ILA 2018 Shows Positive Signals from Berlin

July 12, 2018
Innovation and Leadership in Aerospace attracted 180,000 visitors and more than 1,100 exhibitors from 41 countries

ILA Berlin had some difficulties in the past but the 2018 edition swept away many clouds which were on ILA horizon. The ILA 2018 has grown, attracted from April 25 to 29 more visitors, and re-invented itself with the help of the military segment, army suppliers, innovation, and more aviation skilled personnel recruitment efforts.

This ILA exceeded its own and general (media) expectations. In the past ILA was in even years a "replacement" or a small placeholder/alternate for the Paris Airshow event which takes place in uneven years. This year this attitude changed quite a bit. Even us, media, were surprised by the ILA vitality, or by the number of visitors, their quality, and most important the new contents and energy in them. ILA stands for Internationale Luftfahrt Ausstellung or International Aviation Exhibition but since 2016 this was exchanged by Innovation and Leadership in Aerospace - what proved to be true in this edition. 

The ILA 2018 clearly exceeded the organizers' expectations. 150,000 visitors were expected but surprisingly 180,000 were counted at the end of the five-day event. More than 1,100 exhibitors from 41 countries presented themselves (a small increase compared to 2016), their products and services at the Berlin ExpoCenter at BBI (Berlin Brandenburg International) airport.

This 20 percent visitors increase can be contributed only in part to an additional day of the show. Weather was not really favorable and many typical April showers have disturbed a part of the daily airshow which was never a real event magnet; specially not for the aviation professionals.

The German Army, the Bundeswehr's procurement projects, and the European military procurement departments were responsible for the ILA upswing. A new ILA focus on the topics of innovation, Industry 4.0, and the recruitment of new skilled aviation personnel proved to work well, surprisingly well. Not only the large corporations showed innovations, research projects, and futuristic concepts, also smaller and mid sized companies presented their innovative strength quite offensively. The ILA was organized by the BDLI (the German Aerospace Industries Association, Berlin), and Messe Berlin GmbH. ILA will soon have an uncommon problem; ILA organizers have a contract with the BBI airport for the organization of one more edition of the ILA in 2020, as the BBI airport finally intends to officially open its doors in October 2020 and there is room for only one show edition in May 2020. ILA will have to move to another site which is not yet being officially communicated. Leipzig International Airport could be a suitable alternative due to its location (some 100 miles SW) and pretty low intensity daytime airline traffic; the airport is mainly active during a night as it is open 24/7 and is home of a DHL.

What at ILA was obvious was the change in perception of Europe and its needs; Europe has understood that it can't rely any more on former (specially overseas) partners and that the future of Europe and its defense strategy has to be solved by its own resources.

Volker Thum, chief executive of the BDLI, reported outstanding results: “This ILA was the ’best ILA ever‘. Over the past five days we have not only presented a new definition for innovation, but also a new dimension. We have brought the future of our sector into the present, making the unique fascination of our industry’s products come alive. The new spirit of innovation was evident everywhere: in the halls, at the static display, in the air, and in space."

Military Orders Created an ILA Upswing

The procurement plans of the German Army, the Bundeswehr, clearly dominated the fair. More military liveries were spotted this year in Berlin and the number of escorted, black VIP limousines with tinted windows increased dramatically. It was no coincidence that Lockheed Martin timed the world premiere of the CH-53K King Stallion, heavy lift helicopter of its subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft to this ILA. Boeing also brought the CH-47 Chinook to Berlin and showcased them on the ground and in the air. Both helicopters are in the race for the order for a successor of the Bundeswehr's CH-53G - here we are talking of 45 to 60 units. An invitation to tender from the Ministry of Defense is expected later this year.

The successor to the Tornado fighter aircraft was also a major topic of the ILA 2018. Here, the three manufacturers seeking the contract handed over the Request for Information (RFI) information on Monday before the show began. In addition to the Eurofighter consortium, Boeing competed with the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin with the F-35A Lightning II for the lucrative contract.

Aircraft on ILA

200 aircraft of all sizes and categories, from many epochs of aviation history, were on display. Beside the above mentioned helicopters there were many “giants of the air” such as the 100th A380 to be delivered to Emirates, the A350 and A340 BLADE, the Beluga Super Transporter from Airbus, Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-8, and the largest transport aircraft in the world, the six-engine Antonov 225. The presentation also featured an impressive range of military aircraft. These included the Eurofighter combat aircraft, the A400M military transport, the Tiger combat helicopter, and the French Rafale, the Kawasaki P1 marine reconnaissance aircraft from Japan. The United States was well above the average represented, with the ultra-modern multi-role Lockheed Martin F35.

France - ILA Partner Country

France was a partner country of the ILA 2018 show this year. The French-German cooperation was thematically highlighted at the ILA and the German Federal Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen said during her joint visit to the fair with her French counterpart Florence Parly: "The ILA is an excellent business card for the Federal Republic of Germany and this year especially a symbol of German-French friendship and cooperation." This statement was not flanked by aircraft in the static display, where we could find only a Dassault Falcon 2000LXS, a Rafale, and a C-130J of the Armée de l'Air. French aircraft were a minority in the almost crushing mass of aircraft of the U.S. Forces. The two ministers signed several letters of intent for joint armaments programs at the ILA, including a sixth-generation combat aircraft to be jointly developed, a new seafaring reconnaissance mission, and a new generation of armored land vehicles.

