| BERLIN, Sept 10
BERLIN, Sept 10 The ILA Berlin Air Show this
week will bring some long-awaited action to the city's new
airport, a source of embarrassment to Germany's capital
following multiple delays to its opening.
A spotless new runway, so far unused for commercial flights,
will finally feel the burn of rubber as flying displays show off
aircraft including the Eurofighter jet and Eurocopter's new
high-speed helicopter X3.
More than 1,200 exhibitors are expected to attend the
world's oldest air and space trade fair - provided they are not
put off by striking Lufthansa cabin crew, who have
disrupted travel at Germany's biggest airport in Frankfurt,
though less so in Berlin.
Attendees include European planemaker Airbus and
U.S. rival Boeing, whose civil aircraft arm is returning
to Berlin's air show after a hiatus of more than 10 years.
Less touted as a deal-making event than the Farnborough or
Paris industry showcases, ILA will nonetheless draw a prominent
crowd with money to spend.
AirAsia, Asia's largest low-cost carrier, is
expected to announce an order soon, after saying in July it was
close to finalising a deal to buy 50 Airbus A320 aircraft, with
options to buy a further 50 of the planes.
But as much as the deals, the chatter around the chalets is
likely to centre on fears the faltering global economy is
finally catching up with the civil aircraft industry.
Airbus and Boeing, which battle for the bulk of a jet market
estimated at $100 billion a year, have long trumpeted their
resilience, arguing airlines need to modernise their fleets in
order to survive high fuel costs and that growth in Asia and the
Middle East can offset weakness in the United States and Europe.
Earlier this week, Airbus raised its 20-year forecast for
deliveries, citing strong Asia-Pacific markets.
But the quietest Farnborough Air Show for years suggested
the good times might be coming to an end as the euro zone debt
crisis drags on, banks become increasingly wary of financing
long-term, costly aircraft orders and Chinese growth slows.
That has turned the spotlight on Airbus and Boeing's ability
to deliver on a record backlog of orders, and on whether any of
these might be delayed or cancelled.
"Whilst orders and cancellations remain low we note recent
cancellations by Hong Kong Airlines and Qantas, which are likely
to add to market concern over the backlog resilience and
production risk," Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a recent
PAST AND FUTURE
Originally Berlin-Brandenburg Airport was due to open in
2011 but the opening has been delayed three times already.
The scheduled opening for June 3 was scrapped at short
notice earlier this year due to problems with fire safety
systems, and officials said on Friday they were further pushing
back the opening to October 2013.
More than 20 years since German reunification, the capital
is still making do with two small airports, Tegel and
Schoenefeld, - that date back to the Cold War era.
About 270 aircraft will be on display at ILA, from an
historic Messerschmitt Bf 109 to the world's two largest
passenger aircraft, Airbus's A380 and Boeing's 747-8.
All eyes will also be on whether EADS's A400M military
transport plane will take part in the flying displays after
engine problems forced it to sit out the popular stunts at
Farnborough in July for a second year running.
Emirates, which has been lobbying unsuccessfully since 2004
for landing rights in Berlin, said on Sunday it will bring one
of its 23 A380 mammoth jets to the show, which runs Sept. 11-16.
The airline said the delays and cost overruns at the new
airport only strengthen its case for being allowed to fly to
Berlin. "The new airport needs to increase revenue to balance
some unplanned costs," Emirates passenger sales boss Thierry
Antinori told Reuters. "And we want to spend money."