Zurich, Switzerland – Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced an unexpected change of travel plans on Wednesday when his original aircraft was grounded due to a critical failure. Blinken had initially boarded a Boeing C-40, a U.S. military service aircraft, but it suffered from an oxygen leak, prompting the need for a new plane.
The press pool accompanying Blinken was advised to make commercial flight arrangements as the new aircraft was unable to accommodate journalists. Despite the setback, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller assured reporters that Blinken is still expected to return to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, albeit several hours later than planned.
The mechanical issue did not disrupt Blinken’s scheduled meetings, as he had already left Davos for Zurich. Any further inquiries about the plane were directed to the Air Force. Blinken had been in Davos to participate in the World Economic Forum, a gathering of government and business leaders.
The Boeing C-40, a modified Boeing 737 primarily used by high-ranking government officials, has come under scrutiny recently due to concerns about the safety of Boeing aircraft. This comes in the wake of the incident involving an Alaska Airlines flight where a door plug detached midair, leading to the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9 airplanes operated in the U.S. or by U.S. airlines by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In response to these safety concerns, the FAA announced on Wednesday that it would widen its probe into Boeing, with a specific focus on the work of Spirit AeroSystems, a Kansas-based aerospace company that manufactures and installs plug doors for Boeing 737 Max 9 airplanes. This latest development adds to the growing scrutiny surrounding the safety of Boeing aircraft.
Despite the unexpected travel disruption, Blinken is set to make his return to Washington, D.C., highlighting the resilience of top officials in navigating logistical challenges during international trips.