The Virgin Atlantic aircraft was due to receive the aviation industry’s traditional ‘good luck’ send-off on Monday morning before making the inaugural journey on a new service from Manchester Airport to Atlanta, Georgia.

Fire crews lined up to spray a giant arch of water over the top of the Airbus A330-300 before passengers boarded – but the jet was instead covered in fire-suppressing foam when someone on board one of the tenders accidentally pressed the wrong button.

And it was a case of ‘hose sorry now?’ when it emerged that the foam had clogged up the plane’s engines and sensitive turbine blades. As a result the spluttering aircraft, still dripping with foam residue, had to be grounded for an urgent and expensive safety check.

Meanwhile 252 disbelieving passengers were left foaming at the mouth as the pilot and flight crew headed for the terminal building on a diplomatic mission to explain the embarrassing gaffe.

Checks on the plane – which had just made the first journey from Georgia – were initially expected to cause a five-hour delay. But Virgin were eventually forced to throw in the towel as the flight was cancelled at 3.45pm. Passengers – who had been given a glass of prosecco and cupcakes while they waited – were put up in hotels before a replacement flight this morning.

One passenger told the Daily Telegraph: “I’m an aerospace engineer and I realised straight away the flight wouldn’t happen. Someone should be in trouble for this.”