The long drawn-out formation of a new German federal government posed an unusual challenge for the German armed forces: its flight readiness.
The Bundeswehr armed forces – of which the Luftwaffe air force is responsible for flying the government officials around the world – are just about coping with the limited aeroplanes at their disposal amid the busy travel schedules.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas alone travelled more than a record 118,000 kilometres in his first 100 days in office, the equivalent of three times around the globe.
Having finally formed a government after six months of wrangling, Chancellor Angela Merkel had to play catch-up and travelled to countries like China, the United States, Russia and to Canada for the G7 summit.
Newcomers to the German cabinet, like Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, also had their inaugural trips abroad, and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen had to visit German troops stationed in other countries.
The Luftwaffe is equipped with only eight VIP planes, meaning the chancellor’s and her ministers’ travels have stretched its capacity to the limit.
Maas had to take a commercial flight to New York for one of the most important engagements of the year, the vote for Germany to take a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
The lack of VIP planes have been exacerbated by the fact that the chancellor and president have to have back-up aircraft for their trips in case there is a problem with their planes.
In June, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visit to Belarus was delayed at the last minute due to hydraulic damage to his plane.
In December 2015, Merkel had to board a military cargo plane for her visit to India when her official plane was found to have glitches, again at the very last moment.
However, the worries of the government might be over soon.
Over the last year and a half, Lufthansa Technik, the maintenance and modification arm of the German airline, has been working to refurbish an Airbus A321 to join the official fleet.
The plane is expected to be handed over to the armed forces in September. It will be the official plane for the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or Angie Force One if you will.
The plane has been part of the Lufthansa fleet since 2000, and was named after the German town of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse.
Lufthansa’s logo will now be replaced by the German flag, along with the words “Federal Republic of Germany,” but this will be one of the last jobs done before it is handed over.
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