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ILA from 1909 to 2006: Chronicle of the World’s Oldest Air Show


ILA from 1909 to 2006: Chronicle of the World’s Oldest Air Show


Sources: Bundesverband der Deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrt-industrie (BDLI) e.V. [1], and Messe Berlin [2] GmbH. (© 2006 Messe Berlin GmbH / BDLI).


Berlin, April 25, 2006 – When the International Aerospace Exhibition takes place for the eighth time from 16 to 21 May 2006 at Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, its more than 1,000 exhibitors from over 40 countries and overall area of 250,000 square metres will make this the largest ILA ever in the 97-year history of this event. Following an absence of 64 years, in June 1992 the ILA returned to its original venue in Berlin/Brandenburg, resuming its place among the world’s major trade fairs in this industrial sector. Since then it has been held every two years on the southern section of Berlin-Schönefeld Airport. For one week the activities taking place on the site of the future Single Airport BBI will be attracting interest among exhibitors and trade visitors from all over the world, as well as delighting many members of the public, who will be able to see not only a spectacular programme of flying displays by aircraft of all sizes and categories but also to obtain wide-ranging information about all aspects of aviation and space flight.

  • Birthplace of aviation in Berlin/Brandenburg

The long history of the ILA [3] began early in the last century when the first International Aviation Exhibition (ILA) was first held in 1909. However, the initial steps had already been taken in 1891, when Otto Lilienthal [4] made mankind’s dreams of heavier-than-air flight a reality when he first launched his glider from the hill in Brandenburg known as the Windmühlenberg. Lilienthal‘s glider flights were the start of a period of rapid development in aviation and also represented the beginning of efforts to acquaint a wider public with the latest achievements in this area.


Archive Picture of Otto Lilienthal, the "Flying Man".Archive Picture of Otto Lilienthal, the "Flying Man".


 Archive Pictures of Otto Lilienthal, the "Flying Man"


It was the Frankfurt city authorities which made the breakthrough, by setting up the first International Aviation Exhibition in Germany. This first ILA lasted around 100 days, from 10 July to 17 October 1909, and was the world’s first independent aviation trade fair. It was followed a few weeks later by the Air Show at Le Bourget, which opened on 25 September 1909. In the summer of 1909, after just one year’s preparation, the organisers of the ILA were able to present a comprehensive review of the latest developments in airship construction and aviation technology in Germany to experts and a fascinated public alike.


The exhibits included airships from manufacturers such as Zeppelin [5], Parseval [6], Cluth and Ruthenberg [7], as well as balloons and several aircraft in the section entitled “Flying Machines and Models”. The star of the show was a Wright Brothers aeroplane, which had been giving flying displays in Berlin and was brought to Frankfurt for a week. By the time it closed the first ILA had attracted 500 exhibitors and one and a half million visitors.


Following the first ILA, the various different flying associations joined together in 1910 to form the federation known as the Deutscher Fliegerbund, at the instigation of the aircraft designer August Euler. [8] Shortly afterwards the Association of German Aircraft Industrialists was formed in Frankfurt am Main. In this way a direct link was established between the ILA and the organisation that later became the Bundesverband der Deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrtindustrie e.V. (BDLI), which still exists today and represents the German aerospace industry. Ever since Lilienthal carried out his first experimental flights the Berlin-Brandenburg region has been closely linked with developments in aviation in Germany and on a wider, international scale. It is therefore not surprising that the events that followed on from the first ILA should have been held at the “birthplace of human flight”.

  • The “Yellow Dog”, a great commercial success

In 1912 the ALA (General Aviation Show) in Berlin presented German aircraft engineering capabilities in this historic setting, featuring all the best known aircraft manufacturers of the time. One of the highlights was August Euler’s biplane known as the “Gelber Hund” (Yellow Dog) [8], to which a sign was attached shortly thereafter stating: “Eight sold in one day”. There was a great deal of interest in Rumpler’s “Tauben-Limousine”, a model of an aircraft designed to carry three passengers in a fully enclosed cabin.

