Thursday 20 December 2018

UNITED KINGDOM: Passengers Stuck At Gatwick Airport After Two Drones Were Spotted Flying Over The Airfield

The runway at Gatwick remains closed on Thursday morning following reports of drones flying close to the airport – despite briefly reopening overnight.

Flights in and out of the airport were suspended at about 9pm on Wednesday after two drones were sighted near the airfield.

Gatwick announced that the runway had reopened at about 3am on Thursday – but just 45 minutes later it was shut again.

Thousands of passengers at one of the UK's busiest airports are experiencing flight disruption after drones were seen over the airfield.

Gatwick's runway remains closed after two of the devices were seen nearby.

About 10,000 passengers were affected as flights were unable to take off and incoming planes were redirected with some landing in Paris and Amsterdam.

Moreover the law says:

- It is illegal to fly a drone within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary

- Flying above 400ft (120m) - which increases the risk of a collision with a manned aircraft is illegal

- Endangering the safety of an aircraft is a criminal offence which can carry a prison sentence of five years

Chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe said staff were trying to find a drone reported as still being in the air.

The airport said 110,000 passengers were due to either take off or land at the airport on 760 flights on Thursday.

Passengers faced delays to their travels on Wednesday night as some flights were unable to leave the tarmac while others were diverted to alternative airports.

Some people reported being left stuck on planes for several hours while they waited to find out what was going on.

Gatwick advised anyone flying from the airport, or collecting someone, to check the status of their flight.

A spokeswoman added that airlines were working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or transport for those whose flights were diverted.

Those due to travel have been told to check the status of their flight, while Easyjet told its passengers not to go to Gatwick if their flights have been cancelled.

European air traffic management group Eurocontrol said the runway would remain closed until 11:00 GMT.

The shutdown started just after 21:00 on Wednesday when two drones were spotted being flown over the airfield.

The runway was briefly reopened at about 03:01, the airport said, but forced to close again about 45 minutes later amid a further sighting of drones.
Police units and a helicopter were still hunting for the drone operator after another device was reported just before 07:00.

Two drones had been seen flying over the perimeter fence and into where the runway operates from, sparking significant disruption.

Police did not shoot the devices down because of the risk from stray bullets.

It is illegal to fly a drone within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary.

Planes were diverted to other airports including London Heathrow, Luton and Manchester.

Some services were re-routed to as far away as Cardiff, Paris and Amsterdam.

Crowds of passengers waited inside Gatwick's terminal for updates, while others reported being stuck on waiting planes for several hours.

Gatwick Airport said airlines were working to provide affected passengers with hotel accommodation or provide alternative travel options.

A spokesman apologised for any inconvenience and said staff were working alongside Sussex Police to investigate the drone sightings.

British Airways said a very small number of flights had been diverted.

The airport expects to welcome a record-breaking number of passengers over this year's Christmas period.

It predicts 2.9m people will pass through its gates during the festive getaway, with 73,000 of those due to depart this Sunday.

Tourism Observer

No comments: