A Virgin Atlantic flight heading to New York’s JKF Airport turned back to London Heathrow after it was discovered that the first officer had not completed the airline’s final flying test.
Flight VS3 took off on May 2, 2022 and was 40 minutes into the journey when the error, which the airline later said was caused by a rota mistake, was realized.
Under the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, both pilots were qualified to fly the Airbus A330 , but their pairing did not meet Virgin Atlantic’s internal protocols.
￼| Virgin Atlantic has apologised to passengers after a flight was forced to turn back to the UK as the pilot flying the aircraft was still in training.— LADbible (@ladbible) May 5, 2022
More below: pic.twitter.com/QuWLgRIr24
CNN Travel reports that the first officer joined Virgin Australia in 2017, and though qualified to fly under UK flight regulations, still needed to complete the airline’s internal ‘final assessment’ test flight.
Meanwhile, the ‘highly experienced’ flight captain, who has been with the airline for 17 years, did not have the designated trainer status.
“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,” a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said in a statement seen by NBC News.
After landing back in London Heathrow, a qualified first officer was found, and VS3 arrived in New York 2 hours and 40 minutes later than scheduled.