Virgin Pilot "Just Doing His Job"

Virgin Atlantic passenger plane forced to return to Gatwick Airport after landing gear fault.

The jumbo jet which was heading to Las Vegas on Monday 29th December developed a problem with it's landing gear mid-flight. 

Passengers had a nervous couple of hours as the plane circled the south of England trying to resolve the issue, but when it became apparent it could not be fixed, the pilot had to undertake an emergency landing.

A statement has been issued after a specially scheduled replacement flight arrived safely in Las Vegas. The pilot, David Williams said: "Clearly this was an out of the ordinary landing, but I was just doing my job and any one of our pilots would have taken the same actions.

"I'm really proud of my colleagues on the ground and in the air and the support they gave me during this event - everyone worked really hard in a difficult situation and we are delighted that our customers were able to travel to Las Vegas the next day for their New Year's Eve celebrations."

A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said: "The majority of people did choose to fly - about 95% did."

"Some didn't for various reasons, but I think the majority did choose to fly. About 13 of the passengers went on holiday as crew companions and obviously that original crew weren't travelling any more."

She added: "We'd like to thanks our customers for their support as we understand that this will have been a very upsetting situation for them. We're delighted that they have landed in Las Vegas in time for New Year's Eve."

Passengers, who were made to adopt the brace position, said it was a "textbook landing" and applauded when they finally arrived safely in West Sussex on Monday.

Sir Richard Branson said on Twitter: "Well done VirginAtlantic pilots & team for safe & skillful landing of VS43. Thoughts with passengers & crew, thanks for support & patience."

The chairman of British pilots' organisation Balpa, Captain Brendan O'Neal, said: "These pilots have had to put into practise their years of training and experience to keep their aircraft and passengers safe. They did a very professional job in difficult circumstances."