The Boeing 747 had just completed a maintenance check conducted by British Airways engineers and was on its way to Kennedy Airport, New York, from Heathrow. A few minutes after take-off, the chute broke free of its housing on the wing and fell into the park at Poyle in Slough, Berkshire.
It was only after a lorry driver who had been in the car park reported the incident that the aircrew were alerted and the captain decided to return to London for safety checks.
A Virgin spokeswoman said: "There was no question of danger to passengers or crew and losing the chute did not affect the integrity of the aircraft."
A full inquiry has been launched into the incident, she added.
The chute is deployed in the event of an emergency landing when it would inflate like a giant slide to help passengers make a quick exit from the jet. The giant yellow chute extends to 30ft and is 6ft wide but was still wrapped when it fell into the lorry park.Reuse content