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Shultz Borrows Jet After His 707 Fails

December 16, 1987|NORMAN KEMPSTER | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — Secretary of State George P. Shultz flew into London on Tuesday aboard a West German Luftwaffe jetliner after his own 29-year-old U.S. Air Force craft failed in Bonn.

Shultz and a scaled-down version of his 47-person entourage left Bonn about 2 1/2 hours late after meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Defense Minister Manfred Woerner and former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

It was an uneventful day--marked more by things that did not happen than by things that did--before Shultz arrived at the Cologne-Bonn airport for a late afternoon flight to London, where he had tickets to the hit West End musical, "Phantom of the Opera," for Tuesday night. He is scheduled to meet today with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe.

But when Shultz's party reached the airport, mechanics had removed the cowling from the left inboard engine on the Boeing 707 that the secretary of state and some other Washington VIPs use for official trips.

Resolutely Optimistic

At first, State Department transportation officers were resolutely optimistic. Sounding like the gate agent of a commercial airline explaining that a crippled flight would take off any minute now, the officials said the problem was just a loose wire that already had been repaired.

But as the stack of parts on the tarmac grew, it became increasingly clear that the delay was going to be a relatively long one.

The Shultz 707 was delivered to the U.S. government in 1958, during the Eisenhower Administration. It is painted the same as President Reagan's Air Force One, itself an aging 1972 model.

After a little more than an hour, the West German government offered to help out. The Luftwaffe supplied a 10 1/2-year-old Dutch-made Fokker VFW 614, a two-engine, 30-passenger executive jet. Shultz, his wife, Helena, and four aides sat in a six seat forward cabin.

Decided Not to Wait

Just before the German plane took off, word was received that the U.S. plane had been repaired and could fly soon. But Shultz decided not to wait for the U.S. craft.

"We did not ask (the West Germans) for the plane," a State Department official said. "The German protocol officer said, 'You have a problem, we want to help.' While we were still working on the mechanical problem, the (West German) plane was towed into position beside us."

The rest of the Shultz party flew on to London aboard the repaired U.S. plane.

Steadfastness Praised

In Bonn, Shultz praised West German leaders for their steadfastness in supporting the deployment of Pershing 2 missiles. Sounding a recurrent theme on this trip that began last Thursday night, Shultz said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization deployment of the Pershings and ground-launched cruise missiles in West Germany and four other countries produced the conditions that made it possible to negotiate the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty with the Soviet Union. That treaty, signed in Washington last week, calls for the destruction of medium- and shorter-range nuclear missiles on both sides.

But Shultz said he did not even discuss the issue that has become most prominent in West Germany, the fate of battlefield nuclear weapons with ranges of less than 300 miles.

Opposed by Some

Some West German political leaders have said they want to get rid of the battlefield weapons as well, because most of them are deployed in either East Germany or West Germany. Many West Germans object to the weapons because it is likely that they would be used only on German territory in case of war.

However, a senior U.S. official said Bonn has agreed to support a NATO decision to put battlefield nuclear arms reduction at the bottom of its arms control priority list, behind strategic weapons, conventional forces and chemical weapons.

"Of course, it is a political issue" in West Germany, the official said. "It is tough and it is uncomfortable."

But NATO foreign ministers set alliance arms control priorities last June and reaffirmed them at their meeting in Brussels last Friday, the official said. West Germany has not sought to reopen the subject.

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