Virgin Atlantic flight turns back after realizing pilot hadn’t completed ‘final assessment’ flight

A Virgin Atlantic flight had to turn back about 40 minutes after taking off from London Heathrow Airport this week when the airline realized that one of the pilots hadn’t completed a “final assessment” flight. 

The airline chalked it up to a “rostering error,” saying that the pilots were in full compliance with regulations, but the pairing of pilots didn’t meet Virgin’s own “training protocols, which exceed industry standards.” 

Virgin Atlantic

A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner operated by British airline Virgin Atlantic Airways approaches for landing in 2017.  (iStock / iStock)

“We [apologize] for any inconvenience caused to our customers who arrived 2 hours 40 minutes later than scheduled as a result of the crew change,” a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said in a statement to Fox Business. 

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The captain on the flight had logged thousands of hours of flight time during his 17-year career with the airline, while the first officer had been with Virgin Atlantic for about five years and was fully licensed, but was yet to complete the final assessment flight. 

Heathrow

The passengers had to spend a bit longer on the tarmac at London Heathrow Airport after the flight turned back.  (iStock / iStock)

“The pairing of pilots was not in breach of any aviation or safety regulations, but it wasn’t compliant with Virgin Atlantic’s internal training protocols, hence our decision to turn back,” the spokesperson said. 

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The flight eventually landed at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport a few hours behind schedule after the first officer was switched out for another pilot. 

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