German foreign minister stuck in Mali after plane troubles

AFP , Friday 1 Mar 2019

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was stranded in Mali on Friday due to technical problems with his plane, the latest in a series of incidents that have struck the government's fleet.

Maas, whose tour of West Africa included Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Mali, was stuck in the Malian capital Bamako after a hydraulic problem with his Airbus A319's landing gear.

A Luftwaffe (air force) Airbus A340 took off from Cologne Friday morning to fetch the country's top diplomat back to Germany, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

A string of technical problems have plagued German government aviation, with Chancellor Angela Merkel missing the opening of the November G20 summit in Argentina after her A340 was forced to land in Cologne due to electrical problems.

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

Despite the massive press attention on the problems, just 21 government flights were cancelled or otherwise troubled by technical defects of 1,743 between 2016 and 2018, a government spokesman said Friday.

But Berlin is looking into buying new planes over the coming years as the existing fleet is "small" and "relatively old".

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