This is terrifying … a transatlantic flight packed with passengers was 40 minutes into the flight, when one of the pilots revealed he was unqualified to fly.

The Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet had taken off from London — headed to New York — when the co-pilot somehow made it known he had not taken his final flying test qualifying him to take a seat in the cockpit.

The Civil Aviation Authority in the UK tried to downplay the incident, saying, “Virgin Atlantic has made us aware of the incident. Both pilots were suitably licensed and qualified to undertake the flight.” It begs the question … if they were qualified, why did the plane have to turn around?

Eventually, Virgin found a replacement pilot, and after a 3-hour delay, the plane was off again.

This comes as airlines in the U.S. are experiencing drastic shortages in pilots, resulting in numerous flight cancelations. There’s now a push by some airlines to reduce the number of training hours for pilots to qualify in smaller jets. Currently, there’s a 1500-hour rule, requiring pilots to train that long before taking the helm in the cockpit. Some airline execs say the 1500-hour rule is too high a hurdle, and want the number of training hours reduced. It used to be 250 hours, but after a recent crash, the number was raised to 1500.

And, while this is pretty shocking … this is likely part of a larger problem ’cause the U.S. is reportedly experiencing a huge pilot shortage … and training delays due to the pandemic hasn’t helped either.

Airlines are scrambling to recruit more pilots and get them trained and flying, ASAP. As millions take to the skies each day, the shortage will likely become responsible for higher airline prices, cancelations, burnout of current staff and smaller airlines cutting their schedules.

Luckily, everyone on the virgin flight eventually made it to NY safe and sound.