AN €8 million government jet had to make an emergency landing while taking Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to Turkey, emails have revealed.
On their way to Turkey, Mr Coveney and a delegation were scheduled to stop off in Zagreb, Croatia, to refuel before the remainder of the journey.
Within an hour of the jet taking off from Franjo Tudman Airport at 8.58pm on January 26, the plane returned to the same airport, The Irish Mirror reports.
The impromptu landing was reportedly due to a technical problem, involving a part that overheated during the course of the flight.
The Department of Defence refused to comment on the details of the malfunction, citing “operational and security reasons”.
Following the incident, one of the Defence Forces brand new Pilatus PC-12s was dispatched from Baldonnel in Dublin to provide assistance to the beleaguered delegation.
The military plane had several government technicians on board to address the mechanical fault with the aircraft.
The PC-12 also transported Minister Coveney and his entourage of five on to their diplomatic engagements in Turkey, flight logs published by the Department of Defence have revealed.
Amazingly, the incident had a minimal impact on the minister’s schedule, as he still managed to get to the cities of Ankara and Hatay where, along with his Turkish counterpart, he observed the aid being provided to Syrian civilians.
Among the other topics discussed were Turkeys controversial accession into the EU, as well as how Ireland will use its non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council to influence a variety of pressing regional and international issues.
Rather bizarrely, the trip became the subject of conspiracy theories insisting that a “media blackout” had been applied to coverage of Mr Coveney's visit.
When approached by the Irish Mirror, the Department of Defence declined to comment on the nature of the mechanical problem that grounded the jet.
A spokeswoman said: “For operational and security reasons the information sought in relation to the operation of the Ministerial Air Transport Service and serviceability of the Government Jet cannot be provided.
“However, we can confirm that a PC-12 was the replacement aircraft used to complete the mission. We are advised that no scheduled meetings in the Minister’s itinerary were cancelled as a result of the change of aircraft.”
The Learjet did not embark on another ministerial flight until 21 February when it flew – without incident – to Brussels, Department of Defence records show.
While the cost of the PC-12 relief mission has not been made available to the public, the cost of the Learjet’s flight to and from Zagreb is estimated to be in the region of €14,000.
This works out to be €3,780 per hour.