BERLIN — An intruder managed to break into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s jet at Cologne Airport for several hours last month, playing around with buttons in the cockpit, activating the escape slide and using fire extinguishers before police put an end to his escapades.
The incident took place the evening of July 25 and the case is still being investigated, a spokesman for Germany’s air force said today. Merkel was not in Cologne during the incident, he said.
“The man probably got onto the airfield because there was construction and that’s why the alarm system was turned off,” said the air force official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy. “He then pulled down the jet engine’s cover, climbed up and entered the plane through its emergency exit.”
The intruder, a 24-year-old bodybuilder whose name was only given as Volkan T., somehow pressed an alarm button in the cockpit, which is how police were alerted to the incident. When he refused to leave the plane, police entered with dogs and he was bitten twice in the leg before they could overpower him, the German news agency dpa reported.
German media, citing a leaked report from the Federal Police, said he had taken ecstasy pills.
“According to witnesses, he seemed to have been under the influence of drugs, but we are still waiting for a scientific evaluation to confirm this,” Ulrich Bremer, Cologne’s senior prosecutor, told The Associated Press.
The Airbus A319 is one of two VIP planes that are usually on call for Germany’s top lawmakers at the military section of Cologne’s airport. In contrast to President Barack Obama’s Air Force No. One, the two Airbus planes are not only reserved for Merkel but can also be used be the country’s president, Joachim Gauck, or high-ranking ministers.
Bremer would not comment on German media reports that Volkan T. was dancing around on the plane in his underpants when he was caught by police.
“It seems his behavior may have been related to a psychiatric illness and he has been put up in a mental institution while we’re waiting for a psychological evaluation,” Bremer said. “He may not fully be held responsible for his acts.”
The intruder had no previous history with the police, he added.
The air force official said there was no way the intruder could have started the plane, since it “was on power-off mode.” Air force personnel made a complete technical check of the plane, changed the emergency exit door and held a test flight before it was put back on active duty on Aug. 13.
“As a consequence, we have ordered an extra employee to guard the government planes at all times,’” the air force spokesman said.