Abu Dhabi: The government aircraft, an Airbus A340-300, is parked at the airport
Sina Schuldt / dpa
After Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's flight debacle with an A340 government jet, the Air Force is drawing consequences. For example, the two A340 jets of the flight readiness are to be retired immediately. "We will decommission the two A340s as soon as possible, i.e. in the coming weeks," an Air Force spokesman said on Tuesday morning. Originally, the two jets were to be decommissioned in the fall and early next year.
The Air Force emphasized that flight operations for the Federal President, the Chancellor and the most important ministers from the cabinet were not affected by the early shutdown. "With the A350, the flight readiness has robust and modern aircraft at its disposal for long-haul flights," said a spokesman for Air Force Inspector Ingo Gerhartz.
The three-star general had successfully stabilized the flight readiness of the federal government after an earlier series of breakdowns in recent years.
Trip cancelled after two mishaps
Baerbock cut short a trip to Australia on Tuesday morning. The decision was preceded by two breakdowns with the government jet.
Early Monday morning, the captain had already noticed a defect in the retraction of the flaps. After the crew had dumped around 80 tonnes of kerosene from the fully fuelled aircraft in a two-hour manoeuvre over the desert emirate and the sea, it landed back in Abu Dhabi at 5.33 a.m. local time.
Since the flaps could not be fully and synchronously retracted as necessary, the aircraft could not reach normal cruising altitude and speed – kerosene consumption on the long route to Australia would have increased significantly. Since the aircraft was fully fueled for the almost 14-hour flight, the weight for landing had to be greatly reduced.
A second attempt failed during the night. The plane had risen after take-off at 1:00 a.m. local time (23:00 p.m. CEST) in Abu Dhabi at the beginning, but did not pick up any speed. 15 minutes after take-off, the Airbus A340-300 then turned off course again and flew back towards the desert emirate, where it finally landed again at 2:57 a.m. local time.
The Air Force technicians had previously tried everything in Abu Dhabi to rule out another breakdown. The A340 even took off on a 30-minute test flight around the Gulf Emirate early on Monday evening, with no fault on the flaps of the wings. However, the jet was not completely fueled for the test flight. The technicians therefore suspect that the error only occurs during a flight under full load, i.e. with completely full tanks. Currently, a team of Air Force experts is investigating whether this hypothesis is true. Lufthansa Technik, which regularly overtakes the aircraft of the flight readiness, is also involved in the investigation.
With the scheduled flight back to Berlin
Baerbock wanted to return to Berlin on Tuesday by scheduled flight after breaking off her trip to the Pacific region. After the breakdowns of her A340-300 government aircraft, the Green politician also had to take a detour – as did many members of her delegation. However, Baerbock's exact route for the return journey was not published for security reasons.