Air Show Report : ILA 2014 Berlin Air Show
ILA 2014 Berlin Air Show
Report by Helmut Richter from the Internationale Luftfahrtausstellung (ILA) 2014 held during May 20-25, 2014, at the "Berlin ExpoCenter Airport" on Berlin-Brandenburg Airport near Schönefeld. Photos by the author, including the arrival and departure days.
The ILA show and its framework
ILA (Internationale Luftfahrtausstellung) is the German national aerospace trade show, which is held bi-annually at Berlin - Schönefeld. It has been struggling to find its place in competition with other traditional and larger trade shows, in particular Le Bourget and Farnborough, as well as with shows emerging more recently like Dubai, Singapore and others.
While, overall, the number of exhibitors and visitors has stayed stable for the last shows, ILA has increasing difficulties to attract major players in particular from the US and it is not a show where major announcements and sales are made. However, ILA has managed to establish a major, well attended conference programme.
From 2012, ILA has moved to a new show ground at the north-east side of the new south runway of Schönefeld airport. The new site has been well accepted by the exhibitors and trade visitors, but what makes ILA attractive for the military aircraft enthusiast and photographer?
In the first place, the use of the south runway for the flight displays means that there are backlight conditions for most of the show hours from the exhibition ground, only after 4pm the light conditions become acceptable. Unfortunately, to move to the south side outside the airport premises is not a good option because this area is very widely blocked by the police for traffic and pedestrians not only during the show itself but already several days before the show opening.
Because the south runway is not yet in regular use for airport traffic, it has only been used for VFR arrivals and departures for the 2012 and 2014 shows. Most fixed wing participants were using the north runway for IFR arrival due to weather conditions and many enthusiasts opted for the better access of the north runway approaches. Only some fighters and most helicopters used VFR for their arrival/departure. With these limited opportunities from outside the airport, I decided that the showground itself should be the best choice for photographing the arrivals and departures, because I had managed to have access at all times before, during and after the show.
ILA2014 military participants
Despite the less than ideal photo conditions, a particularly attractive range of military participants from various air forces made ILA 2014 an interesting event for the military aircraft enthusiast.
ILA has traditionally been one of the rare events, where the German armed forces not only show their whole range of assets in static display but also give a demonstration of their combined operational capability.
The name of this year’s demo was Willfire 2014 and it combined a total of four Tornados, two EF2000s, two Tigers and a single Lynx, CH-53, Transall and A310. A civil-registered PC-9 was used to simulate a target for interception after airspace violation.
The Willfire demo was nice to look at, but photography was difficult. All aircraft participating in Willfire, with the exception of the Tiger and Lynx helicopters, operated from their home bases. For photography, I decided to try several places south of the airport fence, mostly outside the blocked area, because the main display line was somewhat south of the runway. Still, I had to use the full 400mm focal length of my zoom lens, a 1.4X converter and considerable cropping for most shots to get to the images shown here, which nevertheless should give a flavour of the Willfire action.
The EF2000 solo display was flown daily from Laage air base. 31+17 was one of several aircraft used and its picture was also taken from outside the airport.
The range of ground shots, mostly from the departure day, shows that several of the German aircraft types were present with more than one example. Unfortunately, I missed most of the fast jets including three Tornados, but I was pleased to capture the ASSTA 3.1 test aircraft 98+77 of WTD61. While the ASSTA 3 upgrade to add guided weapon and tactical data link capability is currently performed for the 85 Tornados to remain in service, the ASSTA3.1 upgrade adds the replacement of the rear cockpit CRT displays by colour displays and further improvements to the datalink capability. There were two Heeresflieger UH-1Ds present, both in SAR livery. They had operated previously with Luftwaffe’s HSG64, which now operates the CH-53s instead. The UH-1Ds will not be around for much longer. The SAR role is increasingly taken over by civil services and the Heeresflieger will retire the UH-1D in 2016.
