Merkel was headed for the G20 summit in Argentina, but her plane had to make an emergency landing near Cologne on Thursday “due to a technical problem” AFP reported.
The Airbus A340-300, named the Konrad Adenauer after Germany’s first post war chancellor, was greeted on the tarmac by fire engines, the German news agency DPA reported.
The plane turned back from the Netherlands after only one hour in the air, and made an emergency landing in Cologne where a replacement plane is available, the news agency said.
She will be missing the opening of the summit, her spokesperson confirmed.
“Following a technical problem, the official plane landed safely in Cologne. We will not be proceeding today,” Merkel’s spokesperson said.
According to information from the German daily, the Rheinische Post, the Federal government suspects that the electronic disruption of the government aircraft transporting the Chancellor could have a criminal background.
Merkel spoke with Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) about the cancellation of the flight after landing in Cologne. The case will be processed “criminally”, the editors learned from security sources. In government circles, sources confirmed that “all leads” will be investigated.
The pilot, described by Merkel as the “most experienced flight captain of aviation”, is said to have spoken of an unprecedented failure of the communications system.
Such a thing was not thought possible, sources in safety circles maintain. At the time, the plane was over Amsterdam heading for the Atlantic, but the German leader was instead flown to Cologne.
Such an incident is considered a dangerous emergency in aviation. Therefore, the pilots immediately decided to terminate the flight to Buenos Aires.
Because of the plain’s failed electronic systems, a longer descent was necessary than the airport at Amsterdam would allow. Fuel was drained across the Atlantic to lessen the weight of the long-haul Airbus before the crucial landing.
Furthermore, there were additional fears that the aircraft’s landing gear could not be extended. It was only thanks to the superior response of the captain that the plane landed safely.
According to Der Spiegel magazine, the malfunction was more serious than initially expected, and the pilots eventually had to use an on-board satellite phone to contact the traffic control centre in order to make an emergency landing in Cologne.
“It was a serious disruption,” Merkel said after the incident. She had to spend the night in Bonn. She has missed the traditional G20 group photo as well as important meetings of the heads of state present.
As #Merkel was speaking with reporters the door opened and a crew member asked her to come out. “Why now?”, Merkel asked. “It’s urgent,” the crew member replied. Probe of #German chancellor's mid-air drama includes potential sabotage https://t.co/tyVMybjkM8 @bpolitics @ArneDelfs pic.twitter.com/Fo8spa7jww
— Rosalind Mathieson (@RosMathieson) November 30, 2018