German govt buys new planes after embarrassing technical faults

Photo: AFP

The German government has purchased three new Airbus 350 long-haul planes for official trips after a series of embarrassing technical failures with its current fleet, including one which grounded Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Berlin will pay 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) for the three A350s, the first to be delivered in 2020 and the remaining two in 2022, the ministry said Wednesday.

"The brand new planes will boost the flight readiness of the defence ministry's long-haul capacities," it said.

Once are delivered, the A340-300s currently in service would be phased out, it added.

Among the embarrassing technical failures that hit the government service fleet in the last months was one in November affecting Merkel.

The chancellor missed the beginning of a G20 summit in Buenos Aires as the plane carrying her from Berlin encountered electrical problems and was forced to land in Cologne.

The "Konrad Adenauer" Airbus was given a complete overhaul following the incident but on its first outing since on April 1, it blew a tyre on landing in New York with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on board.

The plane eventually had to be towed to its parking space, but the delay meant that Maas missed his first appointments at the UN.

In March, the foreign minister was stranded in Mali due to a hydraulic problem with his Airbus A319's landing gear.

The plane woes have also hit other top German officials.

At the end of January, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was stuck in Ethiopia for similar reasons while Development Minister Gerd Mueller had to cancel a trip to Namibia at the start of the year owing to problems with his plane.

With the Konrad Adenauer back in the repair workshop, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz had to fly on a smaller plane, the A321, which required mid-route refuelling in Iceland to complete its journey to the United States.

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