A Virgin Atlantic flight was forced to turn around after it emerged that one of the pilots had not completed all of his company’s training.
Flight VS3, en route to New York after taking off from Heathrow on Monday, he was ordered to return about half an hour after takeoff.
The Airbus A330 arrived at the London-based airport about an hour later, where the co-pilot was replaced.
Although the first officer was fully licensed and qualified to operate the aircraft, he had not completed the “final evaluation flight” required by the airline.
As a result, the captain had not been granted designated trainer status and the pilot pairing breached “internal training protocols” but not UK aviation and safety regulations.
A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said the airline had informed him of the incident and confirmed that “both pilots were properly licensed and qualified to undertake the flight.”
The captain has been described as “highly experienced” with “many thousands of flying hours over 17 years at Virgin Atlantic”, while his co-pilot is said to have joined the airline in 2017.
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Virgin Atlantic, which is largely owned by billionaire Richard Branson, blamed the incident on a “registration error” and said the officer was replaced to ensure “full compliance” with its protocols.
After the change was made, the flight was able to resume, eventually landing at New York’s JFK airport about two hours and 40 minutes later than planned.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic’s internal operations have been reviewed and updated to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.
The airline apologized for the inconvenience caused to its customers.