Germany’s foreign minister delayed in Abu Dhabi after technical problem forces plane to turn back

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s foreign minister had to spend hours waiting in Abu Dhabi on Monday after a technical problem on her government plane — the latest in a succession of such incidents — forced it to return to the airport in the Emirati capital rather than continue to Australia.

Annalena Baerbock had been due to arrive in Canberra on Monday night, to start her visit to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. But her German air force Airbus A340 had to return to Abu Dhabi after a refueling stop because of “a mechanical problem with the landing flaps,” ministry spokesman Sebastian Fischer wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The pilot noticed the problem minutes after the plane took off from Abu Dhabi, and landed it again safely two hours later, after dumping some 80 tons of fuel, German news agency dpa reported.

The aircraft took off again for Australia with Baerbock’s delegation on Monday night after a test flight was conducted without problems. But the air force said that the problem recurred and “we are landing in Abu Dhabi again now.”

It was the latest in a string of problems with Germany’s government planes, some of which are aging, that have affected various senior officials. In May, Baerbock had to extend a trip to the Persian Gulf region by a day because of a damaged tire on an aircraft when she was in Qatar.

The plane Baerbock was using for her flight to Australia was involved in a 2018 incident that resulted in then-Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-Finance Minister Olaf Scholz making a delayed departure to a Group of 20 summit in Argentina on a commercial flight.

In that case, an electrical distributor box failed, affecting the radio system and a fuel system and meaning that the aircraft couldn’t dump fuel. It turned back and landed at Cologne-Bonn airport with most of the fuel for the planned trans-Atlantic flight on board.

The government has since ordered three new A350 jets, two of which are already in service.

Defense Ministry spokesperson Christina Routsi said the A340 in question is due to be taken out of service at the end of September, and the other aircraft of the same type at the end of next year. But she said the plane had been chosen according to what was available and needed, and said that the fleet is “on the technical level of a renowned airline.”

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