Virgin Atlantic flight turned around as pilot had not completed final flying test
The airline said the incident occurred because of a "rostering error".
A Virgin Atlantic flight was turned around shortly after take-off as one of its pilots had not completed his final flying test.
The incident occurred on flight VS3 which was travelling from Heathrow to New York on Monday (2 May).
A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said the aircraft took off at 9.41am before the turnback was initiated around 40 minutes later due to a "rostering error".
Despite the error, the airline states that "at no point was safety or security compromised".
The control of an aircraft is typically shared between a captain and a first officer, with the captain ultimately responsible for what happens during a flight.
Though the first officer on flight VS3 joined the airline in 2017 and was "trained, fully licensed and fully type-rated" in accordance with UK regulation, he was pending a "final assessment" flight.
"With the type rating and licence proficiency check, a pilot can legally and safely operate the aircraft in any geographical area worldwide," the spokesperson said.
"We, Virgin Atlantic, devise a line training programme that suits our mode of operation and utilises procedures that are unique to us, going above and beyond industry standards and aviation regulations.
"The 'final assessment flight' is a company requirement to ensure that the individual operates using our specific methodology.
"This individual was recommended as ready for his final assessment flight on their previous flight, having completed 12 recent flights on the A330 after his complete simulator and classroom training programme.
"The individual was safe and competent to operate the flight. The decision for the aircraft to return to Heathrow was made based on our own internal compliance requirements."
Meanwhile, though the captain on flight VS3 was a highly experienced pilot, he did not have "designated trainer status".
This led to the flight being turned back as the pilot pairing did not meet Virgin Atlantic’s training protocols.
Back at Heathrow, the qualified first officer was replaced with a new pilot, after which the flight arrived in New York two hours and 40 minutes later than scheduled.
Virgin Atlantic has apologised to its customers for any inconvenience caused and said that its internal processes have been reviewed and updated in order to avoid any repeat occurrence.