  • 1928: “Oktoberfest” on the Berlin Exhibition Grounds

Almost 20 years after the first ILA and ten years after the end of the First World War another International Aviation Exhibition was held in Germany, in October 1928, and once again the venue was Berlin. At the time there was great public acclaim for the first East to West crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, by a Junkers W 33 “Bremen”, crewed by Köhl, von Hünefeld and Fitzmaurice [9]. This achievement also alerted the American public to Germany’s capabilities in aviation technology, as well as helping to swell the crowds who attended the ILA’28 on the Exhibition Grounds on Berlin’s Kaiserdamm.


ILA Exhibition Hall in 1928 - ILA © Photo.


ILA Exhibition Hall in 1928 - ILA © Photo


The aircraft industries of 19 countries staged their displays in three exhibition halls in the shadow of the radio tower, the Funkturm, that had been erected just two years previously. Between 7 and 28 October 1928 the public and the experts alike were able to admire some 150 aircraft, many aero-engines and almost everything else connected with aviation. All the well-known German aircraft manufacturers presented their latest developments, ranging from a lightweight sports and training aircraft, the BFW M 21, to the four-engined Dornier Superwal. One of the main attractions of the ILA 1928 was a rally to Berlin-Tempelhof involving 40 aircraft, where 21 of the participants who started off eventually landed. 

  • A new start in Langenhagen

Following the Second World War and after Germany had regained control of its own airspace in 1955, the foundations were created for the establishment of the “International Touring Aircraft Show”, which subsequently took place in 1957 at Langenhagen airfield during the Industries Fair. This was the precursor of almost thirty years of the ILA in Hanover. Known initially as the German Air Show, it acquired an increasing international dimension and from 1978 it was again held under the traditional abbreviation first used in 1909, as the “ILA”. The visit by a Soviet delegation of engineers and politicians to the ILA ’88, and impressive presentations by the Soviet, East German and Eastern European aerospace industries at the ILA ’90, gave this show an increasingly important role as a focal point for an East-West dialogue.

  • Back to its origins in Berlin/Brandenburg

The far-reaching political and economic changes that took place in Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall made it possible for the ILA to return to its historical location. The ILA ‘92 (15 –21 June) at Berlin-Schönefeld Airport underlined the claims of this event to be one of the world’s major aerospace exhibitions. Its appeal was also enhanced by its return to its former location at the heart of an increasingly integrated Europe. As the most easterly aerospace fair in the West, and the most westerly fair in the East, the ILA fulfils an important role as a hub for East-West contacts in the aerospace sector. In 1992 a total of 517 exhibitors from 23 countries presented their latest products and services to the 134,281 visitors.


The fact that the International Aerospace Exhibition is so strongly oriented towards business and the market led to the development of the “ILA means business” concept at the ILA ‘94 (28 May – 5 June). In addition to the specialist exhibition by the German and international industries, with 422 exhibitors from 27 countries, there was also an extensive programme of conferences and the introduction of the new and unique East/West Aerospace Center at the ILA’94, which also provided its 141,000 visitors with a highly attractive programme of information and displays.


This laid the foundation for the subsequent success of what is now one of the world’s most important aerospace trade fairs. With a record number of exhibitors, 578 from 30 countries, the ILA ‘96 (13-19 May) featured the entire range of products and services from the world of aerospace technology. The extensive conference programme comprised 59 conventions by national and international organisers. Once again the East/West Aerospace Center proved its value as a catalyst for East/West business. With 240 aircraft on the ground and in the air the ILA presented the largest range on offer at any comparable fair. In 1996 attendance at the exhibition site at Berlin-Schönefeld Airport totalled 216,500, including 75,000 trade visitors.


With 825 exhibitors from 32 countries, an attendance in excess of 226,000 (82,000 of them trade visitors) and 278 aircraft, the ILA ‘98 (18-24 May) was the largest and best-attended event ever. It confirmed its value as a central market place for all areas of aerospace business, including the announcement and signing of contracts worth tens of billions. The ILA convention programme included over 50 conferences. The special exhibition entitled “50th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift” was held in a 1,500 square metre marquee to commemorate what is still the greatest air transport operation of all time.


