Chancellor Angela Merkel runs late to G20 after plane trouble strands her in Germany
Chancellor Angela Merkel was speaking with reporters about the latest tensions between Russia and the Ukraine, the plane’s door opened and a crew member asked her to come out. “Why now?”, Merkel asked. “It’s urgent,’ the crew member replied. Later, Merkel would say she thought something bad had happened in Germany.Updated: Nov 30, 2018 15:32 IST
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plane suffered an emergency en route to the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires as a serious electrical malfunction forced the pilots to return to Germany, where the plane landed heavily in Cologne on a runway surrounded by fire trucks.
The four-engine Airbus A340 experienced difficulties southwest of Amsterdam, less than an hour into the flight from Berlin. The pilots dumped fuel, but even so the plane touched down in Cologne with a heavy load for a trans-Atlantic flight. News portal Spiegel Online later reported the plane suffered a complete failure of its communication system that left the crew without contact with ground control.
The German leader plans to fly to Madrid early Friday and from there take a commercial flight to Argentina, accompanied by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and a small delegation, according to an official. The media contingent who had been traveling with her will remain in Germany.
There were few early signs of trouble on board the flight, aside from a frozen video screen that would normally show the progress of the flight. Then, as Merkel was speaking with reporters about the latest tensions between Russia and the Ukraine, the door opened and a crew member asked her to come out. “Why now?”, Merkel asked. “It’s urgent,’ the crew member replied. Later, Merkel would say she thought something bad had happened in Germany.
(Follow live updates of the G20 summit here)
Scholz remained with the reporters until Merkel returned 10 minutes later. “The world is already full of problems,” Merkel said. “Now we have one more minor problem. The plane has a technical defect. We have to fly back.” After landing at Cologne, the reporters were told, they would switch to a substitute plane that was already on its way.
Twenty five minutes later the captain announced the plane’s electronic systems had failed, rendering it unable to cross the Atlantic. Fire trucks with blue lights waited on the runway as the plane landed thirty minutes later before taxiing to the military area of the airport.
After 30 minutes on board as firemen inspected the plane, a spokesman told reporters the replacement plane would be unable to fly to Buenos Aires, because the crew had already worked too many hours.
In Argentina on Friday, Merkel had been scheduled to meet with president Donald Trump, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, as well their Argentine host, president Mauricio Macri. She is due to arrive in time for the traditional summit leaders’ dinner.
After disembarking, Merkel, her husband Joachim Sauer, Finance Minister Scholz and her security officers sat for some time at a desk in the airport restaurant. Leaving shortly after midnight, she told reporters there had been a “serious problem.’
“I’m glad we had the most experienced captain of the German Air Force in command,’ she added.
It’s not the first time for German officials to be left stranded. Scholz experienced a 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.
Last year, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was to return from Lithuania to Germany aboard an Airbus A400 military transport, when an engine malfunctioned on the tarmac, prompting the German Air Force to retrieve the minister in an older aircraft.
Compared with the iconic Air Force One used by American presidents, Merkel’s mode of transport is more modest. She has access to two A340s, of a model that’s no longer in production. The Air Force, which is in charge of servicing and operating them, has begun the process of rejuvenating the fleet.