILA 2004 has been greatly influenced by NATO and EU expansion," said Rainer Hertrich, president of the German Aerospace Industries Association. Almost 1,000 exhibitors from 43 different countries have flown in to show their wares, and among the most prominent participants besides those from Western Europe and the USA, are Russia and the Ukraine. Their air collections include a 75-meter-long passenger plane, which is officially the longest in the world, the A340-600 Airbus, and the Ukrainian Antonov 124-100, the largest plane thus far, which has the capacity to carry up to 150 tons.
Airbus secured its biggest sale of the year during the show, with the U.S. budget airline Spirit putting in an order for 11 Airbus A319s and four A320s. The company also reserved an option on a further 50 aircraft. The order could keep Airbus ahead of its main rival, U.S.-based Boeing, which is the largest manufacturer in the world. Airbus is currently filling annual orders for 300 aircraft, whilst last year Boeing only delivered 281 planes.
Trade visitors to the ILA, watch display flight of Eurocopter transport helicopter NH 90-1
Helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter has also been seeking to attract new business in the German capital. The hope is that the NH90 helicopter will become widely used as an export tool, and manager Fabrice Brégier is expecting 50 clients this year.
The worst may be over
It's all good news for an industry which has been struggling to stay airborne over the past three years. With a weak world economy, the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks and then the SARS epidemic, air travel hit a bad patch of turbulence, from which it is only now beginning to emerge. The most important indicator that the industry is on an upward turn again are reports from airlines themselves that passenger numbers are back on the rise.
A model of the Ariane 5 rocket inside the Space Pavilion at ILA.
This weekend, the show, which has so far only been open to trade visitors, will throw open its doors to the general public. Organizers are expecting up to 200,000 people to come and watch the flight display programs, learn about the latest space research and check out the state-of-the-art aircraft designed to keep the industry flying high.