AERO shows hints at hope

April 1, 2009

Spokesmen for Friedrichshafen, Germany’s AERO show, weren’t kidding when they told of record levels of exhibitors and pre-registered attendees, even though they made the announcement on April Fool’s Day. AERO is Europe’s biggest only all-general aviation trade show. This year, there are 625 exhibitors from 27 nations—up 12 percent from the last AERO in 2007. Attendance is expected to top out well over 17,000 visitors.

Formerly a biennial event, AERO has proven so popular that from now on it will be held annually, here at this picturesque location at the Friedrichshafen Airport (ICAO identifier: EDNY) on the shores of Lake Constance. The 11 exhibit halls—up from 2007’s seven—are built to resemble huge hangars. But the airport’s biggest hangar is reserved for Zeppelin NT, the company that has been making airships since 1900. At AERO, you can buy a half-hour ride in a Zeppelin for about $200.

Klaus Weissmann, managing director of the Friedrichshafen convention center, said in opening remarks that 70 percent of visitors to AERO hold private or higher pilot certificates. Clemens Bollinger, director of the German Aero Club, emphasized Europe’s 50,000-strong fleet of GA aircraft, which includes 2,800 turbine-powered airplanes and 90,000 gliders.

Rainer Herzberg, editor of helicopter magazine Rotorblatt, said Europe’s oil and gas industry needs to hire 200 pilots by the end of 2009 in order to meet increasing demand for transportation to offshore platforms.

Michael Erb, AOPA-Germany’s managing director, spoke for the 18,000 members of AOPA-Germany—as well as AOPA’s worldwide membership of 470,000 members. “We may not be sure of when we will emerge from the current recession,” Erb said. “But AERO proves what we do know, and that’s that demand for general aviation services and utility remains strong.”

This year’s AERO emphasizes green technology in a hall dubbed the “e-flight-expo.” New forms of propulsion will be on display at the show, including new-generation lithium-ion batteries, solar power, and hybrid gas/solar engines. A solar-powered glider, an American design called the Sunseeker, which has racked up 500 flight hours, will also be here. For more information on what AERO is calling this new “electrical, ecological, and evolutionary” approach to environmentally friendly aircraft power, visit the Web site.

Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne | AOPA Pilot Editor at Large, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.