A government plane carrying Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, and a delegation of officials has been forced to return to a layover airport due to technical problems, in the latest of a string of mishaps to beset the government aircraft.
The plane, which was taking Baerbock to Australia, had made a refuelling stopover in Abu Dhabi. But just minutes after taking off, it was forced to turn back after the pilot detected a problemwith a landing flap that failed to open towards the tail end of the plane.
In order to land safely in Abu Dhabi, the Airbus was forced to circle forabout 90 minutes and to jettison about 80 tonnes of kerosene in its tanks so it could land with a total weight of less than 190 tonnes. As a precaution it was escorted by a fire engine to its parking slot.
“Due to mechanical problems we were forced to return to Abu Dhabi for safety reasons,” a spokesperson for the foreign ministry said. “Options for onward travel are currently being clarified.”
The mishapcomes after a succession of previous aircraft troubles. In mid-May, Baerbock was stranded in the Qatari capital, Doha, due to tyre damage on the plane in which she was travelling. On the current trip, she was originally scheduled to fly on an Airbus A340-300 but it was recalled due to faults found prior to departure.
In October 2018, a plane carrying the then finance minister, now chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to a meeting of the International Monetary Fund, was grounded during a layover in Indonesia after rodents gnawed at the aircraft’s cables.
In November 2018, a plane carrying theformer chancellor Angela Merkel, and her then finance minister Scholz, to the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires was forced to return home after the radio controls on the Konrad Adenauer Airbus stopped working. Both politicians took a commercial flight to Argentina.
In 2016, the then defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, was stranded in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on her way to Mali due to a computer problem on the government A340 on which she was travelling.
Baerbock said she did not plan to immediately make a statement about the incident but that she expected to continue her one-week journey in the Pacific region, either with the government Airbus, or on a commercial airline.
German media reported that the captain whose identity was not revealed, said that in 35 years of flying he had never experienced the problem before, but assured them he had practised the landing manoeuvre on a flight simulator.
The incidents have attracted widespread criticism of the government amid concerns that they will bring Germany’s reputation for technical prowess into disrepute.
Baerbock was due to land in Canberra on Monday evening, and to return cultural goods from the colonial era to the indigenous Kaurna people on Tuesday morning. The artefacts, from the Grassi museum in Leipzig, include a wooden sword, a spear, a fishing net and a club, all of which have sacred and cultural meaning for the Kaurna. The journey to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, in which she will discuss security and other issues, is supposed to last until Saturday.
Source : The Guardian