• Friday, Sep 30, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

London airport reopens after drones sow chaos

  • Published at 01:20 pm December 21st, 2018
Gatwick Airport-drone activity
Passengers wait around in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport after drones flying illegally over the airfield forced the closure of the airport, in Gatwick, Britain, December 20, 2018 Reuters

Around 120,000 passengers have had their flights cancelled during the chaos

London's Gatwick Airport reopened on Friday for a limited number of flights, after mysterious drone sightings caused chaos that left tens of thousands of passengers stranded over the past three days.

Police said they were still hunting for the drone operator or operators and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said "military capabilities" were being deployed to safeguard the airport.

"Gatwick's runway is currently available and a limited number of aircraft are scheduled for departure and arrival," the airport said on Twitter. It advised passengers to check the status of their flights before travelling to the airport.

Over 30 flights had either landed or taken off by 8:15am  (0815 GMT), with around 700 departures expected throughout the day, according to the airport's chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe.

But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that police have still yet to find the operator of the drones and Gatwick was only able to reopen due to the "additional mitigating measures" provided by government agencies and the military.

The army was called in on Thursday to offer additional support with the defence ministry deploying specialist equipment.

"There are a range of measures which are there today which should give passengers confidence that they are safe to fly," Grayling told the BBC.

He said "military capabilities" were being deployed, without giving further details.

Government officials held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the situation.

There have been more than 50 sightings of the device or devices since 9pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday and shooting down the drone is now an option, Jason Tingley of Sussex Police earlier told reporters.

"We will do what we can to take that drone out of the sky and remove that disruption so we can get Gatwick back to normal," he said.

"One of the options is to use firearms officers if that presents itself -- they have been out on the ground today (Thursday) and that's a consideration and a tactical option that's open to us."

Justin Burtenshaw, head of armed policing for Sussex and Surrey said on Thursday: "Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears. When we look to reopen the airfield the drone reappears."

'Drone wolf'

British Airways confirmed on Twitter on Friday that it had received confirmation "advising the airport is back open and the majority of flights operating as scheduled."

Around 120,000 passengers have had their flights cancelled during the chaos.

The story dominated Britain's newspapers on Friday.

Popular tabloid The Sun splashed "The Drone Wolf" across its front-page, speculating that the culprit was an eco-activist.

The Daily Telegraph also reported that authorities suspected an environmental protest, according to civil service sources.

Gisele Fenech, 43, who was travelling to Malta, was among those stranded at the airport.

"We're meeting family and it's my daughter's birthday today so it's gone all wrong. We've been looking forward to this for so long," she told AFP.

"Everyone's trying to get home for Christmas."

Gatwick, around 30 miles (50km) south of the British capital, is the eighth-busiest airport in Europe and sits behind Mumbai as the world's busiest single runway air hub.

Inbound flights were diverted to other airports, including Paris, while passengers waiting to take off faced gruelling delays as airlines cut services.


Some 10,000 passengers were affected on Wednesday night, and a further 110,000 who had been due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights Thursday.

Musab Rashid, 22, who was going to Copenhagen, said: "It's wrong, it's childish of them to do this, because it's affected more than 100,000 people."

Two drones were first spotted flying over Gatwick at around 9pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday. The airfield briefly reopened at 3am on Thursday, but had to be closed again following further sightings through the day.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she sympathised with passengers and vowed action.

"We will continue to work with the Gatwick authorities and police will be working... in order to bring this to a close," she told a press conference in London.

Under a new British law, drones cannot be flown near aircraft or within a kilometre of an airport, or at an altitude of over 400 feet (122 metres). 

May warned the perpetrators they could face up to five years in prison for endangering an aircraft under recently passed legislation.

Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail