Image: Berlin Air Show
Sven Kaestner  /  AP
A helicopter of the Indian Air Force starts a test flight to prepare for the International Berlin Air Show ILA at Berlin Schoenefeld airport.
updated 5/27/2008 8:40:20 AM ET 2008-05-27T12:40:20

Some of the biggest names in aviation showed off their latest products Tuesday at the Berlin Air Show to potential buyers as sky-high oil prices have driven the demand for more fuel-efficient planes.

And the plethora of jets provided a contrasting backdrop for the many veterans of the Berlin Airlift who gathered at Schoenefeld Airport before the 60th anniversary of the 1948-49 their blockade running. In the airlift, hundreds of planes flew to and from Berlin to supply the city with food, fuel, medicine and hope.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered "special thanks, especially to America and Great Britain that they helped Germany and the city of Berlin in a difficult hour."

The airlift has been called the "first battle of the Cold War" — one fought without guns or bullets.

"History could have turned out differently" without the extraordinary effort to keep Berlin from falling entirely into Soviet hands, Merkel said.

Alternative fuels are expected to draw interest at the air show, given the cost of oil, which rose as high as $135 last week. On Tuesday, crude oil futures rose more than $1 to $133.10 in trading on London's ICE futures exchange.

Dutch airline KLM said Monday it had signed a contract with AlgaeLink for fuel made from algae for a pilot project whose first test flight is scheduled for the fall.

AlgaeLink plans to set up a pair of plants this year — in the Netherlands and Spain — and said its algae-based kerosene will be mixed with conventional fuel. But KLM's goal is to fuel its entire fleet with kerosene from algae and other plant-based oils.

The show — known formally as the Aerospace Exhibition and Conferences — lasts until Sunday at Schoenefeld Airport. It opens to the public Friday.

Industry observers are hoping for clues about market trends and various projects by companies, including airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG; German airport operator Fraport AG; and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., the Franco-German parent of Airbus.

Some analysts predict a barrel of oil will reach as high as $200 in the next year, leading the industry to look toward lighter, more efficient machinery, as well as alternative fuels. Airports are trying to streamline operations, reduce bottlenecks and improve efficiency.

Organizers of the International Aerospace Exhibit expect more than 1,000 exhibitors from some 40 countries. The show, started in 1909, is held every two years. More than 250,000 people visited in 2006.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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