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From Hungry Rats to Exploding Tires: The German Government’s Got a Problem With Planes

Annalena Baerbock is the latest in a long line of German ministers to have been stranded by plane malfunctions.

Cracked windows, faulty radios and cables chewed by rats — the German government’s track record of sending its top officials on diplomatic trips by plane is, at best, patchy.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was the latest unfortunate German minister to fall foul of plane problems.

Baerbock was stranded in Abu Dhabi due to her plane having a broken landing flap. As a result, her visit to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji is now up in the air — unlike German government planes!

Cracks in the windshield 

In June, Siemtje Möller — state secretary at the defense ministry — and her delegation visited Niger using Germany’s smallest government plane. Before heading back, the crew realized that several of the windows of the 17-seater had cracked, most likely due to the heat, German media reported. The delegation instead flew home on a commercial flight. 

Mission to Mali

Former Defence Minister Heiko Maas and a delegation of 40 visited Mali in 2019. But they couldn’t get home as the hydraulics of the landing gear broke. The easiest option — taking an Air France flight back to Germany – was rejected due to time constraints. Instead, the German Air Force flew from Germany to Mali overnight, bringing the delegation back to Germany the following day. 

One trip, two problems

Germany’s now former development minister, Gerd Müller, was stranded in Malawi in 2019 because his government plane had broken down. While Müller took a charter flight to Zambia for his next appointments, a German crew flew to Malawi to repair the plane — only to realize they didn’t have all the spare parts needed. Once repaired, they flew to Zambia to pick up the minister. However, upon landing, another problem — with the plane’s computer system — occurred. Müller and his delegation returned to Germany via charter flight. 

Exploding wheels in Berlin 

In 2019, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier — who is now Germany’s president — was boarding a government plane to start a tour of Africa. However, shortly before take-off in Berlin, the passengers heard a loud bang as one of the wheels exploded, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing. After the tire was changed, Steinmeier continued on to Africa. 

Call pest control 

In 2018, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (now the chancellor) was left stranded in Indonesia after rats gnawed at some of the plane’s cables. Scholz, who was on his way back from a meeting of the International Monetary Fund, was forced to take a commercial flight to Germany, while most of his delegation stayed in Bali until the plane could be fixed.

From private plane to economy class

One of the most famous examples of plane failure occurred during then-Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2018 trip to the G20 meeting in Argentina. Only a month after Scholz’s rodent fiasco, the finance minister and Merkel were flying to Buenos Aires when their plane was forced to turn back to Germany and make an emergency landing in Cologne. The cause was a failure of the plane’s communications systems, and the result was Merkel flying commercial on Iberia and making a not-so-glamorous late entrance to the summit.

Last-minute changes

In 2015, Merkel was forced to fly to India in a military cargo plane after her government aircraft was grounded due to technical faults. While the new aircraft was a significant downgrade in terms of comfort, this time Merkel did make it on time. 

New isn’t always better

A 2017 trip to Lithuania by Ursula von der Leyen (then the defense minister, now European Commission chief) took an unexpected turn when engineers discovered damage to the aircraft’s engine shortly before her scheduled return to Germany. After a half-hour delay, von der Leyen flew back on a much older Transall replacement aircraft. To make the matter worse, the original plane was brand new and being used by von der Leyen for the first time.

Source : Politico

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