Virgin Atlantic Flight Canceled Moments Before Takeoff When Passenger Notices Missing Bolts On Plane Wing

By maks in News On 24th January 2024

However, this was not the case with Phil Hardy.

Phil Hardy, aged 41, was about to fly from Manchester to New York, his first holiday outside the country in 14 years. 

From his seat, he noticed something unusual about the wing outside his window - four screws seemed to be absent.

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"I noticed the four screws missing during the safety briefing, I could see all the fixings on the wing and they were all white and I could see the crossheads on the screws and then there were just four that were black.

After taking a photo you could see the holes through to the top layer in the wing," Hardy explained.

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Credit: Kennedy News and Media

Hardy, concerned about this, decided to inform a flight attendant.

He did this to ensure safety and also to calm his partner, hoping to 'put her mind at rest'.

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Following Hardy's report, the pilot was informed and an engineer was brought in to examine the wing.

Hardy observed the engineer signaling to another worker that the screws were indeed missing and watched as the engineer tried, unsuccessfully, to fit a screw into one of the holes.

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Credit: Kennedy News and Media

"At one point, the engineer removed one of the screws from a different hole and tried to put it in one of the holes [where the screws were missing] and it wouldn't go in," Hardy stated.

However, despite Hardy's clear view of the issue, he felt that the airline staff and the engineer were minimizing the problem, telling him the plane was fine.

"It was frustrating because I knew they [the screws] were missing and I felt a bit fobbed off and like they [Virgin Atlantic] were trying to downplay the issue," Hardy expressed his irritation.

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Credit: Kennedy News and Media

Despite the reassurances from the staff, the flight to JFK Airport was ultimately canceled, and passengers were asked to leave the plane.

Hardy and his partner, Magdelana, found themselves waiting for over an hour to talk to an airline staff member.

They did manage to catch a flight to New York the next morning, however.

Hardy shared that during the rescheduled flight, he couldn't stop thinking about the screws.

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Phil Hardy and his partner did eventually make it to New York. Credit: Kennedy News and Media

"[On the flight] the thought of the screws was at the forefront of my mind but because it was pitch black on the flight, I couldn't see anything, which was probably for the best," he remarked.

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The couple has not yet contacted Virgin Atlantic about this incident, but Hardy mentioned that the experience left a 'sour taste' in his mouth.

A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic explained that the flight was canceled to allow for extra engineering maintenance checks as a precaution.

They emphasized that the safety of the flight was never in question.

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"The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority and this was not compromised at any point.

We always work well above industry safety standards and the aircraft is now back in service.

We'd like to apologize to our customers for the delay to their journeys," the spokesperson stated.

Neil Firth, the Airbus Local Chief Wing Engineer for the A330, also weighed in: "Aviation safety is our number one priority.

The panel in the image is a secondary structure panel, used to improve the aerodynamic performance of the aircraft.

Each of these panels has 119 fasteners so there was no impact to the structural integrity or load capability of the wing, and the aircraft was safe to operate.

As a precautionary measure, the aircraft underwent an additional maintenance check, and the fasteners were replaced."