Amid ongoing embarrassment for Germany's official government airplane fleet, the German Air Force is also experiencing a shortage of pilots, German media announced yesterday. According to a report by the government's parliamentary military commissioner, Hans-Peter Bartels, only about two-thirds of the combat pilot positions are filled. Some earlier reports noted that only 58% of German pilots meet the 180 flight hour target required per year, which is the minimum training requirement set by NATO, due to a shortage of available planes.
The fleet of 14 – partly quite old – airplanes, which are used for members of the cabinet and the president, has been dogged by a series of mishaps on official trips abroad. These series of failures have raised questions over the chronic underinvestment in the German army, or Bundeswehr. The Bundeswehr has stepped up efforts to make improvements following the embarrassing breakdown in Chancellor Merkel's airplane for the G20 summit. The Bundeswehr has considered it necessary to procure at least a third long-haul aircraft of the necessary type – an A330 or A350. Currently, it has two A340s available for the chancellor and other top government officials. Most recently, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had to fly to Poland for World War II commemorations in a replacement plane last week after the official government aircraft experienced a technical defect.