Category: Archive

No room on the Airbus

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Four years ago, the taoiseach missed a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan because the Irish government jet developed a nose wheel problem at Ronald Reagan airport in Washington, D.C.
Had the problem happened in Boston earlier on that day, Ahern would have missed a meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House.
This time around, the taoiseach’s travel plans encountered turbulence associated with none other than Hurricane Katrina.
And he was more than 4,000 miles away from New Orleans packing his bags in Dublin.
Back in 2001 the government jet’s nose wheel problem was only the latest in a series of hitches for a plane that was rarely idle — except when it was in for repairs.
Unfortunately, that was all too frequently the case.
Last week, the jet was not immediately available to carry Ahern and his party across the Atlantic.
This because it had been in Texas undergoing routine maintenance.
The plane, which is flown by Irish air corps pilots, was due back in time to fly Ahern to New York for the United Nations 60th anniversary special summit.
But the hurricane that spawned so much death and destruction along the Gulf Coast grounded the Irish Gulfstream jet, which needed to be test flown before being cleared for normal duty.
As a result, the taoiseach had to scramble to make last minute alternative flying arrangements.
The obvious backup was Aer Lingus, which is still the state airline.
But, according to Irish newspaper reports, there was no room at the front or even the back of the Airbus for the head of the Irish government.
In need of a flight to meet his U.N. commitments at any cost, Ahern was flown to London in the government’s smaller short-haul Learjet and squeezed aboard an American Airlines flight to New York.
Reports in Ireland indicated that Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern had to do the same, but a diplomatic spokesman told the Irish Echo that this was not the case.
Minister Ahern, who had a longer United Nations program than the taoiseach, had an Aer Lingus booking and flew in and out of New York on the Irish carrier.
Meanwhile, the government Gulfstream 1V managed to pass its test flight and leave Texas for Washington, D.C. as Bertie Ahern was winding up his week in New York
The taoiseach was duly able to rendezvous with the elusive jet and make what had been a long promised trip to Newfoundland before flying back to Ireland last weekend.

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