Virgin Atlantic flight was aborted mid-flight after bosses discovered pilot hadn’t completed training Business

A Virgin Atlantic flight to New York was forced to return to Heathrow after bosses discovered one of its pilots had not completed training.

Virgin Atlantic, majority-owned by billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson, apologized for the disruption to passengers and blamed a “listing issue”.

He said internal training protocols, rather than UK aviation or safety regulations, had been breached.

Pilots blamed Britain’s ‘draconian Covid restrictions’ which strained airline training systems.

Flight VS3, an Airbus A330 capable of carrying 261 passengers, halted its flight to New York as it passed over Ireland around 10.15am on Monday.

Virgin Atlantic officials on the ground realized shortly after takeoff that one of the pilots had not completed his final assessment flight. The captain was not qualified to fly alongside a co-pilot who had not fully completed Virgin Atlantic’s dedicated training.

The pilot was swapped after the plane returned to Heathrow. The flight then arrived at JFK airport in New York two hours and 40 minutes late.

The airline, for its part, has reviewed its internal processes to avoid the repetition of such an incident.

Virgin Atlantic said both crew members were fully licensed and qualified to operate the aircraft. However, the flight was turned back as the pilot pairing did not follow airline training protocols as the captain did not hold designated trainer status.

The captain was described by sources as “very experienced” with “several thousand flying hours over 17 years with Virgin Atlantic”.

His co-pilot was a first officer who joined Virgin Atlantic in 2017. He is trained, fully licensed and fully qualified to UK regulations, but was awaiting a ‘final assessment’ flight.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “Due to an alignment error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow on Monday May 2 shortly after takeoff.

“The qualified first officer, who flew alongside an experienced captain, was replaced with a new pilot to ensure full compliance with Virgin Atlantic training protocols, which exceed industry standards.

“We apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers who arrived 2 hours 40 minutes later than expected following the crew change.”

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said: “Virgin Atlantic informed us of the incident. Both pilots were properly licensed and qualified to undertake the flight.

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This notice was published: 2022-05-04 18:44:30

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