Transatlantic Flight Forced to Turn Around When Airline Makes Troubling Midair Realization About Pilots
Adding the term “rostering error” to the world’s ever-growing mountain of doublespeak, Virgin Atlantic Airways turned a plane around over the Atlantic after realizing the co-pilot had not passed all the tests needed to fly and that the flight’s captain lacked designated trainer status.
A flight from London to New York City was about 40 minutes into the trip on Monday when someone on board appears to have recognized there was a problem. The plane then returned to London, according to CNN
“Due to a rostering error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow on Monday 2nd May shortly after take-off,” the airline said in a statement.
“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.”
The airline said that although the first officer — the co-pilot — joined the airline in 2017 and was perfectly qualified, he had not completed an internal “final assessment” flight.
Despite being with the airline for 17 years, the flight’s captain didn’t have designated trainer credentials, which meant the flight had to return to replace the first officer with a new pilot, the airline said.
Virgin Atlantic said both pilots were fully licensed and qualified to operate the airplane, and the pairing did not not violate aviation or safety regulations, per CNN. Government officials also said no rules were violated on the flight, which was 2 hours and 40 minutes late in arriving.
Traveler Julie Vincent of Bournemouth said passengers were told there was some sort of paperwork issue that forced their return, according to the Daily Mail.
“We’d just cleared the west coast of Ireland when the captain announced, ‘You may have noticed that we have conducted a 180-degree turn’ before telling us that we were returning to Heathrow due to an ‘administration error’ and that they needed to get some paperwork signed off legally to be able to continue our journey,” she said.
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“We landed back at Heathrow and were naturally concerned as you would expect, that a large, long-established company such as Virgin needed to get their paperwork in order.”
Vincent said the full story was not shared with those on board.
“We asked what was going on numerous times, and all we were told was that it wasn’t legal for us to be in the air and that we needed to return so an engineer could deem us fit to fly. They said it was a problem with paperwork that needed attention from ground staff,” she said.
“Panic did set in onboard, particularly when upon landing people jumped out of their seats and started to pace up and down wanting more information. At least three people in high-vis vests entered the cockpit for an amount of time before curtains were drawn to hide our view.”
The Airbus was nearly 40 minutes into its journey when the two pilots on board became aware of the “rostering error”https://t.co/WJjFla2S6K
— ITV News (@itvnews) May 5, 2022
Passenger Mary Ingram said there was some concern among those on board.
“It was unknown what the real cause of the return to Heathrow was, because clearly Virgin would not want to incur the loss of a returned, and therefore delayed, flight due to a paperwork administrative error,” she said, according to the Daily Mail.
“There was a certain amount of concern that something may have been wrong with the plane, so on landing we were all relieved when that went smoothly.
“It didn’t help that the pilot or co-pilot told us to note our nearest exit in the pre-landing announcement.”
The Daily Mail reported that the passengers won’t receive a refund.