German leader forced to switch planes en route to G20 summit

A fire engine is pictured through a window of the Airbus A340 government aircraft carrying Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German delegation to the G20 summit in Buenos Aires which was forced to land shortly after taking off in Berlin at the Cologne-Bonn airport, Germany, November 29, 2018. The captain told passengers aboard the plane he decided to switch aircraft at the Cologne-Bonn airport in northwestern Germany after the "malfunction of several electronic systems", but said there had been no security risk. REUTERS/Andreas Rinke

COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel will miss the opening of the G20 summit in Argentina after technical issues forced her government plane to make an unscheduled but safe landing, German delegation sources said late on Thursday.

Merkel and German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz will resume their travel to Buenos Aires early on Friday, but the long flight time means they will arrive after world leaders start their discussions.

The government’s Airbus A340 aircraft carrying Merkel and her delegation to the G20 summit turned around after technical problems surfaced an hour into the 15-hour flight, and landed safely at the Cologne-Bonn airport.

The airplane captain told passengers he had decided to land after the “malfunction of several electronic systems”, but said there had been no security risk.

Merkel and other passengers initially remained on board the aircraft, called “Konrad Adenauer”, as mechanics inspected its brakes and several fire engines waited nearby, according to a Reuters reporter on board.

No details were immediately available about the cause of the technical issues. The German military blog Augengeradeaus reported that the plane’s transponder was transmitting the code 7600 which refers to a radio malfunction.

Later, the delegation traveled by bus to a hotel in Bonn. Delegation sources said a different government plane would fly Merkel and Scholz to Madrid, where they would switch to a commercial carrier for the final leg of the trip.

The delay will complicate Merkel’s schedule at meeting where the G20 members already expect to face very difficult negotiations on myriad issues.

Merkel, who had planned bilateral meetings with the presidents of the United States, China, Russia and India, was unlikely to arrive in Buenos Aires until Friday evening, German government sources said. It was not immediately clear which bilateral meetings would have to be rescheduled.

Scholz was grounded on the same A340 aircraft last month after an International Monetary Fund meeting in Indonesia, according to German media reports. They said the issue involved damage caused by rodents.

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