The AERO 2017 Exhibition in Friedrichshafen/ Germany

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In the world of General Aviation it has become a tradition to come to the Zeppelin city of Friedrichshafen every year in April to be dazzled by the latest offerings from the various manufacturers.  This tradition includes daily round flights with the Zeppelin NT over Lake Constance, and featured this year also a newly built Junkers F13 (the first commercial airliner from 1919).  While this exhibition – the largest worldwide for General Aviation - covers all aspects of the lighter side of aviation, this year the emphasis was on electric propulsion and drones (all the way up to flying people pods).  Gliding in all its forms seemed to be less prominent and one has to wonder if sailplane development and soaring in general have not reached a certain plateau.

Electric propulsion is certainly the coming trend, also for sailplanes and the FES (Front Engine Sustainer/ Self-Launch) is now available on an increasing number of types.  This system with its simplicity, low weight and its immediate availability in case of need seems to be assured of wide acceptance.  And electric motors are now even used on trim systems, gear actuation and rigging aids.

There were very few new sailplane types.  The Diana -2 with its outstanding competition record is slated to be back in production.  HPH/ CZ showed the sleek looking Twin Shark and Peske/ PL exhibited the 13.5 m GP-15, but otherwise the sailplanes shown were all very familiar.  That included the reinforced Blanik L-13 that has now its EASA certification and is good for up to 6000 hours.  The revamped L-23 NG project with winglets is still waiting for some serious interest (and money). 

A nice vintage glider display was provided by the Swiss – four Elfe sailplanes (PM-3, Elfe S-3, Elfe S-4, AN-66) were grouped together representing the 1960s.

Altogether it was a very interesting show and well worth the trip.