Thursday, February 29, 2024.
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German minister cancels Pacific trip after yet another plane malfunction


BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was forced Tuesday to call off a foreign policy trip to the Pacific region after two failed attempts to fly from the United Arab Emirates to Australia on a government aircraft.

The canceled visit is just the latest in a string of trips by German officials to be affected by problems with government planes.

The 23-year-old Airbus A340 aircraft landed in Abu Dhabi to refuel on Monday but returned shortly after takeoff due to a malfunction with the wing flaps.

After a successful test flight, the foreign minister made a second attempt to fly into Sydney in the early hours of Tuesday, but the plane turned around yet again after the captain informed passengers that the malfunction had recurred.

“We tried everything, but unfortunately it’s logistically not possible to carry out my Indo-Pacific travel without the defective plane,” Baerbock posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “This is more than annoying.”

Baerbock’s flight to Australia was originally planned with a sister aircraft of the A340, but that plane, too, is out of service.

A spokesperson for the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, said Tuesday that it will decommission the two aircraft as soon as possible, rather than by the end of 2024, as originally planned.

Then-Chancellor Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Olaf Scholz, were traveling on the same Airbus 340 to the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires in 2018 when they had to make an emergency landing at Cologne-Bonn airport in Germany. On that occasion, the entire radio system failed due to a maintenance error. Both arrived late to Argentina after flying commercial via Spain — much to the surprise of business class passengers on the Iberia Airlines flight.

The list of aircraft mishaps for Germany’s ministers is a long one. Scholz was also stranded in Indonesia after rodents gnawed through electric cables of the same A340, while a burst tire on arrival in New York delayed then-Foreign Minister Heiko Maas from attending an U.N. Security Council meeting in 2019. In May, another flat tire on a government plane stranded Baerbock in Qatar for a day. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also had his fair share of delays due to such malfunctions.

During the planned trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, Baerbock had, among other things, been set to discuss economic security and Russia’s war in Ukraine. A ceremony for the return of cultural objects to representatives of the Indigenous Kaurna people was also on the minister’s agenda.

According to German news agency DPA, Baerbock will return to Berlin on a commercial flight.


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