Flight VS3 was underway for about 40 minutes on Monday when a “schedule error” surfaced, causing the flight to return to London, an airline spokesman said in a statement to DailyExpertNews on Thursday.
The first officer joined the company in 2017 and is qualified in accordance with UK flight rules but had to complete the airline’s internal “final assessment flight”, the statement said.
Virgin Atlantic said the flight’s captain, who is “very experienced” and has been with Virgin Atlantic for 17 years, did not have designated trainer status and the first officer was replaced by a new pilot.
The company said both pilots were fully licensed and qualified to fly the aircraft, and the pairing did not violate any aviation or safety regulations.
However, the airline said the situation was not in accordance with Virgin Atlantic’s internal training protocols, leading to the decision to return.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said in a statement: “Due to a scheduling 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 by a new pilot to ensure full adherence to Virgin Atlantic training protocols, which exceed industry standards.”
Passengers of the flight arrived in New York 2 hours and 40 minutes later than scheduled, for which the airline spokesman apologized.
The British Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that “both pilots were properly licensed and qualified to operate the flight.”