One of Europe’s Biggest Air Shows Featured Every Kind of Aircraft, From Drones to Business Jets

Friedrichshafen, Germany, nestled into a tidy corner of Lake Constance, is a remote destination that is several hours from any major cities. But it’s also the site of Europe’s largest general-aviation trade show. With 680 exhibitors from 38 countries and 250 aircraft of all types, Aero is also the launch point for the leading innovations in the aerospace sector in Europe. The event finished its four-day run on Saturday, with attendance of 31,500—up significantly since the end of the pandemic.

Tobias Bretzel, the event’s director, noted that the show focused not only on new products but put low-emissions and no-emissions flying front and center. “Exhibitors showcased several aircraft with alternative propulsion systems,” he said. There was, in fact, a large section of the show devoted to electric and other forms of alternative propulsion.

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Aero Friederichschafen
Aero does not post the same kind of attendance numbers as air shows in the US, but it’s a serious event. About half the attendees are pilots.

Unlike the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisc., which attracts more than 600,000 aviation enthusiasts across mostly open spaces, Aero is tightly organized, German-style, into 12 aircraft halls. That makes it easy for a newcomer to find the latest in high tech from the smallest gliders and ultralights to the sleek, matte-black Gulfstream G500 sitting on the static display with other business jets from Bombardier, the HondaJet, Cirrus Vision Jet and turboprops like the Beechcraft King Air and the new Piper M700 Fury. Gulfstream decided to exhibit this year for the first time because of the increase in business in Central Europe.

While Aero’s roots are found in the lightest airplanes, business turboprop and jet-charter companies have turned to the show to announce new aircraft, presenting many for the first time on these shores.

Aero Friederichshafen
The Aero halls in Friedrichshafen house all types of aircraft, from drones to intercontinental business jets.

This year’s show featured multiple announcements of new and improved aircraft. Tecnam presented its P2006T NG (New Generation) aircraft. The Italian manufacturer added more than 300 modifications to the original P2006T, which was launched in 2007, and announced an executive Sport version, with a designer interior and black-leather dashboard. The JMB Phoenix, a powered glider from the Czech/Belgium maker JMB Aircraft, made its world debut. Cirrus Aircraft used the event as the European premiere for its SR Series G7.

Swiss airframer Pilatus also showed the latest modifications of its popular PC-24 jet for the first time to a European audience. “Basically, the engineers looked at every single part,” Ursula Widmer, Pilatus communications director, told Robb Report. “They’ve taken more than 700 pieces—big and small—and tried to optimize everything, taking weight out without compromising stability or security.” The exercise resulted in weight savings of more than 400 lbs., which in turns extends range by 200 miles or allows 500 more lbs. of baggage or cargo.

Aero Friedrichshafen
Electric aircraft were a big focus for the show this year.

Among the new aircraft was a modern throwback: The Junkers A50 Heritage, displayed the week before at Sun ‘N Fun in Florida, garnered an outsized amount of attention at Aero, for its one-of-a-kind retro look and close replica of its original engine, but also because it was built in Germany by one of the most historic names in aviation.

One of the most interesting debuts was from Shark, an ultralight manufacturer from the Czech Republic, which introduced a turbulence-cancelling feature for making flight more comfortable in the smallest aircraft. Its automatic flaplets work in conjunction with the wing design to limit turbulence.

Aero Friedrichshafen Helicopters
The helicopter hall comprised an important part of the show.

This year, to celebrate the 30th birthday, Aero also hosted a small airshow on the closing day. Instead of the flashy military processions at Florida’s Sun ‘n Fun or EAA, the German event featured a much quieter fly-by of electric aircraft.

The VoltAero Cassio S hybrid-electric test aircraft joined the display, having logged more than 220 flights to prove its hybrid Safran and Kawasaki powertrain—an electric motor and traditional combustion—is a feasible solution. The Cassio S also flew in from France, burning a special biodiesel fuel made from vineyard waste, proving another layer of sustainability.

Other electric aircraft showcased offerings at Aero, including the Bristell B23 Energic, the Diamond eDA40, China’s Ruien Aircraft, and Aura Aero from France, with its electric Integral E aerobatic trainer.

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