NEW Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg joined the first of 22 new pilot recruits at Virgin Atlantic as they begin their training to become long haul First Officers.

In October Virgin Atlantic was one of the first airlines to launch fast track recruitment schemes for individuals affected by the closure of Monarch – helping cabin crew, pilots, and engineers secure new roles.

The Crawley-based airline also supported the Department for Work and Pensions to help individuals find head office roles, and to date more than 100 former Monarch employees have gained employment at Virgin Atlantic.

This number is expected to rise to 200 early next year.

The new pilots will spend a month training to change their type rating to Virgin Atlantic’s wide bodied aircraft.

To gain their Virgin wings they’ll undertake a mixture of classroom and simulator training - testing their technical ability and safety manoeuvres, learning the layout of international airports, and the details of Virgin Atlantic’s fleet.

Following their training the pilots will be paired with a Captain to operate Virgin Atlantic’s fleet of Airbus and Boeing 747 aircraft flying to destinations across the US, Africa, and the Middle East.

They’ll be based across London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast airports.

Craig Kreeger, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said: “We are delighted that Baroness Sugg could join us today to welcome our new recruits as they start their flying careers at Virgin Atlantic.

“We have a world class training facility at Crawley which ensures our highly skilled pilots and crew can deliver an unrivalled flying experience to passengers every day.”

Baroness Sugg, said: “The UK’s pilots, cabin crew and engineers are among some of the finest in the world and Virgin Atlantic’s scheme provides them with the opportunity to continue their careers.”