BERLIN (Reuters) – The German Air Force said on Friday that there was no suspicion of criminal activity after a malfunction forced a plane carrying Chancellor Angela Merkel to the G20 summit in Argentina to make an unscheduled landing.
Earlier German daily Rheinische Post cited security sources as saying the government was checking whether the incident on Thursday had a “criminal background”, though the sources added that investigators would typically look “in all directions” after such an incident.
But a spokesman for the German Air Force said there was no suspicion of any crime, adding: “It’s a standard check of the radio equipment that failed.”
Merkel was on her way from Germany to the summit when the government’s Airbus A340 made an unscheduled but safe landing at Cologne-Bonn airport late on Thursday.
Guido Henrich, commander of the German Air Force’s government fleet, told reporters the pilots experienced the radio failure over the Netherlands and that other systems failed too, so they landed at Cologne-Bonn airport.
An electronic failure was the problem.
“The part concerned was an electronic distribution box, which we have changed,” Henrich, adding that the Air Force was sending another plane to Argentina on Friday for Merkel’s return journey from the G20.
Der Spiegel magazine said the government plane’s entire communication system malfunctioned, constituting a serious emergency, with the crew forced to plan the landing using an on-board satellite phone.
The air force spokesman said the plane had not discharged jet fuel before landing in Cologne, contrary to earlier reports.
Merkel called the incident a “serious malfunction”. She and German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz were due to resume their travel to Buenos Aires early on Friday, but they will arrive after G20 leaders start their discussions.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke in Cologne; Writing by Thomas Seythal and Michelle Martin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)