Saturday December 1, 2018
By Andy Eckardt and Alastair Jamieson
The military-operated Airbus A340 had to land in Cologne just an hour into its journey to Buenos Aires.
MAINZ, Germany — German leader Angela Merkel will miss the opening of the G-20 summit in Argentina — including a scheduled meeting with President Donald Trump — after her government plane suffered what she called a "serious malfunction.”
The chancellor, along with her delegation of officials and journalists, made an unscheduled landing at Cologne-Bonn airport after the Airbus A340 lost communications about 60 minutes into its 15-hour flight from Berlin.
Merkel and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz resumed their travel to Buenos Aires on Friday aboard a commercial flight but the delay means they are due to arrive after world leaders begin discussions.
She had been scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Trump, President Xi Jinping of China and the Argentinian president. “We do not know yet whether these meetings can possibly be rescheduled for a later time,” a German government spokesman said.
A spokesman for the country's Defense Ministry said the aircraft, named after former chancellor Konrad Adenauer, experienced a "complete loss of its communication system.”
There is “no evidence of a criminal background in this incident" but a thorough investigation is underway, the spokesman said.
"It was a serious malfunction," Merkel told reporters after the delegation was brought to a hotel in Bonn to await alternative transportation. "Luckily, we had an excellent crew and the most experienced pilot of the special air mission wing."
Fire trucks were on standby because the aircraft was unable to dump fuel and made a heavier than normal landing that caused the brakes to overheat.
Bettina Schausten, the Berlin bureau chief of NBC News’ German partner channel ZDF, was on board the aircraft and described the atmosphere on board as “calm” after the captain promised a “safe landing.”
Andy Eckardt reported from Mainz, and Alastair Jamieson from London.