ILA Berlin (Berlin Air Show)
|Type:||Commercial trade event and airshow|
|Schedule:||Bi-yearly (even years), mid-June|
|Location:||Berlin Schönefeld Airport|
|Editions attended:||2006 2008|
ILA is a big commercial trade event combined with an airshow. While not being specifically oriented towards the airshow enthusiasts, thanks to good orientation of the airfield it provides some reasonable photo opportunities. If you are into the airliners / civil aviation and don't like the limited photo availability of the Paris Air Show, this might be a place for you.
Note: for last few years, the ILA showground is a huge construction site. All the below notes are based on my impressions from 2006 and 2008. Not much should change for 2010 event - but in 2012, you might find it all organized a completely new way.
ILA is organized at the public airport, so it's obviously rather easy to reach with the public transport
By air: Main airline flying to Schönefeld is Germanwings. There are also lots of flights from Easyjet/Ryanair and a couple from different airliners. Visit the official airport page for more information. Once you exit the airport, just follow the covered walkway that will lead you to the train station.
By train: Schönefeld station is very well connected to Berlin,
with S-Bahn running every 20min in peak hours. During ILA there are often extra trains organized (check the event page for up-to-date
information. However, there are not many long-distance train reaching the place - the best you can get are the RegioExpress trains
to the neighbouring cities.
Once you are at the train station, it will be quite obvious which train to take. It will drive you to the temporary station right at the entrance to the ILA showground.
It is highly recommended to approach the Schönefeld area from the south (logical anyway, you won't be
coming through the city anyway). The main parking is organized around the
Best is to get to the
Once you park the car, take the (free) shuttle bus to the showground. Expect big crowds queuing to the buses.
General note: as usual for such big events, it's important to book early. Otherwise, only either the most obscure, or most expensive places will be still available.
If you are on a budget and have your own car around, Etap Hotel Berlin Schönefeld is probably the best choice. It is cheap (standard Etap-prices, 30EUR/night without breakfast) and very conveniently located. However, if you rely on the public transport, it is a bit difficult to get in/out. In 2006 I actually had a walk all the way around the airport, in order to catch my return train
If you don't have a car... what I recommend is simply finding anything that is close to S-Bahn station, preferably S9 or S45.
Alternatively, you may also consider something closer to the airport:
- Albergo Hotel **** - almost at the airport doorsteps
- Hotel El-Condor and Leonardo Hotel - both ***, located a bit further, in the commercial district of Schönefeld - but still within walking distance
If you book early, any of these hotels should get you a double room for around 70-80EUR per night.
In the same commercial area you will also find the Pension Schwalbenweg - with even more reasonable prices.
Similarly to other commercial events, ILA is split into two parts:
Trade visitor days (Tuesday to Thursday), not for general public, with slightly less displays and more expensive tickets. Normally, in order to buy a ticket for these days you have to mention association with some aviation-related business - but in practice, organizers are not too tight about this.
Children of less than 18 years are not permitted on the showground during these days... but I have seem some many times
Public days (Friday to Sunday) - available for everybody, with reasonably cheap tickets and... incredibly crowdy. Flying displays are usually a bit richer though.
The displays usually start at 10am and last until 5pm, with some big aerobatic team (often Patrouille Suisse) closing the day.
Photo opportunities (public)
With runway oriented E-W and the public having the sun behind, ILA is rather good place for taking photos of the action. There are usually two main problems:
- Distance. As you might know, since the Rammstein incident, airshow safety rules in Germany are draconian. This is particularly visible on such a big event. For the takeoffs/landings of anything smaller than large passenger jet, or a C17, you will need a 500mm lens in order to get a decent photo. Similarly for in-the-air shots, the more the better.
- Crowd. ILA is a large event and you might expect lots of people in all the critical spots. Be there early and keep your place occupied
NOTE Most of the photos you see here were taken from the press tribune. Which, incidentially, is not at all the best place but I discovered that only later Read on.
Eastern side of the crowdline. On the northern part of the dynamic parking (the small taxiway adjacent to the chalets), there is a dedicated public space - a bit narrow, but very long, going all the way up to the end of parking and then, turning around. This is probably the best public place overall. It brings you as close as possible to the action (which means ~300m from the runway axis).
Depending where you are and on the weather, you may be a bit annoyed by the sand raised by the cars passing in front of you. Choose your place carefully.
