‘Merkel Force Two’ – 2nd German VIP A350 Completes First Flight

The German government is mid-way through taking delivery of its fleet of Airbus A350-900 aircraft, with the first having been delivered earlier this year. Now the second aircraft being built for the country’s Air Force has taken its first flight.

Airbus A350, German Air Force, Merkel One
The second Airbus A350 bound for the German Air Force (not pictured) has completed its first flight. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

When you think of the Airbus A350, the last thought to cross your mind would be a private jet. However, much like the US Air Force has turned some Boeing 747s into the aircraft commonly known as Air Force One, Germany is doing the same, with three Airbus A350 aircraft joining its ranks.

2nd of three

Today the second Airbus A350-900 bound for the German Air Force took to the skies for the first time from the manufacturer’s Toulouse home. Before delivery, the aircraft is on Airbus’ test registration F-WZGL. It will eventually take the registration 10+01 when it is delivered to the Air Force.

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The aircraft took off from Toulouse at 13:53 yesterday. The aircraft initially flew out to the Bay of Biscay before climbing to its maximum height of 43,000 over Britany. The aircraft then flew back over the Bay of Biscay before returning to the Toulouse area for maneuvers at a slightly lower level. The aircraft landed at 16:53, precisely three hours after it took off.

Airbus A350, German Air Force, Merkel One
The aircraft completed a three-hour test flight. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

What’s next for the aircraft?

The aircraft is still a long way off joining the German Air Force’s fleet. Yesterday’s flight saw the aircraft take to the skies without paint applied. The only part of the aircraft that has been painted are the wingtips and the engines. As such, the aircraft needs a trip to the paint shop before delivery.

It will likely also undergo further test flights before leaving the care of Airbus. However, even then, the plane won’t join the German Air Force right away. Instead, the aircraft are first being sent to Lufthansa Technik’s facility in Hamburg. This is the same facility that is currently working on the C-check for NASA’s SOFIA Boeing 747.

Here the aircraft are kitted out to the Air Force’s specifications before handover. This A350 and the final aircraft to be delivered are both being fitted with ‘fully-fledged government cabins’ before going to the Air Force.

Airbus A350, German Air Force, Merkel One
The world’s first non-commercial A350 was delivered to the Air Force earlier this year. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

Once delivered, they will ferry German government ministers such as Angela Merkel and AKK around the world. Germany recently welcomed the UK equivalent, an A330 carrying Prince Charles, at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport.

First Airbus A350 to get a makeover

When the first of the three A350s was handed over to the air force, it had been fitted with a unique transitional cabin. This was quicker than installing the full cabin, allowing the aircraft to begin VIP transport rapidly. Once 10+01 and 10+02 have received their full cabins, 10+03 will be handed back to Lufthansa Technik to take its permanent cabin.

Have you spotted the first A350 in the skies above Germany yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!