MAINZ, Germany -- Think government aircraft have top security? Not so much – at least in Germany.
A 24-year-old man gained illegal access to the supposedly secure military section of the Cologne/Bonn airport last month and boarded an Airbus jet frequently used by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top politicians, the German air force confirmed to NBC News.
The embarrassing security breach on July 25 attracted renewed attention this week after more details of the incident in a police report were leaked to German newspapers.
Local media reported that he was high on drugs – toting a bag full of marijuana and ecstasy pills – and that he stripped down to his underwear and sprayed fire extinguisher foam around the cabin.
The state prosecutor's office in Cologne identified the man as Volkan T., a German citizen of Turkish origin. Officials did not immediately confirm reports that he was highly intoxicated, but said that as part of the ongoing investigation a "chemical-toxilogical test is being conducted."
The young man, reportedly a bodybuilder, climbed over the engine onto the left wing of the customised Airbus A319 and managed to board the plane through an emergency exit before his rampage. The aircraft's emergency slide automatically deployed when he opened the door, officials said.
A spokesman for Germany's 'Luftwaffe', the country's air force, told NBC News that the intruder triggered an alarm shortly before 9 p.m. that night when he started pushing buttons and flipping switches in the cockpit.
According to German newspaper Die Welt, the cockpit was unlocked.
"Approximately 25 minutes later, the officer of the guard service at the airport was informed and at 9:35 police officers arrived at the scene," the air force spokesman said. Volkan T. was later arrested at the airport.
The incident prompts numerous questions about the existing security measures for government aircraft: German media reported that the Airbus was loaded with up to 8 tons of fuel and that technically, the plane could have taken off. Officials also admitted at least one alarm device was not working.
"Due to construction measures at the airport, the ground sensors of the alarm system at the parking position on the tarmac were disarmed," the air force spokesman said.
Air force officials and prosecutors say they are still investigating how Volkan T. gained access to the airfield.
Prosecutor Ulrich Bremer told NBC News that the case is "focused on charges of dangerous interference into aviation, illegal trespassing and damage to government property."
Terrorism was ruled out as a motive and the Volkan T. is currently being held in a psychiatric ward in Cologne after a doctor determined that he could be of diminished criminal responsibility due to a mental illness, the prosecutor's office said.
German air force officials said the aircraft was back on duty on August 13 after a complete technical overhaul on the ground and a safety test flight on August 12. The plane also got a fresh coat of paint on its left wing, a new emergency slide and new carpeting in the cabin.
First published August 21 2013, 9:31 AM