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Virgin Atlantic plane forced to turn back mid-flight to US due to untrained pilot

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A Virgin Atlantic flight had to U-turn on its way to New York after it was discovered that the co-pilot was still in training, leaving passengers furious with the delay

A Virgin Atlantic flight was forced to return to Heathrow when it was revealed that the co-pilot was still in training, it is reported.

The plane heading to New York was 40 minutes into the journey when it was discovered by Virgin Atlantic managers on the ground that the first officer had not finished their final flying exams.

Chaos was caused with the Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330 having to return to London an hour into the flight on Monday while it was over Ireland and then it waited on the tarmac until a qualified pilot was found.

Passengers were left angry with the long delay and the knock-on effect for other flights and connections.

The Flight VS3 finally arrived in New York two hours 40 minutes late.

Virgin Atlantic reportedly said both the captain and co-pilot were qualified to fly the plane

The Civil Aviation Authority reportedly said both the captain and co-pilot were qualified to fly the plane ( Image: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

A source told The Sun : “You could have cut the tension in the cockpit with a knife.

“The plane got as far as Ireland and then they found out the first officer was still in training.

“The skipper had no choice but to go back to Heathrow and find a more experienced member of the crew.

“It was embarrassing for everyone and the passengers were furious.”

While first officers are qualified pilots whose role is to ensure the safety of the flight, support the captain and talk to air traffic control, they need to be accompanied by a training captain according to Virgin Atlantic policy, it is reported.

The airline insisted the safety of the plane was not compromised and that both crew members were fully licenced and qualified to fly the aircraft.

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic, reported The Telegraph, said: “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.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers who arrived 2 hours 40 minutes later than scheduled as a result of the crew change.”

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority told the news outlet: “Virgin Atlantic has made us aware of the incident. Both pilots were suitably licensed and qualified to undertake the flight.”

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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