German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’s trip to New York for a meeting of the UN Security Council got off to a rocky start after his government plane faced two consecutive breakdowns in a matter of hours, the Luftwaffe’s press service has reported.
According to the Luftwaffe, whose executive transport wing is responsible for carrying government officials, a defect was found in a vent valve located on the wing of Maas’s Airbus A321 before its departure from Berlin. The issue prompted the foreign minister to get on a second plane, delaying his departure by thirty minutes.
Hours later, during a stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland for refueling, another issue was found concerning a ‘faulty fuel panel’, which delayed Maas’s departure from the airport, prompting him to arrive at New York City’s John F. Kennedy airport two hours later than planned, the Luftwaffe said.
Commenting on the tweets, a user thanked the Luftwaffe for its transparent reporting, but asked if it was “normal” that the German government’s planes can’t seem to fly without problems.
Problems with the Luftwaffe’s executive transport wing were thrust into the spotlight late last year, after a major communications breakdown aboard Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Airbus A340 forced her to delay her arrival at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires and to take a commercial plane to the venue.
In April, Der Spiegel reported that the government had begun an investigation into whether there were systemic problems which needed addressing with the government’s fleet of aircraft after an emergency landing of a government Bombardier Global 5000 jet shortly after maintenance at Berlin’s Schoenefeld Airport. Before that, problems were reported with the anti-lock system of a government A340 ahead of Foreign Minister Maas’s trip to the US, again shortly after it was serviced. Also in 2019, Minister of Economic Cooperation Gerd Mueller was stuck in Malawi after his government plane broke down. And in May, there was the bizarre incident of a driverless van ramming into a Global 5000 used by Chancellor Merkel.
In early June, Rheinische Post reported, citing anonymous officials, that the numerous issues faced by the government’s fleet of aircraft may have been caused by sabotage and cyberattacks.
The German government has reportedly ordered three new Airbus A350 jets, the first of which is expected to be delivered in late 2020, to deal with the issues.