Angela Merkel to miss start of G20 summit after plane’s technical difficulties

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A plane carrying the German chancellor had to turn around and land in Cologne after only an hour in the air due to a technical difficulty. She is now safely on her way to Buenos Aires.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to miss the start of the G20 summit after her journey to Buenos Aires for this weekend’s summit was interrupted on Thursday when the government’s “Konrad Adenauer” Airbus experienced technical difficulties in the air.

The delay will likely complicate Merkel’s schedule of meetings at the two-day G20 summit. She had planned bilateral talks with the presidents of the United States, China, Russia and India.

“It was a serious malfunction,” Merkel told reporters early Friday morning, complimenting a “very, very excellent crew” on board the plane.

Shortly after departing from Berlin on Thursday evening, the plane circled over the Netherlands and landed at the Cologne/Bonn airport in western Germany — which is also home base for the German government’s aircraft.

Merkel, who is also traveling with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and a pool of journalists, stayed overnight in Bonn, the former West German capital where the Chancellery still maintains a largely ceremonial presence.  She then traveled on to Madrid with a slimmed-down delegation early on Friday morning, from where she set off to Buenos Aires on a regular commercial flight, according to the airline Iberia.

Malfunctioning electronic systems

The pilot informed the chancellor and other passengers that a technical defect had caused the “malfunction of several electronic systems” on the Airbus A340-300.

According to multiple German media outlets, the aircraft experienced problems with its radio equipment, but the pilot said there had been no safety risks. German news magazine Der Spiegel reported the crew had to use an onboard satellite phone in order to plan the landing.

One paper, the Rheinische Post, reported that the government was investigating the incident as a potential crime, though government sources said investigations “in all directions” were standard in such cases.

According to the report, the pilot spoke of an unprecedented failure of the communications system, while security sources said such a malfunction was supposed to be impossible.

However, a spokesman for Germany’s airforce ruled out any sabotage, saying there was “absolutely no indication of a criminal act.”

Series of aviation hitches

Issues with the government’s A340 jets also caused travel problems for German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during several of his diplomatic trips this year.

Last week, Steinmeier was delayed during a trip to several African countries when the government’s “Theodor Heuss” jet — also an Airbus A340 — experienced problems. His trip to Belarus in July was likewise temporarily grounded when the “Konrad Adenauer” suffered issues with its hydraulic system.

Asked about the recent difficulties with government planes, Merkel said the “individual incidents should not make us change the system.”

rs/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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