German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has abandoned a week-long trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji after her government Airbus A340 was twice forced to return to Abu Dhabi due to a technical fault.
(Bloomberg) — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has abandoned a week-long trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji after her government Airbus A340 was twice forced to return to Abu Dhabi due to a technical fault.
A malfunction meant the wing flaps on the aircraft — which is more than two decades old and has a history of mechanical problems — could not be retracted correctly on both attempts to fly on from the the United Arab Emirates capital, according to the German air force.
“We have tried everything: unfortunately it is logistically impossible to continue my Indo-Pacific trip without the defective plane,” Baerbock said Tuesday in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “This is more than unfortunate.”
Flight tracking website Radarbox.com showed that Baerbock’s aircraft left Berlin on Sunday afternoon and landed in Abu Dhabi in the early hours of Monday morning.
It made a first attempt to continue on to Australia at 3:33 a.m. local time, returning about two hours later after dumping fuel to make it light enough to land. Another effort was made at 1 a.m. on Tuesday but the plane was forced to return Abu Dhabi once again, landing some two hours after takeoff.
Baerbock had arranged a host of events and meetings during her visit to the three southern hemisphere nations, including talks with her Australian, New Zealand and Fiji counterparts.
“In the Indo-Pacific, we not only have close friends and partners,” she wrote in the X post. “The region will decisively shape the world order of the 21st century. That is why substantive and personal exchange is so important.”
The aircraft is the same one that was forced to turn back to Cologne with former Chancellor Angela Merkel on board on her way to a Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires in late 2018.
Current Chancellor Olaf Scholz, finance minister and vice chancellor at the time, was also on that flight, which was aborted due to an issue with the plane’s electronics systems.
A few weeks earlier, Scholz was delayed in returning from Indonesia when rodents chewed through wiring and incapacitated the aircraft.
The German government is phasing out the aging, four-engine A340s and replacing them with advanced and fuel-efficient A350 twin-jets.
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