Our concluding report from Europe’s most interesting airshow (certainly for those interested in affordable aviation) speaks to the challenges for big event organizers in the restrictive atmosphere of Covid mandates.
As recently as seven weeks before the show was to open (about as close to the show as I dared to wait to make airline and hotel reservations), Aero Friedrichshafen 2022 was not allowed to open. Yes, literally with only a few weeks to go, Roland Bosch and his team did not even know if the event would be permitted. Their anxiety level must have been off the charts.
U.S. shows, such as Sun ‘n Fun and AirVenture, missed only the 2020 events for each. That was bad enough. One week of Sun ‘n Fun provides a large share of the organization’s total annual budget. Missing one show was very expensive. Missing two in a row had the potential to drown the enterprise in expenses.
Thank the skygods it did not work out that way. Sun ‘n Fun 2021 was a big success, followed by AirVenture 2021 in July. You could almost feel the sighs of relief from both organizations. All who attended were thrilled to be onsite.
Contrast that with Aero. Its German organizers were forced to skip two years. Had the 2022 event been cancelled by authorities still trying to stop the virus, we might never have seen another Aero. Now, it’s my turn to give an enormous sigh of relief. I’ve gone to this show more than 20 times and I regard it as the most important in Europe, comparing fairly to Sun ‘n Fun or AirVenture.
In this report, our European correspondent, Marino Boric provides a final report on the event. I hope you enjoy it. —DJ
Aero 2022 is now one for the history books and I can say it was a success. Actually, I should say, “What a great success!”
In retrospect, this Aero 2022, held from the 27th to 30th of April in Friedrichshafen, Germany was probably the most important edition economically for the organizer. The restart after two years of pause was successful, even extremely successful, and the planning for the next edition is underway.
Surviving the Pandemic
Over the last two years without Aero, the aviation community in Europe had virtually hibernated. The importance of Aero 2022 was evident from the first day. People simply wanted to talk to each other in direct contact and not via the Internet or by online [Zoom] meetings.
The pandemic’s effect on this Aero was not an important topic. It was something belonging in the past and only here and there would you see a person wearing a mask. The pandemic was not the only challenge Aero organizers faced, however.
There was a huge threatening shadow, the dark cloud called war in Ukraine, but the effect of this terrible situation was not too obvious …just few empty spots in the show informed us that not all exhibitors could make it.
The 2022 Aero was for the organizers very important, if not the most important of all editions because just few weeks prior the kick-off it was not clear if it will take place at all.
As the event started on Wednesday, what a relief it was, feeling and looking much like years past. Aircraft, people, voices, novelties, all the vibrant trade fair was present with good, some even said excellent, sales.
Even for Aero staff this edition was a milestone as longtime Aero team leader, Roland Bosch, handed the reins over after 30 years to Tobias Bretzel.
Some 27,700 visitors from 75 nations flooded the exhibition center on the Friedrichshafen airport in the very south of Germany. This 2022 event was almost completely booked with 633 exhibitors. (To put those figures in some perspective, the strongest years for Aero topped 40,000 attendees and has exceeded 700 exhibitors. As with Sun ‘n Fun and AirVenture in 2021, some people and some exhibitors may have stayed home from Aero 2022 but those who attended were excited to be present. Also, Aero counts visitors differently than the American shows. —DJ)
Pace of Aircraft Development
The general aviation industry has made good use of the past few years of Aero’s forced hiatus. Even during the virus crisis, research and development departments have been working on new products and services that make flying more sustainable, safer and easier.
Tobias Bretzel, project manager of trade show organizer, said, “Manufacturers, customers, and interested parties were once again able to sense the resilience and innovative power of the industry at Aero. The spirit of optimism and the impetus generated by Aero 2022 will have an impact far beyond the trade show.”
At Aero 2022, the visitors experienced a greater number of new products and innovations than ever before in the history of Aero. Clearly, manufacturers worked hard and in relative isolation preparing themselves for the Aero restart.
A wave of development puts us journalists under tremendous pressure — the quantities and the quality of news and new products was in my opinion twice as high as in “normal” years. More Aero 2022 reporting is available in this article.
Technological Generation Change
The topic of sustainability was omnipresent. As some developers address this goal, aviation is facing a technological generation change in propulsion.
Which type of drive — electric, hybrid-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, or bio- and eFuels — may prevail in the future is not yet foreseeable and was the subject of many discussions at the most extensive Aero conference program ever. What is certain, however, is that the future of aviation will be sustainable.
Aero offered a Sustainable Aviation Trail — clearly marked by large green balloons in the exhibits of participating exhibitors — highlighting exhibitors that are particularly committed to sustainability in aviation. Those green balloons were almost everywhere.
Remarkably, aircraft sales in Europe have held surprisingly steady through 2020 and 2021 despite Covid pandemic, probably because most countries in Europe adopted two years ago a weight increase for European ultralight aircraft to 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds; France 525 kilograms or 1,157 pounds).
European ultralights — roughly the same as American LSA — have experienced an ongoing positive trend, actually stronger than many expected or feared after event cancellations in 2020 and 2021.
Eco-friendly aircraft and green balloon markers were common at Aero 2022. Why are Europeans apparently more attuned to “sustainable” aircraft? One reason is the high price of fuel (a fact even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine). Auto gas is presently running close to $10 per gallon and 100LL avgas is not commonly available except at major airports. Reportedly, most airfields in Europe supply mogas for about a 10% premium where 100LL can reach $12-15 per gallon.
Among the new products on display for the first time at Aero was Elixir Aircraft 915iS two-seat training and touring aircraft from a French company using the 141 horsepower Rotax 915iS engine, the VL3 Evolution ultralight aircraft from the Belgian/Czech manufacturer JMB Aircraft with a turboprop engine from the French manufacturer Turbotech, plus the Junkers A50 Junior and Junkers A60 ultralight aircraft.
There were also many innovations to be discovered in aircraft systems and accessories at Aero 2022, from new avionics and new software for flight planning and execution to aviation-related services.
Dates for next year’s Aero have been set from April 19-22, 2023. Learn more about this great show.