Passenger Jet Turns Back Over Pilot's Certification

Virgin Atlantic co-pilot hadn't taken his final assessment flight with the airline
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2022 11:22 AM CDT
Passenger Jet Turns Back Over Pilot's Certification
File photo of a Virgin Atlantic passenger plane.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

As far as reasons go for a passenger jet having to turn around midflight, it's a weird one. A Virgin Atlantic flight returned to UK's Heathrow Airport after 40 minutes because the co-pilot technically wasn't qualified to fly, reports the BBC. It may sound worse than it actually is. The co-pilot is fully licensed and qualified to fly by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority, per CNN. However, Virgin Atlantic has additional certification that pilots must complete, and the co-pilot—he was acting as first officer to the captain—apparently revealed he hadn't completed his final assessment flight.

At that point, the flight to New York was somewhere over Ireland, and the captain—who didn't have official designation as a trainer—decided the best course of action was to return to Heathrow for a new co-pilot. "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," says the airline, downplaying the gaffe as a "rostering error." The flight got back underway with a fully certified cockpit crew, though passengers ended up being two hours and 40 minutes late to New York. (More Virgin Atlantic stories.)

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