Paris: Socialist Francois Hollande took over as France`s President on Tuesday and jetted off to Berlin hours later for talks on Europe`s debt crisis -- only to have his plane struck by lightning. No one was hurt.
The Falcon 7X aircraft was hit by lightning shortly after take-off today, and returned to the Villacoublay air base outside Paris as a precaution for inspection, Defense Ministry spokesman Gerard Gachet said.
Defense officials say the President and his entourage were transferred to another aircraft, a Falcon 900, and took off shortly thereafter. Hollande is due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Europe`s financial crisis.
It was a stormy presidential beginning for a man who promised to be a more "normal" President and less flashy than predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.
Hollande walked up the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris and walked out today as France`s first Socialist president since 1995, taking the helm of a country worried about Europe`s future and pledging to make it a fairer place.
The 57-year-old rode to the presidency on a wave of resurgent leftist sentiment amid Europe`s debt woes and protests against capitalism around the world.
After a ceremony steeped in tradition, Hollande displayed his populist touch with a rain-soaked ride up the Champs-Elysees avenue, standing tall in his vehicle`s sunroof to wave to crowds lining the streets before getting out for handshakes with adoring crowds.
Hollande then left within hours on his first diplomatic foray to Berlin, following a postwar custom for new French leaders to reach out to their German counterparts to solidify European unity. He also named a moderate, Germany-friendly member of his Socialist party, Jean-Marc Ayrault, as his Prime Minister.
Hollande and Merkel are in different camps, however, when it comes to solving Europe`s debt crisis. While new figures today showed the 17-nation eurozone has avoided a new recession, thanks largely to Germany, new political turmoil in Greece was reviving fears about the fate of their shared euro currency.