Virgin Atlantic passengers hail pilots after flight from Orlando to London Gatwick forced to divert to Ireland over ‘smoke’

The aircraft, from Orlando, Florida, was forced to land at Shannon in Ireland this morning after the mid-air drama.

Passenger Tony Redfearn told The Sun Online: "Nobody really knows what happened.

"It was all happening in the cockpit.

"The pilots were really professional, they didn't say anything to panic us but you could tell they were worried."

He added: "They were quite calm about it."

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It's the second time the passengers have tried to make it to London from Orlando, Florida, with the initial flight on Thursday cancelled after the aircraft's air-conditioning broke.

The flight was full of hundreds of passengers, including many families who had visited Disneyland Florida, Tony said.

He claimed two pilots and a crew member had to be checked for smoke inhalation after it landed this morning.

Tony, an entrepreneur who had travelled to the US for a ten day holiday, added travellers were "resigned" to the long haul journey home.

He said: "I live in Cornwall so I've got a four hour drive out of Gatwick after this."

Another passenger said they smelt smoke, saying: "Everyone just wanted to know what was going on but the flight crew were brilliant.

"They went out of their way to make sure that everyone was OK."

Fellow passenger Paul Albrecht, who lives in Florida, said: "The first thing that alerted me to do something happening was the flight staff were sent to their post, they were all stood around and you know something's not right.

"Nothing was said probably for an hour and a half then they informed us there had been smoke in the cabin."

He said the pilot told passengers he had made a mayday call during the flight, adding: "It was obviously extremely serious."

Paul, 59, said his two week holiday to England had now been delayed by the series of delays.

The Airbus A330-300 jet was about an hour west of Ireland when the crew declared a mayday and requested permission to divert to Shannon.

The VS1050 aircraft was met by emergency vehicles as it arrived.

Describing the first, ultimately cancelled, flight, Tony said: "We sat on the tarmac for two hours before they cancelled the flight.

"They told us there was no air-conditioning on the flight and we had to get off.

"Paramedics had to enter the plane and remove passengers who had fainted due to the heat with the broken air-conditioning."

Travellers will now be at least 30 hours delayed from their original flight.

An airline spokeswoman said: "Our flight VS1050 from Orlando to London Gatwick has diverted to Shannon as a precautionary measure after reports of smoke onboard.

"The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority and we’re now doing all we can to get our customers to their final destination as quickly as possible.

"We'd like to apologise to our customers for the disruption to their journey and thank them for their patience."

They confirmed the aircract had been previously delayed due to an unrelated minor technical issue.

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