A plane headed for New York was forced to make a U-turn over Ireland when it was revealed the co-pilot was still training, reportedly.
The Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow Airport was just 40 minutes into its journey when ground managers discovered that the first officer had not completed his final flight exams.
There was chaos on the Airbus A330 on Monday as it flew over Ireland, leaving passengers terrified as it had to return to London.
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He then waited on the tarmac until a qualified pilot was found.
Passengers were left angry at the long delay and the knock-on effect for other flights and connections.
Flight VS3 finally arrived in New York two hours and 40 minutes late.
A source told The Sun: “You could have cut the tension in the cabin with a knife.
“The plane got as far as Ireland and then they found out the first officer was still undergoing training.
“The skipper had no choice but to go back to Heathrow and find a more experienced crew member.
“It was embarrassing for everyone and the passengers were furious.”
While first officers are qualified pilots whose role is to ensure flight safety, support the captain and talk to air traffic control, they must be accompanied by a training captain in accordance with Virgin Atlantic policy, it is reported.
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The airline insisted that the plane’s safety was not compromised and that both crew members were licensed and qualified to fly the plane.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesman, The Telegraph reported, said: “Due to a roster error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow on Monday 2 May shortly after takeoff. The qualified first officer, flying alongside an experienced captain, was replaced by a new pilot to ensure full compliance with Virgin Atlantic’s training protocols, which exceed industry standards.
“We apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers who arrived 2 hours and 40 minutes later than scheduled as a result of the crew change.”
A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority told the news outlet: “The Virgin Atlantic has made us aware of the incident. Both pilots were properly licensed and qualified to undertake the flight.”
The Mirror has contacted Virgin Atlantic and the Civil Aviation Authority for comment.
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