Germany will speed retirement of its two Airbus A340 government aircraft after one of the long-range jets broke down twice en route to Australia, forcing Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to cancel her week-long trip to the Pacific region.
(Bloomberg) — Germany will speed retirement of its two Airbus A340 government aircraft after one of the long-range jets broke down twice en route to Australia, forcing Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to cancel her week-long trip to the Pacific region.
“We will take the two A340s out of service as soon as possible, i.e. in the coming weeks,” a spokeswoman for Germany’s Air Force, which oversees the fleet of aircraft, said by mail.
The state took over the two aircraft from Deutsche Lufthansa AG more than a decade ago and refitted them for government travel. The one Baerbock was using was due to leave service by the end of next year and the other one next month. Germany has upgraded its fleet with new Airbus A350 models, some of which are already in service.
A repeat malfunction on Baerbock’s aircraft — which is more than two decades old and has a history of mechanical problems — occurred when the wing flaps could not be retracted correctly on both attempts to fly on from Abu Dhabi, 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.”
Baerbock is due to return to Berlin with her entourage using a commercial flight, local media reported, though there are no direct connections between either Abu Dhabi or nearby Dubai and Berlin.
Emirates has long sought to offer a direct link to Berlin but has so far not been granted permission by the German government, while Abu Dhabi flag carrier Etihad Airways only flies directly to Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Munich.
Baerbock’s aircraft originally left Berlin on Sunday afternoon and landed in Abu Dhabi in the early hours of Monday morning for refueling.
It made a first attempt to continue on to Australia at 3:33 a.m. local time, but returned 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 with the same mechanical issue.
Baerbock had arranged a host of events and meetings during her visit to Australia and was planning to fly on to New Zealand and Fiji. She was due to hold talks with her counterparts from all three southern hemisphere nations.
“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 A340 aircraft is a four-engine long-range model that’s no longer in production. Germany also has smaller Airbus A321 models as well as the new A350 for longer missions.
–With assistance from Kamil Kowalcze and Angela Cullen.
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