Virgin Atlantic flight forced to turn around as the pilot hadn’t done final flying test

A Virgin Atlantic flight to New York, carrying 300 passengers, was forced to return to London Heathrow after the co-pilot admitted mid-flight that he hadn’t taken his last flying test.

The Virgin Atlantic A330 aircraft was 40 minutes into the journey and was flying over Ireland when the airline managers on the ground discovered that the first officer had not taken his final flying exams. The message was conveyed to the captain and the flight was ordered to return to Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic flight was forced to turn around as the pilot hadn’t done the final flying test

Passengers landed in the US almost three hours later than planned and were forced to wait on the runway while a qualified replacement was found. Passengers were reportedly angry with the long delay and the incident delayed other flights, reported Mirror.

Virgin Atlantic apologised for the confusion and said that the issue was caused by a rota mistake. It also assured passengers that safety had not been compromised, with both pilots fully licensed and qualified to operate the aircraft.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesman told MailOnline “Due to a rostering error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow on Monday, May 2 shortly after take-off.”

The co-pilot needed a “final assessment flight” with a training captain to be able to fly with Virgin Atlantic policy.

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

The Sun, however, quoted a source as saying: “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… It was embarrassing for everyone and the passengers were furious.”

According to the Daily Mail, the co-pilot needed a “final assessment flight” with a training captain to be able to fly with Virgin Atlantic policy.

Flight VS3 turned back as the captain had not been designated as a trainer. 

As qualified pilots, first officers are also meant to support the captain by communicating with air traffic control and flying the plane.

A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesperson confirmed both pilots were suitably licensed and “qualified to undertake the flight”.

It is to mention that the initial first officer reportedly joined the carrier in 2017. He was fully qualified under UK aviation regulations but had not completed a final assessment flight which is part of the airline’s internal requirements. Therefore, flight VS3 turned back as the captain had not been designated as a trainer. 

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