Luftwaffe announces early retirement of Airbus A340 jets

German Air Force decided to withdraw two four-engine official transport aircraft from service after one of the models had technical failures twice

The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) decided to accelerate the retirement of its two Airbus A340 government aircraft, after one of the four-engined aircraft (registration 16+01) suffered two technical failures during the flight towards Australia this week.

The A340-300 was transporting the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, and her entourage on a diplomatic trip to the Pacific region, which ended up being canceled due to the lack of available aircraft.

Through Twitter, the Luftwaffe reported that the two A340s in the official fleet will be withdrawn from service “We will take the two A340s out of service as soon as possible, ie in the coming weeks.”

The retirement of these aircraft, which were acquired from the Lufthansa airline more than a decade ago, was scheduled to take place by the end of 2024.

Issue history

In the first attempt, the aircraft took off from Abu Dhabi on Sunday at 3h33 am local time, but returned to the same point about two hours later. During that time, it flew in circles to dump fuel in order to stay light enough to land safely.

The second attempt took place at 1 am on Tuesday and the plane had the same mechanical problem, repeating the fuel jettisoning procedure once again until landing again in the Arab Emirate.

German Air Force ordered three A350-900 (Lufthansa Technik(

The A340 16+01 has a long history of operational problems with the Luftwaffe. The same aircraft had to return to Germany once, when it was transporting former Chancellor Angela Merkel on her way to the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the end of 2018. On that occasion, the jet had failures in the electronic systems.

Another notorious failure of the aircraft, also occurring in 2018, delayed the return of then Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at the time Minister of Finance of Germany, from Indonesia. The problem was that rats chewed through important parts of the aircraft’s wiring, making it unable to fly.

Now about to be retired, the Luftwaffe A340s will have their task of transporting authorities taken over by the new fleet of state-of-the-art Airbus A350 jets. The German air force has ordered three widebodies, one of which is already in service.


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