Flight Forced To Turn Back Because Pilot Hadn't Completed Final Flying Test

By Bill Galluccio

May 5, 2022

A Virgin Atlantic passenger jet flies ov
Photo: Getty Images

A Virgin Atlantic flight was forced to return to the airport after it was discovered the pilot wasn't cleared to operate the aircraft. The Airbus A350 departed for New York's JKF Airport from Heathrow Airport in London, but after 40 minutes, it was discovered that the first officer never completed his "final assessment" flight.

While the captain of the jet is "highly experienced" and has 17 years of experience with the airline, he was not designated as a trainer.

"Due to a rostering error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow on Monday 2nd May shortly after take-off," Virgin Atlantic said in a statement.

Virgin Atlantic said both pilots were fully qualified to operate the aircraft and noted the pairing was not in violation of aviation or safety regulations.

"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," the airline said in a statement.

After the plane landed at Heathrow, a new first officer was brought on board, and the flight resumed to New York City, arriving two hours and 40 minutes later than originally scheduled.

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