Delayed by plane troubles, Trudeau finally heading home from India

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally left India after technical issues with a government aircraft delayed his departure by two days.

Plane was grounded after pre-flight checks revealed faulty part needed replacing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves as he boards an airplane along with his son.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and son Xavier depart New Delhi, India on Tuesday. Trudeau's departure was delayed several days due to a technical issue with his military aircraft. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally left India after a maintenance issue with his plane aircraft delayed his departure by two days.

Trudeau started this trip more than a week ago, flying to Jakarta for the ASEAN summit where he talked trade with Southeast Asian leaders before going on to Singapore to meet with business investors interested in Canada.

The prime minister arrived in New Delhi for the G20 summit last Friday, where geopolitical divisions over Russia's war on Ukraine dominated the headlines.

Trudeau's plane was set to depart for Ottawa on Sunday, but the plane was grounded when pre-flight checks revealed part was faulty and needed to be replaced. The Prime Minister's Office and the Canadian Armed Forces scrambled to figure out how to get the prime minister home.

The Royal Canadian Air Force sent a CC-150 Polaris to India from CFB Trenton Sunday night to pick up Trudeau and the Canadian delegation. A Challenger jet was sent to collect the prime minister as a contingency in case neither plane was able to make the journey home. 

Meanwhile a technician with a replacement part was flown over on a commercial flight, and within hours of his arrival in New Delhi the plane's technical issue was resolved and the plane was cleared to fly.

The prime minister does not fly commercial for security reasons.

WATCH | Grounded in India: 

Airplane problem strands Canadian G20 delegation in India

7 months ago
Duration 1:25
Canada's G20 delegation, including the prime minister, is still stuck in New Delhi due to a problem with the aging government Airbus that was supposed to bring them home. A replacement aircraft and parts have been dispatched to bring them back to Canada.

Replacing the fleet

The CC-150 Polaris plane the prime minister uses for travel, part of a fleet that was commissioned in the early 1990s, has been plagued with problems in recent years and is set to be replaced later this fall.

The federal government has purchased nine planes, some new and some used, to replace its existing fleet. The first of those planes arrived in Ottawa on Aug. 31.

But two of the used Airbus A-330s from Kuwait Airways purchased by the RCAF will not include the prime minister's traditional VIP quarters until a retrofit that may not come for two years or more.

The widebody jets will replace RCAF's 1980s-era Airbus A-310s, also known as the Airbus CC-150 Polaris, the aging aircraft used for the prime minister's trips abroad and for transporting military personnel.

Canadian crews have been training to fly the new aircraft in the United Kingdom since January. On average, it takes about three months of training for a Polaris pilot to be ready to fly the new Airbus, according to National Defence officials.

The replacement planes are expected to go into service sometime this fall. They will also provide personal transport for the Governor General.

The Liberal caucus is holding a three-day retreat in London, Ont., beginning later today, and Trudeau was expected to attend.


Peter Zimonjic

Senior writer

Peter Zimonjic is a senior writer for CBC News. He has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.