Sec. of State Blinken forced to catch bus from Paris to Brussels after Boeing 737 grounded for undisclosed 'mechanical issue'

 April 4, 2024

For the second time in little more than two months, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been forced to alter his transportation arrangements after the government-owned aircraft he usually travels on suffered problems that left it grounded in a foreign nation.

On Wednesday, Blinken and his traveling group were compelled to drive from Paris, France, to Brussels, Belgium, for a NATO meeting after the secretary's modified Boeing 737 suffered unspecified "mechanical issues," the Daily Mail reported.

It was in January that Blinken had to catch a hop on a different government-owned airplane -- while his aides had to catch commercial flights back to Washington D.C. -- when his usual jet also experienced problems that prevented a safe flight ahead of his return home from Davos in Switzerland.

Grounded by an unspecified "mechanical issue"

Fox News reported that Sec. Blinken was in Paris Wednesday morning after a meeting on Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron but was scheduled to attend a NATO meeting at the organization's headquarters in Brussels later that day.

Unfortunately for him, the modified Boeing 737 the secretary typically uses had an undisclosed "mechanical issue" that left it grounded, which forced Blinken and his staffers to ride a bus from Paris to Brussels.

That was a trip of nearly 200 miles that took about four hours, making Blinken approximately two hours late for the NATO meeting, per the Daily Mail.

"Due to a mechanical issue with the aircraft, Secretary Blinken and the American delegation drove from Paris to Brussels to attend the NATO Foreign Minister’s meeting," an unnamed State Department spokesperson said in a statement, according to Fox News.

Grounded after Davos by an oxygen tank leak

On January 17, CNN reported that Sec. Blinken had to alter his travel plans at the last moment as he was set to leave the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland after his modified Boeing 737 was similarly grounded due to "mechanical issues."

In that instance, the secretary and everyone in his traveling party had already boarded the aircraft when the crew discovered a potentially critical failure with a leak in the plane's oxygen tank, which left the jet grounded and unable to fly.

Per the Daily Mail, Blinken ultimately took a helicopter from Davos to Zurich, where another government-owned jet was sent to pick him up. Meanwhile, all the staffers and reporters traveling with him were made to catch commercial flights back home to the U.S. from Switzerland.

At that time, according to Fox News, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, "There's a mechanical issue. I don't know the nature of the mechanical issue, but he is in Zurich. He was scheduled to fly back from Zurich."

"The Air Force has a replacement plane inbound. We expect him to be back … But several hours later than originally planned," he added.

Boeing experiencing serious problems with its aircraft

The CNN report in January highlighted how Boeing has been experiencing a surge of mechanical problems with its fleet of jets, particularly the 737 MAX line, that have "tarnished" its once "stellar" reputation.

That includes a couple of major fatal crashes attributed to the flight control system that grounded all MAX planes for nearly two years but, more recently, also includes quality control issues like loose bolts on key components, like the rudder system and emergency hatches, that have led to increased inspections of all aircraft and heightened scrutiny of the company's procedures.

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