Turning point. In particular, the rightmost spot of the above place gives you good view to both display area and the taxiway leading to the dynamic parking for the heavies. It is most useful for late afternoon displays, as you have the sun almost behind you (when facing the taxiway)
Middle part of the crowdline. Could be as good as the above spots, with additional possibility of being face-to-face with the aircraft taxiing back from the demo through the short taxiway. But... unfortunately there are usually some smaller planes parked right in front of the public See also the description of the press tribune below.
Rightmost spot - at the far end of the static display, there is a grass strip with a public area. It is a good place for the earlier hours, with the sun behind your back. You can actually move along the crowdline up till the center part, but some parts of it are often disbanded to allow larger aircrafts to taxi out for the dynamic display. But that farthest area is safe You might just need to avoid some of the helicopters parked in front of the public.
New control tower. A bit special place - not that much for taking pictures of jet action (unless you have 500mm+ lens), but you are allowed to climb up there and have a great overview of the whole showground - for a short while as after 5mins you have to free up space for next group of people. Nice for taking "ambiance" pictures.
Dynamic parking and static display
The dynamic parking is located in front of the eastern-side chalets, behind the eastern public area. While photographing it right from there is difficult, because: a) you're facing the sun and b) you have lots of chalet clutter in the background, there are few other spots that may be useful.
West side - if you go to the very far end of the dynamic parking, you will be able to actually get around it. Depending on the actual layout (e.g. if there will be some aircrafts parked close, obscuring the view), you should be able to take some pictures there. Telephoto lens might be useful.
Similarly, at the turning point - just before you cross the taxiway (in order to get to the crowdline), you can actually stop. Before noon you will have sun behind you and a possibility to shoot the nearby static planes. Also, anything that comes out of there for the display, will be passing by you.
Small spot between the chalets - right in the middle of the chalet area, there is a small strip of grass with an overview of the dynamic parking. There are usually few oldtimers parked there, very close to the fence. But... with a small stepladder you should be able to get some snaps.
Static display (large/military). The main static display area is usually full of heavy-metal military gear - all kinds of fighters, bombers (usually you can expect a B-1B), heavy helicopters etc. etc. They are surrounded by barriers, quite far from them - so it should be possible to take some shots without lots of clutter. Ideal time to visit main static area is the very end of the airshow - after most of the crowd leaves the terrain.
Static display (small/general aviation). Not very photographic - a typical trade show display, with all kinds of Cessnas, Learjets etc. and guys in ties walking everywhere. I am actually not sure if it doesn't get closed for the weekend.
And, last but not least, be sure to at least have a look at the exhibition halls. There are often some impressive models, nicely illuminated, that can get you really nice pictures!
Photo opportunities (other)
Press accreditation - photographically, accreditation gives you primarily access to the press tribune. It's conveniently located, just facing the traffic returning from the demos through the short taxiway. However... the organizers have an annoying habits of putting some of the dynamic parking (namely: the Yak-52 team of Flieger Revue ) right in front of the tribune! - and it ruins some of the best shots that could be possibly taken from there
Another benefit of the accreditation is being able to enter the main static display about 1h before the public (including trade visitors) is allowed.
In 2006 we were able to get to a point in the southern runway axis, at its eastern end. Unfortunately, during the day you are mostly facing the sun - but there is a nice overview of the showground overnight. Try it once, just for fun.
Observation deck of the Schönefeld airport. This is mostly for the spotter-types - distance from the showground is enormous and you need at least a good 500mm lens to even see something. But still, if you have nothing to do on Monday (departures day) why not go there? I've made my first blurry photos of a "live" B-1B from that terrace
Area north to the airfield - I've never been there, but I always seen lots of people gathered on these meadows. Not sure if it's worth anything photographically... perhaps some of the late afternoon displays may be interesting from there.
As you would expect on a trade show, facilities are pretty good. There are enough toilets (I don't remember seeing lots of queues), some of them placed in "strategic" places close to the crowdline. Similarly, the food - you should be able to get something without walking too far. Check out the showground plan on the official website for the up-to-date information.
Entry tickets (general public - Friday to Sunday)
|Single day ticket:||19€|
|Reduced single day ticket (students/handicaped):||12€|
|Children under 6 years:||free|
Entry tickets (trade visitors - Tuesday to Thursday)
(Note that you must be 18 years old to be eligible for a trade visitor ticket).
|Permanent pass, valid for whole week:||125€|
Tickets can be purchased in advance online, see the official website for details.
Last updated: 31-12-2010, 21:39