22 Dec 2018

Gatwick drones: Airport reopens after latest suspension

8:33 am on 22 December 2018

A further drone sighting has again disrupted the UK's second biggest airport with flights grounded leaving passengers unable to fly.

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An EasyJet Airbus 320-214 aircraft prepares to land at London Gatwick Airport, south of London, as flights resumed following the closing of the airfield due to a drones. Photo: AFP

The latest sighting at Gatwick came at about 17:10 GMT, but flights resumed less than 90 minutes later.

A spokeswoman for the airport said the airfield's movements were only suspended as a precaution.

She said military measures had been put in place that meant it was safe to reopen.

Aircraft were left circling above the area during the latest alert.

Gatwick had reopened earlier after drones flying over the airfield closed it for more than a day.

The airport was initially closed on Wednesday at about 21:30, following the first drone sighting.

The spokeswoman said the latest incident was a "confirmed sighting of a drone".

Eleven inbound flights were diverted to other airports during the latest suspension and, while outbound flights would experience a "knock-on delay", none had been cancelled, she said.

Rules for flying recreational drones in the UK

  • Drone must be in line of sight at all times
  • Not within 50m of people, vehicles or buildings
  • No higher than 122m

Police believe more than one unmanned aircraft is responsible and are investigating the possibility of multiple culprits.

Earlier, officers said they had identified "persons of interest".

In a statement, Sussex Police confirmed operations were suspended for safety reasons.

The force said: "Sussex Police is supporting the airport and is proactively deploying significant resources to seek and locate the drone and its operator and to ensure the safety of the travelling public and all those in and around the airport."

'Very disruptive'

Passengers have hit out at the people behind the disruption.

One woman, called Poppy Smithers, hoping to fly to Doha and then Auckland, said it was "very disruptive, kind of selfish".

Passengers wait at Gatwick airport as police and the military try to locate two drones spotted near the runway.

Passengers wait at Gatwick airport as police and the military try to locate two drones spotted near the runway. Photo: AFP

Newlywed Emily had just arrived at the airport to go on honeymoon in Argentina. She and her husband had expected to fly out at 21:30.

"It's a little bit heartbreaking really because we've been looking forward to this for a long time," she told BBC Radio 5 live.

She said all check-ins had been suspended until further notice, apart from those in the next 90 minutes.

"It doesn't sound too promising right now," she said.

During disruption on Thursday, 760 flights had been due to arrive or depart from the airport but all were grounded.

On Friday, 155 flights were cancelled while the airport returned to normal.

Gatwick's chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said on Friday morning, that 120,000 passengers due to arrive or fly had not travelled since Wednesday night.


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