A Virgin Atlantic flight heading to New York turned back to London’s Heathrow suddenly after it emerged that the pilot was unqualified to be flying the plane.
In fact, the pilot hadn’t completed his final flying test.
Flight VS3 was approximately 40 minutes into its flight when a ‘rostering error’ suddenly emerged. The flight was then turned back to London, according to CNN.
The pilot was hired by the airline in 2017 and is qualified in accordance with UK flight regulations, but had to complete the airline’s internal “final assessment” flight.
Virgin Atlantic said that the pilot’s captain was very experienced and had been with the airline for 17 years, but he did not have the designated trainer status, hence the first officer was replaced.
The airline said that both pilots were very capable of flying the plane, and the pairing did not breach aviation or safety regulations.
But the situation was not compliant with Virgin Atlantic’s training protocols, according to the airline, so the plane had to turn back.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said in a statement: “Due to a rostering error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow on Monday 2nd May shortly after take-off.
“The qualified first officer, who was flying alongside an experienced captain, was replaced with a new pilot to ensure full compliance with Virgin Atlantic’s training protocols, which exceed industry standards.”
Passengers on the flight arrived 2 hours and 40 minutes later than scheduled, which the airline apologised for.
The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that “both pilots were suitably licensed and qualified to undertake the flight.”