Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has been forced to abandon a trip to Oceania after a problem with her government plane twice forced it to return to Abu Dhabi.
Baerbock set off from Berlin on Sunday, but a mechanical problem with her ageing German air force Airbus A340’s landing flaps meant it had to turn back to Abu Dhabi after a refuelling stop there. The aircraft took off again on Monday night, but the technical problem resurfaced and the plane had to return to the Emirati capital again.
On both occasions the plane had to jettison a full tank of fuel in order to land safely, a source of particular discomfort to the leading Green party politician.
“We tried everything: unfortunately it was not logistically possible to continue my Indo-Pacific trip … That is more than annoying,” Baerbock wrote on Twitter.
Commentators in the German media described the incident as a humiliation for Berlin that risked bringing into disrepute Germany’s reputation for technical prowess. A string of embarrassing problems with Germany’s government planes have affected various senior officials recently. In May, Baerbock had to extend a trip to the Persian Gulf region by a day because of a damaged tire on an aircraft when she was in Qatar.
Baerbock, who is due to return to Berlin on a commercial flight on Tuesday, said she regretted that the meetings she was due to hold with political leaders in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, covering topics from security to global heating, would now not take place. She had also been due to return important cultural artefacts from a Leipzig museum to Indigenous people in Canberra, and to take in one of the last of the Women’s World Cup matches in Sydney.
The government’s Konrad Adenauer airbus was grounded until further notice and was likely to be taken out of service altogether, a spokesperson for the German air force said. Another government A340 would also be prematurely decommissioned, he said.
Calls for the abolition of the German government air fleet, which costs the taxpayer millions every year, were led by the leftwing Die Linke party. Its MP, Gesine Lötzsch, said it was time for the government to “introduce a sea change”, calling the fleet elitist and out of date.
“You can’t preach water and then guzzle wine,” she said, describing the fleet as “expensive, unreliable and the cause of an oversized ecological footprint”.
“It’s not compatible with saving either the climate or the federal budget,” she said.
The same aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in November 2018 on its way to take the then chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister – now chancellor – Olaf Scholz to the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
The German federal aviation agency, which monitors every fuel dumping event involving a German aircraft, described the amount of fuel discarded in this case as relatively high, and compatible with a long haul flight.
According to Germany’s environment agency the damage to the environment by fuel dumping from a particular height is considered to be minimal. “When fuel is dumped at a height of at least 1800 metres, it atomises in fine droplets, so that the majority of it evaporates,” an agency statement state.
Source : The Guardian