German Chancellor Merkel's "Angie Force One" is ready
Berlin - In Germany, The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) is responsible for flying the government officials around the world. But because of the German government's full flight agenda, Luftwaffe tries to cope with the issue with a limited number of airplanes available amid the busy travel schedules.
According to German Air Force records, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas alone flew more than 118,000 kilometers in his first 100 days of governance, which is equal of three times around the globe.
Having evantually established a government after six months of turbulence, Chancellor Angela Merkel had to travel to countries like China, the United States, Russia and Canada for the G7 summit.
New members of the government like Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, also had their inaugural trips abroad. Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited German troops deployed in different regions of the world.
German Air Force has only eight aircraft in its inventory assigned for VIP flights. The intense travel schedules of the German government have recently stretched Luftwaffe's capacity to the limit. In December 2015, German Air Force had to use a military cargo plane at the very last moment to fly German prime minister Angela Merkel to India.
However, the concerns of the Luftwaffe about flying German chancellor comfortably might be over soon. Lufthansa Technik has just finished the modification of an Airbus A321 aircraft for the private use of prime minister.
The plane is expected to be delivered to the Luftwaffe next month after the technical tests. The renovated A321will be the official VIP jet for the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The aircraft named after the German town of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse has been part of the Lufthansa fleet since 2000.
Why a secondhand plane?
It was cheaper, and therefore, easier on the taxpayers' pockets,explains Captain Dieter Brakonier from the Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use at the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces).
The aircraft had been very well maintained, which is why it was chosen,says Harald Pries, project manager at Lufthansa.
It's like a car - age doesn't matter, the level of care does,Pries added.
The experts at Lufthansa Technik have entirely renovated and modernized the aircraft, increased the MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight) by 4 tons, and reconfigured the cabin. In total, 180 changes were made on the plane, which explains why the process took so long (1 and a half years).
The jet can carry up to 84 passengers in total, 14 of them in the VIP section in front. The remaining seats are reserved for the other low-rank government officials, security officers, reporters, and guests.
Unlike the usual luxurious VIP planes, the cabin configuration in the front section is equal only to the premium economy class of commercial airlines. There are no many extras inside the plane.
To protect the head of state, Bundeswehr has also equipped the aircraft with military components such as defense systems, and the latest communication means.
Air Force Angie is expected to enter service from November this year.