It’s Aero time again. An exhibition center next to the airport in Friedrichshafen, Germany, has hosted Aero Friedrichshafen since 1977. It has become a rite of spring for European aviation, and the biggest event on the continent dedicated solely to general aviation. This year, 757 exhibitors are expected to show off their wares to some 42,000 visitors.
Those aren’t EAA AirVenture numbers, but the administrators of the show are justifiably proud of Aero’s development over the years. My first visit here was in the mid-1990s, when the show was held every other year. It was a fraction of today’s size. Now, it’s an annual event, filling 11 large halls designed to resemble the shape and proportions of giant airplane hangars. Just outside those halls is the static display area. And beyond that is a truly huge hangar that houses Zeppelin NT airships. (Zeppelins have always been built at Friedrichshafen.)
On hand was Roland Bosch, Aero’s department head, who said he viewed the show as a driver of growth in GA. “In the 1980s came the ultralights, then more and more innovative products,” he said, in response to the high cost of avgas and the strict regulations affecting mainstream GA flying in Europe. “EAA may have its airshow and its many visitors,” he added, “but Aero is a trade show for experts as well as pilots and other enthusiasts,” pointing out that this year’s Aero will host 200 conferences, lectures, and workshops—virtually all of them focusing on current and future GA trends and technology.
Take today’s eVTOL movement, with electric vertical takeoff and landing designs making new headlines almost daily, a breathless media foretelling the imminent arrival of a George Jetson future. “eVTOL is nothing new at Aero,” Bosch said. “It’s had a special display area here for several years.”
Bosch, convention CEO Klaus Wellmann, Aero project lead Tobias Bretzel, and guide Juergen Schelling then took us on a quick tour of some the show’s exhibits. The first stop offered a look at a Schempp-Hirth Arcus M self-launching sailplane. Equipped with a retractable, 68-horsepower Solo 2625 engine, the 1,212-pound (empty) sailplane can cruise as fast as 151 knots under power, or soar like a competition sailplane with the engine retracted.
Next was a look at Cirrus’s Vision Jet, a new single-engine business jet well-known to U.S. pilots. Next door to the Vision Jet was Daher’s TBM 930—a stand-in for the TBM 940 that’s currently in flight test. The 940 will come with autothrottles and an automated ice-protection system that triggers when ice-sensing probes detect the onset of ice accretions.
A Junkers F 13 was also on hand. Designed in 1919 and built until 1932, the F 13 has an open cockpit and an enclosed cabin for four passengers. It was the first all-metal airplane design, and with its corrugated skin, looks like a shrunken, single-engine Junkers Ju 52. Though the design is celebrating its 100th year, you can still buy one new. Powered by a 450-hp Pratt & Whitney R-985 radial engine, it can cruise as fast as 105 knots. What price history? You can find out if you fork over $2.5 million.
The show’s e-Flight Expo display area featured a number of designs powered by Siemens electric engines. Bye Aerospace’s eFlyer was one such design. Others included Siemens-inspired designs like the hybrid-electric Smartflyer (powered by a vertical stabilizer-mounted Siemens engine), the all-electric Alice cabin-class V-tail design (powered by engines mounted on the wingtips and tailcone), the seven-engine (three on each wing, one on the vertical stab) hybrid-electric Apus i-6, and R.S. Aero’s hybrid-electric elfin powered sailplane.
Photos of Diamond’s prototype hybrid-electric project, the twin-engine HEMEP (hybrid-electric multi-engine plane) was on display, and so was Flight Designs’ F2e single-engine two-seater. As for eVTOL designs, there was Airbus’ CityAirBus, driven by four massive, ducted fans.
A few halls down and it was time for the future-as-past category with the Horten HX-2 flying wing. Yes, the original Ho-2 was built in 1935, but this is a smaller version, powered by a 100-hp Rotax 912iS engine. Not sure what a Horten looks like? Remember that fight scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where that German mechanic backed into a propeller? That was a Horten. But a mockup for the movie, of course.
I’ll have more news tomorrow, so stay tuned.