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Sky-High Scare: Flight Forced to Turn Around After Pilot Reveals He's Not Qualified to Fly

Passengers on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to New York were in for a shock on Monday.


Whether you're prone to being a nervous flyer or not, it's normal to have fears on an airplane when you hit a bit of turbulence or discomfort during your voyage.

Steve Parsons | PA Images | Getty Images

But at the end of the day, once you board a plane, you're putting your faith and trust in the pilot operating the vehicle that they will get you to your destination as safe and as quickly as possible.

But for passengers flying on Virgin Atlantic Flight VS3 from London to New York on Monday, a new fear was unlocked as the plane had to be turned when it was found that the two pilots operating the vehicle did not have the proper internal requirements to be operating the plane.

Translation: The person flying the plane was not technically qualified to be doing so.

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Here's what happened.

About 40 minutes after the aircraft had left London's Heathrow airport, it was found (though not clarified precisely how) that the first officer had not completed Virgin's internal "final assessment" flight.

Since the captain was not licensed to be a trainer for the final flight, he did not pass the requirements that would have allowed the trip to be the first pilot's final assessment.

It's of note, however, that both pilots passed all of the UK flight regulation requirements, just not all of those for Virgin Airlines specifically.

The plane was hovering above Dublin at the time before the crew was made aware of the "rostering error."

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Virgin apologized to passengers after the flight landed back in London and took off with a properly trained first pilot, arriving in New York nearly three hours after the originally scheduled time.

"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," Virgin Atlantic said in a statement.

The incident comes at a time when airlines are facing staffing shortages and other troubles as a result of the pandemic, with a January survey from Reuters showing that nearly one-third of pilots globally are still not flying.

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