Berlin Air Show (ILA) 2006 Review
Tuesday 16th May - Sunday 21st May
Travelling from East Anglia to Berlin and back in the same day is not a new concept; having been a common occurrence just over 60 years ago. With the recent growth in the "low cost" airline market, this is an option now available to any member of the public with a passport and the readies. As luck would have it the 2006 ILA was being held at the same Airport (Schönefeld) that is the Berlin "out of town" destination for one such "low cost" airline flying out of Stansted. Trade shows are not everybody's cup of tea, but there was enough of interest, especially an opportunity to view the recently finished Me 262 Schwalbe (D-IMTT or Tango-Tango,) to make such a trip for me worthwhile.
grabbed his camera bag and set off early Saturday morning to spend a day amongst the masses to bring you this report. All photography by the author.
The passenger terminal at Schönefeld is on the opposite side of the airfield to where the ILA was being held, but a free shuttle bus service was laid on to take arriving visitors to the show. The volume of traffic arriving for the show caused minor delays to entry. With a pre-ordered and self printed ticket (using the internet) and an efficient and swift security check, it was one of the least traumatic arrivals at an air show in recent memory. The first thing that struck me on walking through the static aircraft park, was the sheer volume of people. This was soon alleviated at 10 O'clock when the main show opened and the full exhibition area was opened up.
What was there? A large Russian contingent was represented by an IL76 TD-90VD (making its International debut and being used to transport various helicopters to the ILA) flanked by a Beriev Be-200-ES at one end of the apron. Just opposite there was a even larger American presence, in the form of a B-1B Lancer, a KC-135 and a C-17A Globemaster (named appropriately Spirit of Berlin by Chancellor Kohl and President Clinton in 1998 to commemorate the Berlin Airlift).
Airbus Industries however was one of the stars of the show, with the first public appearance in Germany of the A380, which together with the A340-600 dominated the static. There was an opportunity to view the MiG-29OVT at close quarters, along with representatives of most of the types currently operated by the Bundeswehr. Red Bull had a selection of their aircraft on show, and seems to have a larger airforce than some smaller European air arms. Eurocopter had all their latest kit on show including the Tiger.
The flying display was due to start an hour after the show opened, so my walk around the exhibits was cut short to find a suitable position at the crowd line. I decided to head for the right hand of the limited area available, a decision that was to prove not to be the best, as became apparent as the show got underway. The show opened with a parade of the airport safety vehicles. Schönefeld has two parallel runways, the northernmost being used for passenger traffic throughout the display. An early departure was the Dornier Do 24 ATT, which wasn't to be seen again! One familiar sight was the A1 Skyraider, ably displayed by John Beattie. The Airbus trio of A318, A340 and A380 cavorted around the skies in ways only empty airliners can do.
A spirited display by the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM was followed by a French based Spitfire XIX and Corsair.
One of the main attractions for me was the appearance of the recently finished Me262 replica of the Messerschmitt Stiftung (foundation) along with an Me109G-6 of the EADS corporation. The 262 was the forerunner of all combat jets and the first jet aircraft to go into mass production and enter service. Over 1400 were made, but there are none airworthy amongst the five complete airframes that are in museums around the world. This example was built in the USA using information taken from one owned by the US Navy at Willow Grove. It is the second replica to have flown and the first single seat version. The display consisted of a few flypasts the engines being quieter, less smoky and hopefully more reliable than the Jumo engines originally fitted. The ‘109 display was a more spirited affair with tip vortices being evident at times.
The huge Sikorsky CH-53G performed well, but not with the same imagination and flair British air show attendees are now used to from the RAF Chinook and Merlin displays.
The Eurocopter Tiger performed a dynamic routine, but could have done with firing some flares to punctuate the display, much as the Dutch Apache had done at last year's RIAT. A Transall making a low level drop of a large pallet of supplies was a sight not often seen.
The incredible MiG-29OVT with its vectoring nozzles seemed keen to display as far away from the airport as possible, with the take off manoeuvre being made using about the left third of the runway. Unfortunately most of his display was too far away to photograph, but the aerobatics were interesting to see (if you have good eyesight!) nonetheless. A professional display was performed by the Patrouille Suisse in their F-5Es terminating with a fanburst firing flares.
The weather for the first half of the display was superb, but by the time the set piece airfield attacks took place it had taken a turn for the worse. These were heralded by the appearance of a NATO E-3A followed by a "dogfight" between a pair of Eurofighters and an F-4F. The mismatch was evident with the F-4F being on full afterburner for most of the time and the two Eurofighters seeming to play with and almost running rings around it without much effort. There followed an airfield attack by a large amount of Tornados (10+) and two Eurofighters. At this point the heavens opened and the mass of German army CH-53G and Eurocopter Tigers were viewed from the dryness of the shuttle bus back to the Airport.
Overall it's an enjoyable if tiring way to visit an airshow, if you live near a suitable airport and the flights operate as advertised. Lebensraum has been a bone of contention and caused a lot of grief in Germany's past, but better use of the space they already have would make for less hassle and better conditions, at least for airshow visitors!