Aero 2019 was held again at Messe Friedrichshafen on the northern banks of Lake Constance in central Europe. The exhibition delivers a consistently pleasing balance of trade fair, camaraderie, progress, esprit de corps, solidarity, and fine cuisine. It lacks the enormity, nay listless spectators and petulant weather, of comparable shows in the U.S.; and that’s just fine with the vendors and punters it’s intended to draw.
Europeans categorically think of General Aviation (GA) as those aircraft not used in scheduled or chartered air traffic, essentially characterizing them as “sport” aircraft with the occasional appendage of “utility.” Much of what might be characterized as purpose-built aircraft in the U.S. are simply folded into sport aviation in Europe, and this is particularly evident at Aero. Style is pervasive, flair dominates, and a strong sense of nationalism and personality distinguish one European offering from another.
Take for example the Blackshape Gabriél. This aircraft is an outgrowth the company’s Blackshape Prime, popular for sport flying. Co-branded with Transavia, Gabriél is a prime example of the crossover between sport and utility as its intended role is training for the airline. Stylish Italian design teamed with Transavia, an Air France/KLM subsidiary, to promote the Gabriél as a flight training platform.
Ultralight aviation also characterizes a large part of GA in Europe where it maintains a distinctly different certification class from the U.S. Aero is dominated by light aircraft. However, at this show this distinction may refer to multiple certification standards, including Ultralight (UL), Very Light Aircraft (VLA), the U.S. standard Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA), and a large number of small EASA CS-23 / FAR Part 23 certified aircraft. Examples include the Shark from Letisko of the Slovak Republic,“a type of airplane that flies safe and efficient,” and the Fly Synthesis Syncro LSA and UL from Italy.
General aviation in Europe also flourishes at the intersection of speed and style. More examples at Aero included the Tomark Viper SD4 all metal two seater from Slovak Republic, and the colorful Belmont Patino from Latvia.
AERO Friedrichshafen is “Europe’s largest exhibition for general aviation, and with regard to innovations and premieres, it’s the industry’s foremost exhibition in the world,” said Messe Friedrichshafen CEO, Klaus Wellmann. He speaks the truth with respect to sheer numbers of aircraft at an indoor exhibition, and in particular 1- to 2-place aircraft. The show makes its mark with a dose of European flair, for example, the TL 3000 Sirius by TL Ultralight and the VL-3 Evolution JMB Aircraft greeted visitors with beauty and style.
Aero offers more.
While the most crowded areas at Aero, namely the corridors connecting Halls A3 through A6, were designated for general aviation services, equipment, engines, pilot supplies, and avionics (including Garmin, which is gaining a foothold in Europe) there were many other interesting areas to browse.
Twelve large hangar halls at Messe Friedrichshafen are complemented by an outdoor static display area populated by pre-owned aircraft for sale, a small collection of military and historic aircraft, and the Europa-Park Zeppelin on the adjacent airfield. German military technology was on display at Aero. Inside were search-and-rescue and law enforcement helicopters. Outdoors was a German Luftwaffe Tornado.
Europe loves its gliders, such as the L23 Super Blaník all-metal glider remake. In 2019 the “sailplanes” displays were moved to Hall A1 at main entrance.
Eastern and Western Europe differ ideologically according to Christoph Becker, editor of FliegerRevue magazine, speaking specifically with regards to a fascination for aviation. The East is rife with engineering, design, development and has a long manufacturing history in this industry. For non-German speakers, I was told, the aircraft featured in FliegerRevue provide “aviation eye-candy.”
Junkers Flugzeugwerke from Dübendorf is one of the Swiss aircraft makers represented at the Aero. The company is currently building a second replica of the six-seater Junkers F13, an all-metal transport plane originally constructed in 1919. A recently completed F13 is flying under the Rimowa moniker. The company hopes to produce at least five units of this classic design from original blueprints.
When old and new technology meet, the results are some interesting aircraft that seem to exist without any particular reference to time and place. Those at Aero include the Bücker Bü 133 Jungmeister Liesel Bach on display and the FK12 Comet tandem folding-wing biplane produced in Germany.
Power to the piston
Sustainable and e-flight (electronic flight) continue to be nascent technologies in the aviation world. However, a newly vinted and unusual-looking aircraft featured at AERO was the “flying wing” made by Horten Aircraft from Eisenach, Germany. Another notable design presented at Aero was the vertical take-off and landing e-flyer AutoflightX which, figuratively speaking, plans to elevate transport.
Two sides of the Altantic
North American and European aviators maintain a strong bond. This is evidenced by nearly every vendor at Aero. They are well aware that their market is not limited to one continent. Airplus of Germany, which markets unique products for aircraft performance and customization, is responding to overwhelming demand for installation of ADS-B equipment in the U.S. by providing this capability on business aircraft flown to Europe.
A number of exhibitors at Aero 2019 admitted to being travel-worn, having just arrived from a week in Florida at the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in. Back-to-back shows this year put a strain on personnel. Curiously, though perhaps favorably, the two shows will occur at the same time in 2020 making it imperative that duties be divided, rather than sweeping. Aero Friedrichshafen 2020 will be held April 1–4.
A condensed version of this article was published in General Aviation News, May 23, 2019.