Aircraft Interiors Expo 2008

 - May 5, 2008, 6:14 AM

The change in ownership of the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo barely rated a blink as the 2008 event went off seamlessly from March 31 through April 2 in Hamburg, Germany.

Ownership of the show changed last year when long-time owner/organizer UKIP Media & Events sold the expo to Reed Exhibitions.

The first show was held in Cannes, on the French Cote d’Azur, in 2000, and the event quickly outgrew the cramped confines of the exhibit center there. Under the leadership of UKIP founder and CEO Tony Robinson, it was moved to Hamburg’s Messe exhibition center in 2003. “I expected it to grow here,” said Robinson, “but I couldn’t have predicted it would become this big.”

A total of 7,754 visitors passed through the doors and 530 companies exhibited at Expo 2008, according to Reed Exhibitions group exhibition director James Reader. He added that a move next year to new exhibit halls currently under construction will allow the show to expand by 10 percent. It will also allow organizers to devote exhibit halls exclusively to in-flight entertainment and in-flight services.

Moving to the new halls, said Reader, “not only gives us more space for areas such as dedicated zones, but also means we can look at bringing back educational elements such as seminars and workshops.”

John Hyde, marketing manager, said interest in the 2009 expo is high and that 75 percent of the exhibition space was “snapped up” before the end of this year’s event. Aircraft Interiors Expo 2009 is scheduled for March 31 through April 2.

With “just a moment for a quick breath,” said Hyde, the organizers are focusing on the first Aircraft Interiors Expo, Americas, to be held September 9 through 11 at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. The event will be co-located with the World Airline Entertainment Association Conference and Exhibition, to be held from September 8 through 11.

The new Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas in California this fall promises a greater private and business aviation presence. With North America still the world’s largest market for private jets, Reed anticipates greater representation from that industry segment.

At the opening general session, there was no reference to the potential for a U.S. economic recession. Rather, comments focused on new technology, new products and new solutions to old problems, all based on expectations of a strong market.

Udo Burggraf, manager of Hamburg-based engineering design firm EDAG Sigma, predicted the future will see more outsourcing, more risk-sharing project development, lean-structure production techniques, new technology and new solutions. “We will also see more mergers, and in particular the entry of more [investment] players from outside the aviation industry.”

Certainly Lufthansa Technik is not taking a particularly conservative outlook. According to Bernhard Conrad, senior v-p and chief technology officer, the Hamburg-based maintenance, overhaul, completion and refurbishment giant recently invested $23.6 million in a new engineering facility and a similar sum in a new research and development building for its innovation division.

Business Aviation Applications

While the focus of the show is primarily on the airline interiors segment of the industry, there is considerable overlap in terms of technology and application, and more than a few private aviation interiors companies and vendors are regular exhibitors.

Bell Bespoke Interiors of Nottingham in the UK has been at the show for the past five years, and managing director Jeff Bell said the dominance of airline vendors and service providers presents no problems. “I’ve never looked at it in that respect and, in a negative sense, we would in fact be more conspicuous by our absence.”

Larger vendors and suppliers at the show, such as B/E Aerospace and Aircraft Cabin Systems, offer products of interest to both the airline and private aviation markets and typically deal with customers from both. In-flight entertainment specialist Aircraft Cabin Systems used the show to introduce its new 52-inch high-definition monitor, as well as to promote its line of smaller monitors more appropriate to airline seat-back installation.

B/E Aerospace was marketing its LED (light-emitting diode) mood lighting package to airlines and private aviation and found interest from customers in both segments.

Air Data, a Montreal-based company, used the show to announce Transport Canada certification of its JetAir Bio-Protection System in its private jet configuration. The initial installation is expected to go aboard a Bombardier Global Express XRS or Global 5000. At the same time, with increasing concerns about the spread of communicable disease, Air Data expects to find a strong market among the long-haul airlines.