With some spectacular contracts, more foreign and domestic trade visitors than ever, and high public attendances the ILA2000 (6-12 June) featured some significant decisions by the European aerospace industry and fulfilled the high expectations of the industry, as well as providing an outstanding programme of flying displays that delighted the public by presenting many fascinating aspects of aviation. Three and a half days were reserved exclusively for trade visitors, and total attendance on the southern section of Berlin-Schönefeld Airport totalled 212,000. In comparison with the ILA ’98 the number of trade visitors increased to 84,000. By the time the half-way stage had been reached exhibitors had recorded contracts and options totalling over 50 billion DM. With these impressive achievements the ILA2000 again confirmed its role as a major European market place for the entire aerospace industry. With a record number of exhibitors, 941 from 38 countries, the seven-day ILA presented not only 316 aircraft but also numerous products, systems and services covering every aspect of aviation and space technology.


With contracts and joint venture agreements worth billions of euros, 1,067 exhibitors from 41 countries, 102,680 trade visitors from home and abroad and a total attendance of 215,150, the International Aerospace Exhibition ILA2002 (6-12 May) again confirmed its standing as a major European business centre for the entire aerospace industry. This successful event was rounded off by a new record total of 340 aircraft on display and an outstanding programme of flying displays. The constantly improving standards of professionalism and quality of the ILA were underlined by some 60 accompanying conferences, including leading political events such as the "XIX International Workshop on Global Security and the War on Terrorism", the Airbus Ministers’ Conference and the "1st International Parliamentarians’ Conference". This trade fair also drew attention to its importance as a platform for a strategically vital industry with visits by prominent politicians, headed by the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. Some 3,400 journalists from 70 countries reported on the events taking place at the International Aerospace Exhibition.


The eastward expansion of NATO and of the European Union were dominant features of the ILA2004 (10-16 May), which was accompanied by a confident mood regarding the ongoing development of the industry. During the four trade visitors’ days and the three open days some 201,500 visitors were registered, including 105,200 trade visitors. The ILA2004 was visited by more high-ranking delegations than ever before. Among those who were welcomed at this air show were the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Federal Ministers Wolfgang Clement (Economics), Peter Struck (Defence), Edelgard Bulmahn (Research) and Manfred Stolpe (Transport), the Government’s Co-ordinator for the German Aerospace Sector, Ditmar Staffelt, as well as 120 deputies from 22 European countries.


Leading representatives from the new member countries of the EU and NATO made use of the ILA2004 to exchange views and information. For example, the defence ministers from Bulgaria, Georgia, Lithuania, the Ukraine and Turkey were among those who attended the “International Workshop on Global Security”. The four ministers with responsibility for the Airbus programme from France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany met at the Airbus Ministers’ Conference. The heads of the air forces of 19 European countries, ambassadors accredited to Germany and NATO ambassadors in Brussels, military attachés in Germany and numerous delegations of economic policy-makers from many countries of Europe, North America and the Far East also attended the ILA2004 in search of information. There were more than 65 conferences at which some 6,000 experts from the various commercial sectors of the aerospace industry discussed current issues. For seven days 987 exhibitors from 43 countries occupied the southern section of Berlin-Schönefeld Airport to present the entire range of products and services featuring current and future developments in aerospace technology. A total of 331 aircraft, some making their world debut and others appearing for the first time at the ILA, were on display on the ground and in the air.


ILA Exhibition ground Display 1 - ILA © Photo.


ILA 2006 Exhibition ground Display 1 - ILA © Photo

The ILA2006 will be held from 16 to 21 May, starting with three trade visitors’ days (16-18 May) followed by three open days for the general public and including a must-see air show (19-21 May).

An Airbus A 380 flying over Schönefeld Airport - ILA © Photo.


An Airbus A 380 flying over Schönefeld Airport - ILA © Photo


A great deal of interest is bound to focus on the Airbus A380, the largest commercial aircraft ever built, which can be seen each day on the ground and in flight.