For each ILA a partner county is selected. This year it was Turkey, resulting in a number of attractive Turkish military aircraft participating. Two F-4E-2020s from 111 Filo, one with a special colour scheme, made one of the rare VFR landings on the south runway and taxied to the display area with trailing chutes providing the opportunity for some dramatic photos. Other welcomed Turkish visitors were a B737AEW&C from 131 Filo, a T-129A ATAK, and the SoloTürk display team including Transall support aircraft. Although SoloTürk has become a common sight in Europe, the new colour scheme of the spare aircraft 90-0011 was a nice surprise.
The T-129 ATAK was for the first time shown outside Turkey. It is a development of the A129 Mangusta with higher maximum take-off weight, uprated engines, and improvements to avionics and armament. TAI is responsible for development and production. The first aircraft had been delivered to the Turkish Army earlier this year.
Traditionally, US armed forces have always sent attractive participants to ILA, in the past including the F-117A, B-1 and B-52. This year, in the light of severe budget constraints, the large presence by the USAF and US Army was particularly welcome. After, initially, a pair of MV-22’s had been announced, these were replaced by a single A-10 from a detachment of the Indiana ANG to Spangdahlem. Other rather rare show participants were an AH-64D, a UH-72A and a UH-60A.
Other military participants with multiple aircraft were the Polish and Czech air forces. The Polish contributed their MiG-29 to the flight displays and the Czech added the Mi-171Sh and Mi-24V. It was the first time I saw the Czech display by two Mi-171Sh helicopters. The display rehearsal took place in the late afternoon on the arrival day in beautiful light conditions, nicely represented by their images.
The presence of two A400M aircraft, one prototype and the production aircraft N°11 with flight test number EC-401 in Armée de l'Air livery, was an indication of the production gaining pace. The first example for the Luftwaffe is due before year end. The A400M, in particular its engine, the TP400, also has a relevance for the Brandenburg region around Schönefeld. The leading Rolls-Royce site involved in the TP400 Turboprop engineering effort was Dahlewitz, just a few miles from Schönefeld, and the engine will be assembled just a few miles further in Ludwigsfelde, at the MTU plant, which is on the site of a previous very large Daimler Benz engine factory, producing piston engines during the Second World War.
I myself was involved in the early stages of the A400M engine development in the 1990’s, when the focus moved away from the initial turbofan configuration to a turboprop powerplant for what was then the Future Large Aircraft (FLA). The turboprop has some specific features like faster acceleration due to its constant speed, variable pitch propeller and its smaller intake which can be fitted with a particle separator, enabling improved access into confined and rough field locations for landing/take-off and cargo dropping, which were essential military requirements. On the other hand, turboprop powered aircraft typically have a significant speed penalty compared to turbofan powered aircraft. To minimise this penalty, the TP400 engine is designed to push the A400M maximum cruise speed up to a Mach number of 0.72, which is at the limit of single rotation propeller technology and only slightly less than that of a turbofan powered aircraft. Combined with a lower fuel consumption this ensures uncompromised fleet productivity at better economics.
These technology features were enough reason for me to include a few more images of the A400M display rehearsal on the arrival day, including a few close-ups to the benefit of the mighty TP400 engines, which are the second most powerful turboprop engines next to the Kuznetsov NK-12. This engine, by the way, also has a major German heritage, because it was scaled from the TW-2 engine, itself essentially a Junkers war time design (model 022) and developed after the war in the Soviet Union involving a team of Junkers engineers.
Finally, other more regular ILA participants were also present including the RAF (with two Tornados and a Hawk T.2) and the Armée de l'Air (with the Rafale C).
Overall, despite some unfavourable conditions for the photographer, ILA 2014 in my view was an excellent opportunity for the military aviation enthusiasts with a large number of interesting participants, some of which were quite unique in this year’s airshow landscape. Also, I benefited from the fact, that my home is just minutes from Schönefeld and that I had permanent access to the show ground before, during and after the show.
Report and photos by Helmut Richter ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 21 August 2014