Merkel Runs Late to G-20 After Plane Trouble Forces Landing in Germany

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel didn’t make it very far on her flight to the G-20 meeting in Buenos Aires.

Her government aircraft, a modified Airbus SE A340-300 four-engine jet, took off from Berlin and only flew about an hour before it had to land in Cologne because of an electrical system failure. That forced Merkel into a delay of at least five hours before she could board another aircraft to Latin America.

Merkel Runs Late to G-20 After Plane Trouble Forces Landing in Germany

Annoying as that may have been, it’s become almost routine for German politicians to be left stranded because of faulty aircraft. Traveling with Merkel was Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who suffered a similar mishap last month returning from Bali, Indonesia, when rodent damage incapacitated another Airbus plane. Last year, Merkel was delayed on a trip to Egypt because a windshield heating device malfunctioned on her aircraft.

Merkel Runs Late to G-20 After Plane Trouble Forces Landing in Germany

It’s not just the civil aircraft transporting Germany’s leaders that have proven unreliable. Last year, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was due to return from Lithuania to Germany aboard an Airbus A400 military transport, which suffered an engine malfunction on the tarmac, forcing the air force to retrieve the minister in an older aircraft.

Compared with the iconic Air Force One available to U.S. President Donald Trump, Merkel’s mode of transport is more modest. She has access to two A340 aircraft. But the jets, of an aircraft type that’s no longer in production, have proven fickle over the years, and the German air force that’s in charge of servicing and operating them has begun the process of rejuvenating the fleet.

There are about a dozen planes available to key German politicians, from the large A340 to a compact Bombardier Inc. Global 5000, as well as a few helicopters. Permission to use these aircraft is reserved for the president, the heads of the upper and lower houses of parliament, the chancellor, ministers, parliamentary group leaders, as well as the head of Germany’s highest court.

As for Merkel’s interrupted trip to Argentina, five fire trucks were on standby at the Cologne airport as a precaution because the aircraft landed with a heavy fuel load for its trans-Atlantic voyage. It’s unclear if she’ll make it to the G-20 in time. A non-stop flight from Cologne to Buenos Aires takes a good 13 hours.

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