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Virgin flight turned back as pilot failed to complete final flight test
London (CNN) — A Virgin Atlantic flight bound for New York’s JKF airport returned to London Heathrow after it emerged the first officer had not completed the airline’s final flight test.

Flight VS3 was about 40 minutes into the trip on Monday when an “alignment error” emerged, causing the flight to return to London, an airline spokesperson said in a statement to CNN on Thursday.

The first officer joined the company in 2017 and is qualified under UK flight regulations, but was required to complete the airline’s internal “final assessment” flight, the statement said.

Virgin Atlantic said the captain, who is “very experienced” and has been with Virgin Atlantic for 17 years, did not have designated trainer status and the co-pilot was replaced by a new pilot.

The company said both pilots were fully licensed and qualified to fly the plane, and the pairing did not violate any aviation or safety regulations.

However, the airline said the situation did not comply with Virgin Atlantic’s internal training protocols, prompting the decision to turn back.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said in a statement: “Due to an alignment error, flight VS3 from London Heathrow to New York-JFK returned to Heathrow on Monday May 2 shortly after takeoff.

“The qualified co-pilot, who was flying alongside an experienced captain, was replaced with a new pilot to ensure full compliance with Virgin Atlantic training protocols, which exceed industry standards.”

The passengers on the flight arrived in New York 2 hours 40 minutes later than expected, for which the airline spokesperson apologized.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that “both pilots were duly licensed and qualified to undertake the flight”.

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