Image: The first Airbus A319 delivered to the German Army
Axel Heimken  /  AP
The first Airbus A319 delivered to the German Army ‘Bundeswehr’ leaves the hangar of the Lufthansa shipyard in Hamburg, northern Germany, on Wednesday, March 31.
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updated 3/31/2010 3:43:08 PM ET 2010-03-31T19:43:08

The German government is putting years of breakdowns and fueling stops behind it with the delivery of eight new aircraft for the chancellor and other top officials— replacing some planes dating back to East Germany's communist era.

The first new Airbus A319 delivered on Wednesday will be used by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Horst Koehler and government ministers, Assistant Defense Minister Ruediger Wolf said.

The white plane with the official inscription "Bundesrepublik Deutschland" — or "Federal Republic of Germany" — was delivered to the German military at a site in Hamburg, the DAPD news agency reported. The military operates the government fleet.

The work of the government of Europe's biggest economy was often hindered or delayed by its unreliable planes. As recently as Saturday, chancellor Merkel missed a campaign stop in western North-Rhine Westphalia because of a plane breakdown. A year ago, she missed the beginning of an EU summit because of plane trouble.

EX-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer endured an emergency landing in 2005.

Flights were frequently slower than on commercial plane because of frequent fueling stops. The new A319 has four extra tanks, allowing flights to reach Washington or Beijing and other Asian destinations without refueling, the government said.

The plane's cabin comes with a VIP area that can seat 12, plus beds, a shower, a conference room and space for a delegation of up to 32 people.

Parliament approved the one billion euro (now $1.34 billion) replacement of the government's aging fleet in 2008, provoking controversy as Germans endured social welfare cuts. The government is not opting for any costly extras: Instead of real wood, the new plane comes only with imitation, a spokesman for Deutsche Lufthansa AG's technique division, which designed the interior, told DAPD.

This summer the next A319 is due to be delivered this summer, followed by four Bombardier Global 5000s and the two long-haul Airbus A340-300 by the end of next year.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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