After an emergency landing by a German government jet earlier this week, which nearly crashed at Berlin’s Schoenefeld Airport on Tuesday, the country’s Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen began investigating whether there are systemic problems with the maintenance of the government’s aircraft fleet, managed by a subsidiary of Lufthansa, the German outlet Der Spiegel reports.
The day after the accident, General Aviation Security was tasked with a probe into the matter, as well as several other incidents that have taken place in the past few months. The chief aviation investigator of the German Armed Forces is reportedly tasked with finding out whether outsourced maintenance has been insufficiently diligently carried out.
The near crash of the plane on 16 April occurred directly after maintenance conducted by Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services. Among other things, there is reportedly a suspicion that the problems of the "Global 5000" government jet were caused by flaws in the spoiler wiring on its wings. While the pilots were in the air, the plane assumed a dangerous angle, even coming to a stall, Der Spiegel notes. During the emergency landing, the jet reportedly missed the runway, skidded across the lawn and was massively damaged.
This is not the first incident involving the so-called White Fleet that is said to have raised doubts about the maintenance carried out by the Lufthansa company. The anti-lock system failed on one of the jets during Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ trip to the US. The incident ended harmlessly, but the A340 aircraft immediately went back to Hamburg to the technical department of Lufthansa for an extensive check-up. Even during the return flight there were problems on the same chassis, which blocked the so-called anti-skid system. It was later discovered that Lufthansa had recently replaced the faulty landing gear during its servicing.
Another incident that raised concerns about the safety of the government’s fleet was the failure of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plane, bound for the G20 summit in Argentina in November 2018. Her jet had to return to Cologne on its way across the Atlantic due to a breakdown of the on-board radio communications systems. The chancellor used a commercial airline to get to Buenos Aires, but missed the opening. A later confidential report, cited by Der Spiegel, suggested that in 2010, Lufthansa upgraded the Airbus А340's built-in digital communications system without informing the pilots and the aeronautics company Airbus about it.
Earlier this year, it was reported that German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Mueller was stuck in Malawi in Africa after his aircraft failed to take off due to technical problems.
The company maintaining the Bundeswehr’s jets, Lufthansa Technik, is regarded as a premium provider and serves not only the German government’s fleet, but also wealthy customers from all over the world. Its spokesman remained tight-lipped in response to Der Spiegel’s inquest into the matter.
Before this investigation was launched, the Bundeswehr was also working on renewing its fleet. The government has reportedly ordered three new A350 jets, the first of which is expected to be delivered in late 2020 and will be equipped with a VIP cabin.