Virgin Atlantic aircraft was forced to turn back less than an hour into a flight to New York on Monday, after one of its pilots was found to not have completed their trainingIn what the airline is calling a “rostering error”, flight VS3 turned around 40 minutes into the Heathrow to New York flight after the issue was spotted while flying over Ireland.As part of Virgin Atlantic’s policy, pilots need to have completed a “final assessment flight”, which this officer had reportedly not yet taken.Exasperated passengers aboard the Airbus A330 were then forced to wait on the tarmac at Heathrow while a qualified replacement was found – eventually arriving into New York nearly three hours later than scheduled.“You could have cut the tension in the cockpit with a knife,” a source told The Sun. “The plane got as far as Ireland and then they found out the first officer was still in training.

“The skipper had no choice but to go back to Heathrow and find a more experienced member of the crew. It was embarrassing for everyone and the passengers were furious.”

The aircraft made it as far as the Irish coast before the realisation (FlightRadar24)© Provided by The Independent The aircraft made it as far as the Irish coast before the realisation (FlightRadar24)A Virgin spokesperson told The Independent that both pilots were “fully licensed and qualified” and that flight safety was not compromised.

“Due to a rostering error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow on Monday 2 May shortly after take-off,” the spokesperson confirmed.

“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.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers who arrived two hours 40 minutes later than scheduled as a result of the crew change.”

A CAA spokesperson said: “Virgin Atlantic have made us aware of the incident. Both pilots were suitably licensed and qualified to undertake the flight.”

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