London - A Virgin Atlantic flight to New York was forced to turn back to the Heathrow airport in London after the co-pilot admitted that he hadn't passed his last flying test, Daily Mail reported.
The plane was over Ireland when the captain was told that the first officer had not completed his training. The Airbus A330, just 40 minutes into its flight, was ordered to return to Heathrow.
Passengers landed in the US almost three hours later than planned after the jet - which can carry nearly 300 passengers - was forced to wait on the runway while a qualified replacement was found, Daily Mail reported.
The airline told travellers the issue had been caused by a mistake and apologised. It also assured passengers that safety had not been compromised, with both pilots fully licensed and qualified to operate the aircraft.
But a source told The Sun: "You could have cut the tension in the cockpit with a knife. The plane got as far as Ireland, and then they found out the first officer was still in training."
"The skipper had no choice but to go back to Heathrow and find a more experienced member of the crew. It was embarrassing for everyone, and the passengers were furious," it said.
The co-pilot needed a 'final assessment flight' with a training captain to be able to fly in line with Virgin Atlantic policy. His role as first officer meant he was responsible for maintaining the safety of the flight, the report said.
As a qualified pilots, first officers are also meant to support the captain by communicating with air traffic control and flying the plane.