(From left to right) Marcus Brink, General Manager, Labinal SAFRAN Group; Hanno Diekmann, Sales & Marketing Manager, Labinal SAFRAN Group and Guillaume Giscard d'Estaing, Deputy Vice President International Business Development, SAFRAN Group. ILA © Photo.


Meeting at SAFRAN's booth - ILA © Photo.


The ILA2006 structure is based on a number of market sectors: “Commercial Aviation”, “Space Flight”, “Military Aviation and Defence Systems”, “Equipment and Aero Engines” and “General Aviation and Helicopters”. The dynamic, business-based character of the ILA concept is emphasised by the inclusion of two new sections in the exhibition. The International Suppliers‘ Center (ISC) provides an additional platform for equipment suppliers on the second level and upwards and will assist with the establishment of contacts with systems suppliers, with new technology, products and systems.


A Mikojan MIG-29M OVT takes off - ILA © Photo.


A Mikojan MIG-29M OVT takes off - ILA © Photo


The ILA Space World is another new feature, directly adjacent to the display by the European space industry, and bringing together other international space enterprises and agencies under one roof. In addition to the products on offer in the halls and in the outdoor displays, experts from all over the world will also have access to the latest information at more than 80 conferences.


Two Eurofighter Typhoon of the Luftwaffe execute a demonstration flight - ILA © Photo.


Two Eurofighter Typhoon of the Luftwaffe execute a demonstration flight - ILA © Photo.

The International Aerospace Exhibition on the southern section of Berlin-Schönefeld Airport is organised jointly by Bundesverband der Deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrt-industrie (BDLI) e.V., and by Messe Berlin GmbH.



[1] Bundesverband der Deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrtindustrie e.V. (BDLI) (BDLI) means German Aerospace Industries Association.


[2] Messe Berlin (Berlin International Fair)


[3] ILA 2006 Berlin Air Show, International Aerospace Exhibition


[4] Karl Wilhelm Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) was German aeronautical engineer, a pioneer in his experiments with gliders. He made major developments in the glider based on his observations of birds and wrote a number of books on aviation. His brother, Gustav Lilienthal, (1849–1933), was associated with Otto in his flying experiments and continued them after his brother's death. (Source Answers.com). In 1899, after twenty five years of doing research, he published a book which is still a reference: Der Vogelflug als Grundlage der Fliegekunst (Bird Flight as the Basis of Aviation) measurements on wings, so called polar diagrams, which are the concept of description of artificial wings even today. The book gives a reference for the advantages of the arched wing. Two years later, Otto and Gustav Lilienthal of Germany made the first successful piloted glider flight in 1891, flying 27 meters in their Derwitzer Glider.


[5] Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917): During the Peninsular Campaign of the American Civil War, he was first seen in the balloon camp of Prof. Thaddeus S. C. Lowe. From the 1880s onward, he was preoccupied with the idea of guidable balloons and started in 1899 constructing his first guidable rigid airship. The flights became more and more successful, and new versions were developped. Starting in 1909, Zeppelins also were used in civilian aviation. Up until 1914 the German Aviation Association (Deutsche Luftschifffahrtsgesellschaft or DELAG) transported nearly 35,000 people on over 1500 flights without an incident. Count Zeppelin died in 1917, before the end of World War I. He therefore did not witness either the provisional shutdown of the Zeppelin project due to the Treaty of Versailles or the second resurgence of the zeppelins under his successor Hugo Eckener. (Source Wikipedia)


