With oil prices on a record flight path, the global-aerospace industry will focus on improved efficiency and developments in alternative...
BERLIN — With oil prices on a record flight path, the global-aerospace industry will focus on improved efficiency and developments in alternative fuels at the International Berlin Air Show this week.
The gathering — known formally as the Aerospace Exhibition and Conferences — runs today through Sunday at Berlin’s Schöenefeld Airport, though it opens to the public only Friday.
A special ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, the largest airborne humanitarian operation, also is planned.
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Industry observers hope for clues about market trends and company projects. The biggest challenge at the moment is the cost of oil, which topped $133 a barrel Monday.
Some analysts forecast $150-$200 a barrel in the next year, leading the aerospace industry to look toward producing lighter, more efficient machinery, as well as alternative fuels. Airports are trying, meanwhile, to streamline operations and reduce bottlenecks and improve efficiency.
Airbus plans to present its A320 fuel-cell demonstrator plane at the show. Before leaving for Berlin, Airbus said the demonstrator had a successful test flight, during which the fuel-cell system provided power for the jet’s electric pump, rudder and other flight-control systems, Airbus said.
David Kaminski Morrow, an editor with the trade magazine Air Transport Intelligence in London, said the effort to reduce weight was an ongoing trend among airlines but was becoming more important given oil markets.
He said, however, that widespread use of alternative fuels for airlines was still “several years down the line.”
“This is something that we’ll see in the longer term,” Kaminski Morrow said. “It’s not a simple exercise to take kerosene out and put something like sunflower oil, or whatever, in.”
In the meantime, airlines are feeling the pinch of high oil prices.
“We estimate that at current fuel prices it would require a 20 percent increase in revenue, accompanied by a 20 percent reduction in capacity for U.S. airlines, to generate economic returns,” said Bob Mann, the president of R.W. Mann & Co., an airline-analysis company in Port Washington, N.Y.
“What the industry really, really needs is a ubiquitous narrow-body design that will improve short medium-haul travel economics by 20 percent or more,” he said. “That is, so far at least, elusive.”
Organizers of the International Aerospace Exhibit expect more than 1,000 exhibitors from some 40 countries. The air show, started in 1909, is held every two years. More than 250,000 people visited in 2006.
The show has devoted an entire section to mark the 60th anniversary of the start of the Berlin Airlift, including two DC-3s, the aircraft used in the lift that came to be known as “Candy Bombers.”
The U.S.-led Berlin airlift occurred after World War II when the Soviets blockaded West Berlin in 1948.
Information from Bloomberg News was included in this report.