Airbus and Dassault Aviation have agreed to combine their resources and work together to develop and construct Europe’s Future Combat Air System–FCAS. This system is being designed to supplement and eventually replace - between 2035 and 2040 - the current generation of combat aircraft, the Eurofighter and Rafale.

Airbus MALE

The first full scale model of the European medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) remotely piloted air system (RPAS) was unveiled at the ILA. The European MALE project was jointly developed by Airbus, Dassault Aviation, and Leonardo. It features a twin turboprop with pusher-propeller which is necessary for the unmanned aircraft to safely operate in commercial/civil airspace and has grown in size and is slightly larger as the GA-ASI MQ-9 Reaper.

Airbus BLADE, the airborne laboratory, made its first ever trade show debut at the ILA. BLADE, the Airbus flying laboratory stands for ”Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe.” Funded by the EU’s Clean Sky program, it involves replacing the external portion of the wings of an A340 with new components whose external shape is designed to improve the airflow. “Normally turbulence is created at the leading edge of the wing, but in this case this only occurs in the middle of the wing,” explains Alex Flaig, senior vice president R&T. Flaig mentioned that the 66 hours of test flights have confirmed expectations in full. The flow resistance diminished by 10 percent, cutting fuel consumption and pollutant emissions by 5 percent. A fully operational laminar wing for narrow body aircraft could be ready as soon as 2020.

The Smart Engine That Repairs Itself

With increasing digitization aircraft engines are becoming smarter too. Rolls-Royce presented its vision of an Intelligent Engine at the ILA 2018, featuring even more inter-connectivity, context-sensitivity, and learning ability. This envisages that all the engines in an airline’s fleet will be able to communicate with one another and identify the need for any required maintenance or repair work in advance.

Ariane Group Under Its Own Name

A fully automated spray system for the thermal insulation of rockets was one of the highlights of the display by the Ariane Group at the ILA. This German-French cooperative venture, the main contractor for the “Ari-ane“ range of launchers, is appearing at the trade show under its own name for the first time this year.

Innovation Awards

The Innovation Awards of German Aviation were presented at the Future Lab at the ILA with a 50 percent increase in the number of entrants. In the category of Industry 4.0 the award went to Premium Aerotec ALM manufacturer, in the Emissions Reduction section the prize went to Airbus Operations with its H2Torque fuel cell, a climate-neutral powerplant for aircraft. In the Cross Innovation group the award was won by Rolls-Royce, Scholly Fiberoptic, and Fraunhofer IPK for the development of an endoscopic cleaning system that extends the operating life of turbine blades. (see image of H2, read more in next editions of AMT.)

Airbus H2Torque

Airbus won the Innovation Prize at ILA for its fuel cell demonstrator “Hydrogen to Torque (H2T) Imponator”. The awarded H2T showed how a new hydrogen-powered fuel cell system could in future replace the auxiliary power unit (APU) in aircraft. H2T uses the electrical energy created in the fuel cells to directly drive an electric mini-engine and a running shaft.


The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB, the world’s most efficient large aero engine flying today, took center stage at ILA 2018.

Close to the R-R stand the TUM (Technical University of Munich) scientists showcased the model of the world’s most powerful aerospace gearbox which is planned to go into service in 2025. It is part of the Rolls-Royce UltraFan design and will transfer up to 100,000 hp. In a project supported by the German federal government, scientists at TUM are investigating how the gearbox’s properties vary according to size and how it can be optimized. (see image of the Gearbox, read more in next editions of AMT.)


The ILA 2018 was accompanied by a large number of conferences. The highlight was the Berlin Aviation Summit, held for the first time by the BDLI and DLR on the eve of the ILA. Leading representatives of the global aerospace industry discussed a roadmap for the future of aviation. Just after the main gate, in the hall Nr. With a display featuring many high-tech products, the Future Lab on the stand of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs provided insights into the technological future of the aviation industry, from a mobile charging point for drones to the pilotless CityAirbus.

ILA Career Center was Germany’s biggest job center for careers and training in the aerospace industry. Some 40 companies and institutions presented opportunities for training, jobs and careers. School leavers could also find out about a large selection of university courses which will open the door to a wide range of career opportunities in aviation. The exhibition was accompanied by discussions, lectures and workshops.

N3 Debut

N3 Engine Overhaul Services, a company operated jointly by Lufthansa Technik and Rolls-Royce for the maintenance and repair of Trent engines, had its own stand at the ILA for the first time. N3, based in Arnstadt, Thuringia, was founded 11 years ago, and is now ready for further expansion. So far almost 1,000 Trent series 500, 700, and 900 engines have been overhauled and the first Trent XBW will follow. The number of serviced engines is expected to increase by a quarter to around 150, while the workforce has expanded by 70 in recent months to 670. The 11th technical training course at N3 begins in September. (Read more on this company shortly in AMT.)

The date for the next ILA, the ILA 2020, has already been fixed: it will take place from May 13 to 17, 2020.