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Kerry’s Air Force Jet Grounded - Again

FILE - Secretary of State John Kerry waves as he boards his plane at Orly Airport, south of Paris, France, en route to Vienna, Austria, Oct. 15, 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's Air Force jet has been grounded for the fourth time this year.

Kerry flew a commercial airliner from Vienna to Washington Thursday after fumes leaked into the cabin of his Boeing 757, according to an AP reporter who visited the aircraft.

Kerry was in Austria for high-level, nuclear talks with Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif chuckled when he learned of Kerry's predicament, and said, “So it is not just our planes.” Heavy U.S. sanctions have limited Iran’s ability to refurbish its pre-1979 fleet of Boeing aircraft.

In August, Kerry flew Hawaii to Washington after electrical problems grounded his plane.

There have been other problems, too.

In January, a new transponder had to be flown from the U.S. to Switzerland when in the middle of international talks on the Syrian conflict the secretary’s plane was grounded. And in London in March, a similar mechanical problem was hastily fixed - after a few nerve-wrecking hours which saw his party anxiously checking for flights home.

Kerry told aides everything was just fine. He said "If the hardest thing that happens in a given day is that you have to fly commercial, your life is pretty good."

However, without access to the secure phone links and classified data on his own plane, Kerry was effectively out of the loop during the nine-hour flight back to Washington.

Problems with the 1990s-era Air Force fleet that ferry America's top officials aren't new. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had a tire that burst on landing in the United Arab Emirates, leading to an unscheduled overnight stay in Dubai. But she never had to resort to flying commercially.