Merkel’s plane damaged as ‘over-excited’ fan causes runway accident

German government planes have been hit by a series of defects in recent months. But this time the problem is not down to the plane itself.

Merkel’s plane damaged as ‘over-excited’ fan causes runway accident
Merkel inspects the damage on Monday. Photo: DPA

A van at Dortmund Airport, in western Germany crashed into Angela Merkel's plane on Monday. Reportedly the driver was an over-excited fan of the Chancellor. 

According to Spiegel, an airport employee was driving the red van on the tarmac at around noon on Monday. But when she spotted the Chancellor's white plane with the inscription “Federal Republic of Germany” on it, she is said to have jumped out of the vehicle to take a photo with her phone.

SEE ALSO: Not a unique occurrence: How plane problems have plagued German politicians' travel

The enthusiasm for the Chancellor had serious consequences. Since the employee had not put on the handbrake of the Renault van, it rolled slowly forward and rammed the nose of the white “Global5000”, which was parked. Merkel had flown in on the plane from Berlin.

The windshield of the bus shattered and the nose of the jet was damaged.

For Merkel, who apparently didn't notice the incident, the breakdown meant a long return journey. Instead of flying back to Berlin with the “Global” in 45 minutes after her appointments in Wuppertal, she had to take the helicopter for the whole trip. Technicians are now trying to work out how badly the jet is damaged.

More plane woes

It's the latest in a series of plane malfunctions to hit the government fleet. Spiegel reports that none of the four “Global” jets are currently available, and one of the large A340s has been in maintenance for weeks. As a result, it is becoming more and more difficult for government organizers to plan appointments for Chancellor Merkel and her ministers.

In recent months, there have been repeated problems with aircrafts: in April a tyre of the “Konrad Adenauer” broke during the landing in New York. And in February Foreign Minister Heiko Maas became temporarily stuck in Mali, West Africa, due to a hydraulic defect in the landing gear of his aircraft.

SEE ALSO: Foreign Minister Maas latest German politician to be hit by plane problems

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was temporarily stranded in Ethiopia at the end of January while Development Minister Gerd Müller (CSU) was also held up by an aircraft breakdown during a recent trip to Africa.

Meanwhile, technical problems in mid-April resulted in a dramatic crash landing. Bundeswehr (German army) pilots were flying a jet from a maintenance facility in Berlin-Schönefeld. But they lost control of the aircraft shortly after take-off and had to make an emergency landing. They missed the runway and slid over the lawn. The jet was badly damaged.

The incident resulted in severe passenger delays at the airport.

SEE ALSO: Passenger delays after government plane crash lands in Berlin


Plane – (das) Flugzeug

Federal government – (die) Bundesregierung

Inscription (die) Aufschrift

Technical problems – (die) technischen Probleme

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.