German Foreign Minister cancels Australia trip as faulty plane returns to Abu Dhabi

Annalena Baerbock calls off visit after technical problems with German Air Force Airbus A340 force crew to twice abort flight

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and other German officials have experienced a string of aircraft technical problems on overseas trips. AP
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Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has had to cancel a trip to Australia after technical problems with her official aircraft saw it twice return to Abu Dhabi.

The military announced the Airbus A340 would be retired after the latest in a string of embarrassing mishaps for German officials travelling abroad.

The Green party minister had planned to visit Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in a week-long trip.

As well as holding talks on climate and security policy, she had hoped to watch a semi-final of the Women’s World Cup.

But Ms Baerbock’s tour was abandoned after the German Air Force plane made two aborted attempts to set off from Abu Dhabi International Airport.

On both occasions the crew noticed a “technical fault” with the wing flaps on aircraft, which had stopped off at Abu Dhabi for refuelling.

The aircraft had to dump 80 tonnes of fuel before returning to the airport.

Ms Baerbock said it was “more than unfortunate” that it was “logistically impossible to continue my Indo-Pacific trip without the defective plane”.

The plane changed crew in Abu Dhabi on Sunday but turned back after taking off for Canberra. It had been due to arrive in Australia on Monday night.

A test flight over the UAE went smoothly after repairs, but a second attempt to head for Australia on Monday was called off when the fault resurfaced. The aircraft returned to Abu Dhabi.

It is not the first time that technical problems have thwarted the travel plans of senior German officials.

In May, Ms Baerbock was held up in Qatar because of a tyre fault on an Airbus A321 neo.

A visit to London was called off in December because of delays in de-icing her plane in Dublin.

Former chancellor Angela Merkel arrived late to a G20 summit in 2018 because of a fault with her official aircraft. It was also carrying her successor Olaf Scholz, then finance minister.

The same year, another flight involving Mr Scholz was held up in Indonesia when rodents apparently chewed through electric cables.

Updated: August 15, 2023, 9:59 AM