German Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to officially open a provisional lounge within a Volga-Dnepr operated An-124-100 at the Berlin Air Show. The big freighter was not even allowed to
be parked at the ILA zone at Berlin Schoenefeld Airport during the official inauguration of the show by Frau Merkel.
This was tantamount to an insult: The big An-124 freighter belonging to Russian Volga-Dnepr Airlines and flying on behalf of the NATO and the EU states under a contract with Leipzig-based Ruslan-Salis GmbH was ordered to keep out of ILA’s exhibition ground while Chancellor Merkel inaugurated the show. The removing of the aircraft was demanded by her Chancellery, a person close to the issue told CargoForwarder Global. Being disinvited this way, the Ruslan-Salis managers had to park their aircraft at an M3 called area at Schoenefeld airport out of the ILA visitor’s sight.
This all happened despite an invitation and a formal commitment of the organizers, guaranteeing Ruslan-Salis the parking of their aircraft during the entire duration of the show. This is all the more astonishing, as the aircraft just came back from an Afghanistan mission conducted on behalf of the German Army ‘Bundeswehr’. Upon arrival the Ruslan-Salis managers were told that the plane was not permitted to be parked at the originally conformed position and was completely undesired at ILA during Merkel’s day-long stay on 20 May.
No official reason was given by the Chancellery but it seems highly likely that the political quarrel between the West and Russia over Moscow’s Crimea annexation and the Ukraine conflict has led to the ban demanded by the Merkel government.
The decision shadows also the relations between Berlin-held ILA and its Russian counterpart Moscow’s Aerospace Saloon MAKS. Both aviation trade shows cooperate intensely since a long time, so far to their mutual benefit. In 2004 they signed an agreement guaranteeing each other the status of priority partnership. Since then, the number of German exhibitors at MAKS and Russian firms at ILA has steadily increased.
Due to Merkel’s official order to get the Russia-licensed An-124-100 Volga-Dnepr freighter out of her sight, it could very well turn out that the up to now fruitful relations between MAKS and ILA will be damaged.
The enforced hiding of the An-124 at Schoenefeld’s M3 Area was also a blow to Ruslan-Salis customers. “Once the ILA organizer gave us his okay to park our freighter among other aircraft at the exposition from the first to the last day of the show we started inviting customers to come and visit the aircraft and to meet us there for talks,” said a Ruslan-Salis manager. At the end of the day the guests had come but the aircraft wasn’t there. Soon, Merkel’s Chancellery will receive a bill – asking them to pay 10,000 euros for food and beverages Ruslan-Salis had ordered to offer their clients during the opening day of this year’s ILA.
Is this the way to remain neutral at an international air show?
It seems not to be the case and the refusal to have the AN-124 within her sights most surely did not do any good to Frau Merkel government’s efforts to reach a peaceful settlement in those crisis areas.