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Germany Immediately Retires Two Government A340 Planes After Embarrassing Technical Snag Forces Foreign Minister to Cancel Trip

Germany Immediately Retires Two Government A340 Planes After Embarrassing Technical Snag Forces Foreign Minister to Cancel Trip

a white airplane flying in the sky

The German Air Force says that within the coming weeks, it will retire two ageing Airbus A340 aircraft that are used to transport government ministers around the world after an embarrassing technical snag over the skies of Abu Dhabi forced Germany’s Foreign Minister to cancel a long-planned visit to the Pacific.

The aircraft that broke down while carrying Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to Australia was a 24-year-old Airbus A340-300 which was originally delivered new to German flag carrier Lufthansa before being transferred to the German Air Force in 2011.

Baring the registration 16+01, the plane was part of the Flugbereitschaft, which literally translates as ‘Flight Readiness’ but is really the German Air Force’s Executive Transport Wing which provides diplomatic air services for government ministers.

The gas guzzling quad-engined jets were already slated for retirement within the next 18 months, with the first (registration: 16+02) expected to be grounded by September of this year and the second (16+01) A340 due to be retired by the end of the year.

16+01 remains stranded in Abu Dhabi, while Baerbock and her entourage have been forced to fly back to Germany on a commercial flight from Dubai after abandoning her highly anticipated trip to the Pacific, including a visit to Fiji and New Zealand.

Baerbock and her team were due to make a short refuelling stopover in Abu Dhabi and continue their journey to Australia on Sunday night, but after takeoff, the pilots weren’t able to retract the wing flaps fully, so they ended up dumping fuel and landing back in Abu Dhabi.

After working to fix the technical snag, the aircraft performed a functional test flight over the skies of Abu Dhabi on Monday, and the plane was returned to service.

Several hours later, the German Air Force posted an embarrassing update: “Mission aborted”, the message read. “The error occurred again with the now fully refuelled machine. We are now landing back in Abu Dhabi,” the statement continued.

Facing a media storm at home over the debacle, the Air Force has now confirmed that it will retire both A340s ahead of schedule. In a media briefing, the Flugbereitschaft said that much newer and more ‘robust’ Airbus A350 aircraft were already available to take over from the older A340s.

Germany was the first government to order an executive version of the A350 and the government took delivery of the first of three such jets in August 2020. The second A350 was delivered in November 2022, and the final one was handed over in March.

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