Initially, the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin was to be used for experimental and demonstration purposes to prepare the way for regular airship traveling, but also carried passengers and mail to cover the costs. In October 1928 the first long-range voyage led the craft to Lakehurst, New Jersey, and the crew was welcomed enthusiastically with confetti parades in New York and invitations to the White House. Later Graf Zeppelin toured in Germany and visited Italy, Palestine and Spain. A second trip to the United States was aborted in France due to engine failure in May 1929. In August 1929, LZ 127 departed for another daring enterprise: a complete circumnavigation of the globe. Stops were made at Friedrichshafen, Tokyo and Los Angeles. It took 21 days, 7 hours, 34 minutes, a new record for round-the-world travel by any means. The growing popularity of the “giant of the air” made it easy for Zeppelin company chief Dr. Hugo Eckener to find sponsors. One of these was the American press tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who requested the tour to officially start in Lakehurst. Starting there on August 8, Graf Zeppelin flew across the Atlantic back to Friedrichshafen. She stopped there to refuel before continuing across vast Siberia to another stop in Tokyo. Dr. Eckener believed that some of the lands they crossed in Siberia had never before been seen by modern explorers. From Japan, the Graf Zeppelin continued across the Pacific to San Francisco, before heading south to stop at Los Angeles. This was the first ever nonstop flight of any aircraft across the Pacific Ocean. The ship continued thence across the United States, over Chicago and back to Lakehurst on August 29. The entire voyage took 21 days, 5 hours and 31 minutes. Including the initial and final trips Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst and back, the dirigible travelled 49,618 km (30,831 miles). The distance travelled between departure from Lakehurst and return to Lakehurst was 31,400 km (19,500 miles).

[6] August von Parseval (1861-1942) was a German airship designer. An airship is a buoyant aircraft that can be steered and propelled through the air. Unlike aerodynamic aircraft which stay aloft by moving an airfoil through the air in order to produce lift, airships stay aloft primarily by means of a cavity (usually quite large) filled with a gas of lesser density than the surrounding atmosphere. The development of airships was necessarily preceded by the development of balloons. (Source: Experts.about.com). Parseval began work in 1890 constructing an airship, along with the engineer Hans Bartsch von Sigsfeld and the businessman August Riedinger. Their initial plans faced too many problems, so they focused on kite balloons for military observation, the "Dragonballoons" (Drachenballone]. [See Aufklärungsballons im Ersten Weltkrieg). In 1901 Parseval and Sigsfeld began building a dirigible airship, with engines aboard which did its first flight on Mai 26, 1906 at Berlin-Tempelhof Airfield. The Parseval Airships rank as the predecessor of the blimps of the present. The basic principle and the ease of construction led to the widespread use by the military. By 1905, thanks to improvements in motor design, an appropriate engine was now available. Up to the end of the First World War, 22 Parseval airships (both non-rigid (blimps) and semi-rigid (with keels)) were built. In the late twenties and early thirties, four more semi-rigid airships were built in accordance with the 'Parseval-Naatz principle'.


[7] The 1911 Airship Ruthenberg was owned by engineer H. Ruthenberg of Weißensee (Berlin).


[8] August Euler (August Reith) (1868-1957) Aviation pioneer. In October 1908, Euler rented to the Army a 5 kilometers long field at "Griesheimer Sand" located near Darmstadt which became the first German airfield where he created an engine company and a pilot school. In 1910 the first German aircraft engine was born and on Februar 1, he was the first German to get the flying license "Deutschland Nr1". In 1912, he opened in Frankfurt-Niederrad a new airport with aircraft facilities and a new pilot school. The German Post Office then adopted his Yellow Dog (Gelber Hund) aircraft for the first airmail service. After World War I, Euler became the first Secretary of the Reichsluftamt. In 1919 Euler's company was producing 30 various types of engines before he retired in 1922.


[9] Hermann Köhl, James Fitzmaurice and Freiherr Günther von Hünefeld. See: Jubel vor 75 Jahren: Die Atlantik-Überquerung der Junkers W 33 "Bremen" and listen to Hermmann Köhl on the radio (excerpt) aired on their departure day, April 13, 1928 (Source: Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv).


Press contact:

  • Messe Berlin GmbH: Wolfgang Rogall, Press Officer, Messedamm 22, D-14055 Berlin, tel.: +4930 3038-2218, fax: +4930 3038-2287

  • BDLI: Jens Krüger, Director Press and Public Relations, ATRIUM, Friedrichstraße 60, D-10117 Berlin, tel.: +4930 2061-4014, Fax: +4930 2061-4016

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).